Microsoft Ate Zenimax

By Shamus Posted Monday Sep 28, 2020

Filed under: Column 115 comments

I wasn’t up to a Diecast this week, but last week Microsoft purchased Zenimax software for 7.5 gigabucks in cash and lots of people wanted to know what I thought.

The press release says they bought Zenimax for cash, but of course that doesn’t mean “actual folding money”. It just means they did a really big wire transfer and the acquisition didn’t involve trading assets, stocks, handjobs, or whatever. But it would be so much more fun if this really was a physical cash transaction. I like to imagine Satya Nadella driving a dump-truck of money to Zenimax headquarters and pouring it on top of Robert A. Altman‘s car. I think big acquisitions would be more fun if they did them like this. (Particularly on windy days.)

I thought this story was in need of some in-depth analysis. Sadly, there’s no one around to do that, so you’ll have to settle for my lazy drive-by hot take.

So Microsoft Bought Zenimax

Swiped from Reddit.
Swiped from Reddit.

I see young people describing this as “Xbox bought Bethesda”, which – while woefully inaccurate – is a pretty understandable way for a consumer to frame this particular event. When I was in my twenties1991-2001., I didn’t know anything about games beyond what was on the box.  I didn’t keep track of publishers, studios, acquisitions, brands, and the various ways those things rose to prominence, merged, changed hands, and diedMostly the last one..

But on this site we’re cursed with casual knowledge about the corporate skulduggery that drives this wretched industry. Since we follow this grotesque circus, we might as well use what we’ve learned to engage in a little speculation about what “Xbox buys Bethesda” really means.

Will This Help Bethesda Games?

You can tinker with that power armor all day, but nothing you do will fix the story, setting, characters, themes, dialog,  bugs, quests, balance, AI, art style, framerate, railroading, pacing...
You can tinker with that power armor all day, but nothing you do will fix the story, setting, characters, themes, dialog, bugs, quests, balance, AI, art style, framerate, railroading, pacing...

Back in 2009, Zenimax acquired id Software. At the time, I took the optimistic stance that maybe this was was going to help both companies. Id Software was famous for making solid technology, which was a weak spot for Bethesda. I imagined that we might get Fallout sequels that ran atop id tech, which would save Fallout from the horrors of Bethesda’s Gamebryo Engine.

Looking back, that is adorably naive.

The engine was never the problem with Bethesda’s games. Sure, the engine was was a big pile of jank and the tools were appalling. But the source of their dysfunction was never their software, it was the company culture. Over the years Bethesda has demonstrated again and again that they are unable to deliver a stable product.

I think it’s pretty clear this dysfunction originates at Bethesda and not at parent company Zenimax. This isn’t a case where the Zenimax CEO forces developers to shove games out the door before they’re ready. Bethesda’s sister studios Arkane, id Software, and Machine Games aren’t notorious for routinely shipping massively broken titles. Every company makes mistakes sometimes, but no other AAA studio comes anywhere close to Bethesda’s track record for bugs, glitches, crashes, lockups, slowdowns, and general jank.

Fallout 76 was the most glaring example of this. In the early days of the game, patches would routinely introduce serious new bugs, or bring back bugs that had been previously fixed, or introduce new features that would bring about new exploits.

If you look at the Bethesda Fallout and Elder Scrolls games in order of publishing date, I think you can make a good case that the problem has been getting worse.

Now, you can argue that Bethesda doesn’t care about quality and they could fix all of this if they really wanted to. I can’t prove you wrong, but it does seem weird that they spent so much time and money improvingIn the early days they were mostly “improving” the game, but they eventually began making actual improvements. Or at least, people have stopped complaining about it and begun combatively defending the game on YouTube. Fallout 76 if they didn’t care about it. I can’t escape the notion that their problem is much deeper: They do care about quality, but as an organization they don’t know how to properly uncover bugs, document them, prioritize them, assign them to appropriate team members, fix them, document the fixes, then make sure they’re fixed before pushing an update to the community. I get the sense that the whole thing is a massive free-for-all where nobody knows what the major bugs are or who is supposed to be working on them.

Like, re-introducing old bugs? What the hell? Are they not using source control???

