No, the Xbox and Bethesda deal is NOT good news for gamers – and here's why

And why I'll never trust Phil Spencer ever again

Xbox Bethesda
(Image credit: Microsoft)

A year is a long time in gaming, clearly, as buried beneath all the Microsoft buying Bethesda blaring fanfare, with Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S official communication channels ablaze with hype, a whole bunch of other gamers just saw their gaming futures get noticeably darker.

That's because head of Xbox Phil Spencer has just gone on record and confirmed that future Bethesda games will be exclusive to "platforms where Game Pass exists". And if you look past the on-brand business speak, that clearly means these future Bethesda games won't be appearing on Sony PlayStation 5. After all, the PS5 does not have Game Pass now does it.

So, the truth about what has just happened is this: before Microsoft dropped billions buying Bethesda gamers of all platforms could look forward to great new games from one of the world's most prolific and exciting game makers. And now, after Microsoft felt forced to splash the cash, only gamers who play on Microsoft's own hardware can look forward to these games.

Microsoft has just injected a massive amount of exclusive games into its gaming ecosystems and shut them off from its rivals.

But just hang on one minute?! Didn't Phil Spencer himself, the head of Xbox, tell me last year that exclusives were not what gaming was all about? Oh wait, yes he did, stating that:

"I find it completely counter to what gaming is about to say that part of that is to lock people away from being able to experience those games. Or to force someone to buy my specific device on the day that I want them to go buy it, in order to partake in what gaming is about. Gaming is bigger than any one device"

But clearly not too counter to what gaming is to buy Bethesda and lock its future portfolio away by tying it to a selection of specific devices. Here's what Phil said this week, less than one year after what he stated above:

"If you're an Xbox customer the thing I want you to know is this is about delivering great exclusive games for you that ship on platforms where Game Pass exists. And that's our goal, that's why we're doing this, that's the root of this partnership that we're building - and the creative capability we'll be able to bring to market for Xbox customers is going to be the best it's ever been for Xbox after we're done here."

Clearly a year is a very long time in gaming for Microsoft.

And the really sad thing about all this is that I actually agreed with Microsoft's stance that exclusives are bad for gaming and thought we were heading into brighter, clearer waters for the Xbox Series X and PS5 console generation.

After all, both consoles were very similar in terms of hardware and capabilities and it seemed like we were going to get the vast majority of major titles appearing on both Xbox and PlayStation, meaning that no matter which system you owned you could look forward to a bright future.

Sure, there would always be a few brand-specific flagship exclusives, games that really help sell the system's identity such as Halo for Xbox and Ghost of Tsushima for PlayStation, but when it came round to the games from the world's biggest development studios such as Bethesda, games came to all gamers.

Microsoft has just violently altered that, though.

As to why Microsoft seems to have changed its tune so notably over the past year, I can only see the Bethesda purchase as a sing of weakness and admission that it is has been bested by Sony. Maybe the horrible delay to Halo: Infinite was the catalyst, as not only did it mean the next-gen consoles launched without Xbox's flagship exclusive, but it really hung a lantern on how barren the platform's future schedule of games looked.

Without Halo to lean on during launch year, suddenly the PS5 games catalogue looked a lot more impressive. This Bethesda acquisition, if nothing else, immediately bolsters addresses that and plugs in a lot more exclusive games into the Xbox schedule.

And, while in my mind that is obviously good news for Xbox and PC gamers, it's not good news for PlayStation gamers or, most importantly, the industry itself.

Robert Jones
Robert Jones

Deputy Editor for T3.com Rob covers the latest in computing, gaming, mobile, and home entertainment technology. Feel free to contact him with any related products, events, and announcements.