The European Commission, meanwhile, has provided an Article 6(1)(b) decision, which approves the merger without changes or opposition, and says it “does not raise serious doubts as to its compatibility with the common market.”
A statement from the EC reads: “The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, given the combined entity’s limited market position upstream and the presence of strong downstream competitors in the distribution of video games. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure.”
While neither approval makes the merger official, and Microsoft and ZeniMax have not yet made statements, these represent major steps forwards for the $7.5 billion USD deal, which brings Bethesda Game Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango GameWorks and more into the Microsoft fold.
EU documents previously suggested that Microsoft was setting up a new subsidiary, Vault to complete the deal, although it’s still unclear if this is simply a holding business, or a more formal studios brand (in the same vein as the existing Xbox Game Studios).
Microsoft isn’t actively planning Bethesda’s future until the acquisition is complete, but we’re heard a lot about its intentions. While Bethesda and its studios will continue to run semi-independently, Microsoft wants Bethesda games to be “first, better, or best” on Xbox. “[I]f you think about something like Game Pass,” said Xbox CFO Tim Stuart last year, “if it shows up best in Game Pass, that’s what we want to see, and we want to drive our Game Pass subscriber base through that Bethesda pipeline.”
Much of the interest around the deal lies around whether Bethesda games will become Xbox exlusives. Both sides have said this will likely be a case-by-case decision, but Bethesda boss Todd Howard previously explained that it’s “hard to imagine” The Elder Scrolls 6 being a full exclusive.
We’ve contacted Microsoft for comment on the approvals.