Contrast this with Microsoft. I think it’s obvious Microsoft can put out good software, and the only challenge is keeping them interested long enough to finish the job before they get bored and their corporate priorities change. If I was still an optimist, I might hope that Microsoft will teach Bethesda how to do proper testing before inflicting their software on the masses, but I doubt that’s going to happen. Microsoft probably wants to treat Zenimax like a black box where money goes in and games come out. If they wanted to do something hands-on, they could have spun up their own studio.

What Will Happen to Zenimax Games?

I remember being a little lukewarm on this game when it was new, but now I remember it as something brilliant. Am I being swayed by nostalgia, or have the last three years simply lowered my standards?
I remember being a little lukewarm on this game when it was new, but now I remember it as something brilliant. Am I being swayed by nostalgia, or have the last three years simply lowered my standards?

Honestly, I don’t really care about Bethedsa games at this point. Fallout? Elder Scrolls? Both games began as classic RPGs back in the 90s, but since then Bethesda has turned them into moronic trash-picking games about inventory management that seem to have a child-level understanding of the source material. I imagine the upcoming Starfield will be more of the same: Trek, as executed by someone who thinks Star Trek Into Darkness is the best Trek movie because it has lots of painfully obvious callbacks and explosions.

In short, if Bethesda’s games were forever cancelled next month, it would probably be a bit of a relief. In a creative sense, the franchises died a decade ago and Bethesda has been playing Weekend at Bernie’s since thenProbably because they still make tons of money. Why cook dinner when people will eat Skyrim leftovers for an entire decade?. It might be nice to get some closure and be able to give the franchise a proper burial.

On the other hand, I’m terrified something bad will happen to Arkane’s projects. I really liked Dishonored 2. More importantly,  my favorite genre of all time is the quasi-horror first-person immersive sim set in space with a silent protagonist, open-ended design, and very minimal cutscenes. How exotic is this genre? I think there have only been three games, ever: System Shock, system Shock 2, and PreyBioShock tried, but it never felt like it belonged. Too linear, the combat was very same-y, the resource management was gone, along with specialized builds. Oh, and despite being praised as one of the great stories of video gaming, the end where you have to turn yourself into a big daddy to open a door was lazy, contrived, and obnoxious. And the final boss was childish. It had it moments, but this game isn’t as smart as it thinks it is.. Aside from remakes, Arkane is the only place I can get this fix, and right now it feels like a miracle that Prey exists at all. The usual non-gaming executive is very likely to look at the game and demand a fixed non-branching story, cutscenes, and “streamlined” gameplay.  Oh, and make it third person, make the shooting more fun, and give the player a sexy lady to rescue. Oh, and this sci-fi stuff about AI and space-creatures and consciousness requires way too much thinking.  Just give us a really obvious bad guy that kills people and beats the player up in cutscenes. THAT’S how you get people to care about the story!

Sorry. I keep hoping if I bitch about this often enough, the game industry will knock it off just so they can shut me up for a fiscal quarter or two.

What Does this Mean in the Long-Term?

A possible silver lining: Maybe Microsoft will throw away Bethesda's hilariously broken and inadequate launcher?
A possible silver lining: Maybe Microsoft will throw away Bethesda's hilariously broken and inadequate launcher?

The most obvious concern is that Microsoft is going to use Zenimax like a cudgel in their ongoing battle with Sony. Having the next Elder Scrolls as an Xbox exclusive would really sting. Having the next Fallout, Wolfenstein, Dishonored, and Doom as Xbox exclusives would be devastating. It probably wouldn’t impact PC gamers like meMicrosoft is more interested in hurting Sony than trying to get PC gamers to buy an Xbox., but it would impact a lot of PlayStation fans, and that’s no fun.

I think the biggest risk is that Microsoft will get bored and lose interest. Maybe they’ll yank Zenimax around with contradictory and ever-changing mandates: Everything needs a phone tie-in from now on. Actually, cancel the phone games, we think tablets are going to be huge next year. Actually, don’t bother with tablets, we need more VR stuff. No, make streaming-friendly games! More multiplayer! More cinematic stuff! No, screw that, more focus on short-session gameplay! Push the top-end hardware! More backwards compatibility! Make new IP! Remake / remaster older games! Family games! Cute mascots! More gruesome adult violence! Motion controllers! Free-to-play with grasping microtransactions! Make AAAAA games! Quintuple A!  We’ll be unstoppable!

