Bethsoft’s Todd Howard on Microsoft, subscriptions, and the future of its IPs

    
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Everybody gothic dance!

When Microsoft walked over to ZeniMax Media with a big fat wallet and acquired all of the things, there was plenty of speculation on what it meant for the various studios’ titles, from Fallout to Doom to the Elder Scrolls franchise at large. And while the oft-repeated line of whether new games arriving to non-Microsoft platforms would be considered on “a case-by-case basis” is once more repeated here, an interview with Bethesda Game Studios’ Todd Howard insists that the acquisition is a net positive for ZeniMax’s studios, the various IPs they steward, and for gamers in general, primarily for one major reason: the Game Pass subscription program.

In the interview, Howard likened Game Pass’ relationship with game IPs to how subscription services like Netflix brought more investment to certain types of TV shows, where previously networks would chase things that were cheap and easy to make that turned a fast profit.

“Subscriptions came along and now you see the quality and investment in dramas or historical fiction series. That’s where creators are able to go and create these things people want and it makes sense for everybody: the people paying the bills, the people creating it and the people consuming it. That’s what we see happening with games with things like Game Pass.

“Take classic adventure games, they now have real life inside a service like that. Those are games that really don’t make a lot of economic sense at $60, or maybe even at $30 if someone’s going to play it for five or six hours, but in a system like that it makes complete sense. It drives a lot of people saying ‘Hey, I got to experience that and I wouldn’t have any other way,’ and the creators got to make it without the burden of ‘Will this be successful? Will we get to make another one?'”

Ultimately, Howard believes that Bethesda and Microsoft’s interests align with regard to granting access to games to more people as easily as possible, whether it’s through services like Game Pass or through traditional retail means. “My hope — and you’re seeing it happen, which gives me great joy — is that all of those avenues are starting to be successful,” said Howard. “The next generation, the next five or ten years, is really about bringing access to games very easily to everybody, no matter where they are in the world or what devices they like to play.”

On a case-by-case basis, of course.

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Phubarrh

I’m trying out Game Pass for its mobile cloud gaming. I’m liking it so far, but even though ESO is there, I’m sorely feeling the need to play the original Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim on my phone.

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Grave Knight

Look, I’m not a big fan of subscriptions but I’ll concede to the idea of the subscription model so long as that doesn’t interfere with the possibility of game ownership.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

Honestly… I’m not sure I really care anymore. Fallout 76 is… not for me. Fallout 4 was fun, but the way they did the in-game store had some serious issues. Among others: if you *aren’t* using mods, owning more than a couple of the Creation Club DLC can break the game. The quests all just fire instantly when you come up the elevator, and at least one of them stuffs up Codsworth’s AI to the point that the main story quest *breaks.* And since Creation Club doesn’t include the ability to manage or disable the DLC… yeah. Playing with mods turned ON disables Steam achievements, which takes even MORE mods to fix again.

We don’t know anything about Starfield, Skyrim 6 is probably still years out. And at this point I expect anything related to Microsloth to require logging in with a Store account – they’re even forcing that onto Java Minecraft now. (Yes, it is possible to use Windows 10 without having one. For now.) So really… games that might not come out for years, from a publisher I don’t trust as far as I could throw their corporate headquarters and don’t want to do business with if I can possibly avoid it.

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Tee Parsley

Howard has been a hot air bloviator for many years.

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Arktouros

I actually fully agree with Todd on this one and certainly fall into the scenario he talks about. I was able to buy huge amounts of time for the Game Pass Ultimate for very cheap and on it I’ve downloaded tons of games that I simply would never have played if I had to pay for them. Like Minecraft Dungeons looked ok but it’s not something I would have ever paid for as an actual game but a download and check it out? Sure.

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Hurbster

Same here, I have tried so much stuff I would not normally bother with, Bloodstained, Vambrace, things like that.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

I have a feeling they want to make their IP’s subscription based…even the single player ones.

Much like big named graphics programs and the like.

Good thing I have enough games to last the next twenty years or so.

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Arktouros

I don’t really see that ever being the case. Most of the stuff they’ve been doing is offering people as many ways as they can to play games. Like they could have kept Halo to the Windows Store but they went on and released it on Steam regardless along with many of their other titles.

The issue why you see companies like Microsoft hedge on things is that it’s not a decision a single company can make. Like if Sony decides they want a 50% cut of sales of the Elder Scrolls 6 instead of their standard 30% then that’s something Microsoft may want to reject. We see a recent example of this with xCloud and Apple and Apple’s crazy demands to allow it on it’s platform.

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James Travis Romano

Exactly what we could care less about 6 hour adventure games. These press releases after big mergers are so comical and utterly meaningless.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

I actually like some of the “six hour adventure games.” If someone was exclusively focused on MMOs, then maybe that would be valid for that person. Some of us like to experience different things though, and it’s at least relevant to know that single-player, short story focused games are at least being considered as “maybe?” items. Especially given the distressing tendancy for a lot of OTHER franchises to push into multiplayer, always online, Live Service nonsense. Whether it suits the franchise or not.

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Katriana

Hrm. Am I missing something or do these quotes not actually say anything at all about the Elder Scrolls franchise, Fallout, etc., and only deal in vauge ideals that have little to do with those IPs? TES, Fallout, etc are hardly the sort of small Indy games he’s referring to. Sure, it may very well be beneficial for the developers of those games, but what does that have to do with the price of donuts when it comes to the future for those big IP games people are wondering about?