“This really does align much more with what they’re doing,” said Rod Breslau, a former ESPN reporter who now covers esports and video games as a consultant. “If you try to compare how the TikTok deal ended up with Oracle with how Microsoft ended up here, this is way better of an approach.”
Carolina Milanesi, a technology analyst for the research firm Creative Strategies, said that people “thought Microsoft was crazy when they invested in Minecraft” for $2.5 billion in 2014, “but that turned out to return both on revenue and brand awareness among Gen Zers.”
Microsoft, which will release its Xbox Series X on Nov. 10, has long trailed Sony in total console sales — Sony has produced the three best-selling individual home consoles in the original PlayStation released in 1994, the PlayStation 2 and the PlayStation 4. To better compete, Microsoft has highlighted the flexibility that it offers users to play games across devices and on-the-go with features like Xbox Game Pass, a Netflix-style subscription service for games, and xCloud, a new service that lets people play Xbox games on Android phones. It said future Bethesda games would be available on Game Pass the same day that they are released on computers and Xbox consoles.
Mr. Spencer framed the acquisition of ZeniMax in similar terms in a blog post Monday, saying the move was part of a plan “to deliver the most performant, immersive and compatible next-generation gaming experiences, and the freedom to play blockbuster games with your friends, anytime, anywhere.”
Now, Mr. Breslau said, the onus is on Sony to respond. Two new games now owned by Microsoft, Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, were supposed to be released initially as exclusives on Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 5. Mr. Spencer told Bloomberg that Xbox would still honor that deal, but the issue shows how deeply Microsoft has cut into the slate of games Sony values.
“This really is going to put some pressure on Sony,” Mr. Breslau said. “Pay up, get your money out, get your wallet out, start spending billions of dollars.”