Then, once all of the studios are completely confused and demoralized, Microsoft will find a new shiny thing and they’ll leave the studios to finish whatever they were working on. When the studios are done, they’ll discover they just spent 36 months making games that Microsoft no longer cares to publish, market, or support, because it’s not part of the New Shiny Thing management is pushing.

Shamus, you’re being ridiculous. Microsoft just paid 7.5 billion for this company. They wouldn’t have bought Zenimax if they didn’t have a plan, and you don’t just walk away from something after spending that much money on it.

That’s a very sane point of view, but I’m afraid it doesn’t apply to Microsoft. Remember that this is the same company that bought Skype for 8.5 billion before shoving it to the the back of the fridge and forgetting about it until it went bad.

Wrapping Up

So that’s what I think of this acquisition. Seriously, I have no idea what’s going to happen next.  I’m sick of hearing the publishers and platform holders prattle on about the exciting new stuff they hope to sell us someday when so much of the 2020 lineup has been delayed to 2021 and beyond.

Like, don’t tell me about new graphics or services or studios or hardware specs. I don’t care. Just publish some video games already!

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] 1991-2001.

[2] Mostly the last one.

[3] In the early days they were mostly “improving” the game, but they eventually began making actual improvements. Or at least, people have stopped complaining about it and begun combatively defending the game on YouTube.

[4] Probably because they still make tons of money. Why cook dinner when people will eat Skyrim leftovers for an entire decade?

[5] BioShock tried, but it never felt like it belonged. Too linear, the combat was very same-y, the resource management was gone, along with specialized builds. Oh, and despite being praised as one of the great stories of video gaming, the end where you have to turn yourself into a big daddy to open a door was lazy, contrived, and obnoxious. And the final boss was childish. It had it moments, but this game isn’t as smart as it thinks it is.

[6] Microsoft is more interested in hurting Sony than trying to get PC gamers to buy an Xbox.



From The Archives:
 

115 thoughts on “Microsoft Ate Zenimax

  1. Asdasd says:

    Or at least, people have stopped complaining about it and begun combatively defending the game on YouTube.

    This is a quibble, but couldn’t this be explained by the people who like working games being driven off early, leaving the conversation around the game solely in the hands of Fallout diehards and sufferers of Stockholm syndrome*?

    because it has lots of painfully obvious callbacks and explosions

    Now I’m trying to imagine what a tasteful and understated explosion looks like.

    I think there have only been three games, ever: System Shock, system Shock 2, and Prey

    The Marathon trilogy almost counts here. Kinda. Well, not really. But they’re pretty good as early shooters go. Have you ever played them, Shamus?

    * He says, as though those two categories weren’t one and the same.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Now I’m trying to imagine what a tasteful and understated explosion looks like.

      …a well-dressed, attractive person farting quietly?

      1. Wolf says:

        I nominate the explosion footage on the right of this clip as “tasteful and understated” https://youtu.be/E5rGFZWQfzk?t=185

        Although it could be more understated I guess. Maybe if it was underwater AND underground so you only see the ground rise up and then collapse?

        1. Geebs says:

          I vote for that bit at the end of Zabriskie Point when all of the stuff blows up, accompanied by a Pink Floyd soundtrack.

          1. tmtvl says:

            I vote the bit in the beginning of TLoU where daughter McDaughterface is watching the news and there’s an explosion on the news and at the same time an explosion outside. The outside explosion is pretty understated compared to the news footage.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      This is a quibble, but couldn’t this be explained by the people who like working games being driven off early, leaving the conversation around the game solely in the hands of Fallout diehards and sufferers of Stockholm syndrome*?

      My thoughts as well. The game has been “combatively defended” since the very start. It just so happens that people who don’t like it simply left their complaints and moved on from the game once they realized they weren’t going to be fixed or they were actively getting worse. But we all should know by know that no matter how shitty your product is there’s going to be a long line of lunatics willing to defend it.

    3. Echo Tango says:

      Actually, the Stockholm group would be a superset. Not everything is gaming. ^^;

      1. Asdasd says:

        Hoisted by my own quibbletard!

    4. Decius says:

      The fallout diehards gave up after 4.

    5. RFS-81 says:

      I thought that Wastelanders added friendly NPCs and quests and a story. No idea if that’s enough to make the game not horrible.

    6. Zekiel says:

      I think there have only been three games, ever: System Shock, system Shock 2, and Prey

      Amusingly, I played Tacoma just after playing Prey – it is also a game set on a space station where all the crew are missing. It’s not an immersive sim, and its not really horror (or even quasi-horror) but I did think the similarities were quite amusing. (Its great, by the way, and if you liked Gone Home you should definitely play it).

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Shamus certainly enjoyed Gone Home, but not perhaps for the reasons you might think.

        1. Daimbert says:

          The movie “Stand By Me” seems to have the same sort of appeal (at least that’s how it seemed to me while watching it). Since I wasn’t born in that era, it fell a little flat for me, but if that was the era you grew up in it would really hit home.

        2. Zekiel says:

          I’d forgotten that article. Shamus’ reasons for liking the game are pretty similar to mine; I’m a little younger than him, but I was growing up in the 90s and recognise a lot of the attitudes (and props!) in the game.

          Obviously Tacoma being set in the future means you don’t get the same sense of “snapshot of recent history” that Gone Home does so well. But it does instead develop some very interesting themes about corporate ownership (which naturally are extrapolations of some current trends).
          And like Gone Home, it does emotions very well :-)

    7. Moridin says:

      This is a quibble, but couldn’t this be explained by the people who like working games being driven off early, leaving the conversation around the game solely in the hands of Fallout diehards and sufferers of Stockholm syndrome*?

      That’s certainly a part of it, but from what I’ve heard and seen, Wastelanders really is a genuine improvement. Of course, recently Bethesda also introduced Seasons-mechanic, which apparently requires insane amounts of daily grind.

    8. Radkatsu says:

      Maybe ask Mr BTongue? He’s all about being tasteful and understated.

  2. Zaxares says:

    Much like you, Shamus, the news that Microsoft bought ZeniMax was largely received by me as a “… Meh.” I never really got into the Elder Scrolls or Fallout, and the last series they publish that I still hold nostalgia for is Doom. (However, I never approved of the design direction the games took past Doom 3, so if the franchise were to die tomorrow, I’d still be shrugging and going “No great loss.”) However, I do wonder what exactly Microsoft’s plans are regarding platform exclusives going forward. I also think that, as a PC gamer, on the off chance they DO make a game I’m interested in, they’ll make it available for PC too because hey, Windows market. But I would hate to see Playstation fans become collateral damage in an exclusivity war between Microsoft and Sony. There’s already so many hobby cultures that have become splintered via ever-increasing exclusivity and niche wars; I really don’t want to see gaming head down that path too.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      As far as I can see, gaming has been headed down the exclusivity path for a long time now. Not all games are exclusives, but there’s been quite a few that only released on one platform[1]. I’ve been staying out of the Branded Lumps Of Plastic wars for about a decade now, by giving up on some games as ones I’ll never play.

      [1] Or at least they only released on other platforms much later, after they’d strong-armed enough people into buying consoles.

  3. John says:

    For me, personally, the acquisition means nothing, at least in the short term. I generally don’t play those games. I’d say that I never play those games if it weren’t for the inconvenient fact that I did try Daggerfall once when it was released as freeware. (I didn’t like it.) Every so often I think about getting Dishonored, but, honestly, there are enough big games in my backlog that I probably shouldn’t. I know folks like Arkane and possibly Id, but if Zenimax and all its subsidiaries disappeared tomorrow I’m not sure I’d notice. Well, I’d notice the headlines on gaming news sites–“Developers vanish! Scientists baffled!”–but you know what I mean.

    One thing that gives me slight pause is the theory I’ve heard put about is that this is part of a move toward an all subscription-service future for games. I.e., in the future, there will only be XBox Gamepass, PSNow, and their ilk. That would suck. I like to pretend that I own my games and I hate paying monthly subscription fees. I mean, I do it–I’ve got Disney+ and even a magazine subscription–but I hate it.

  4. Joe says:

    I have played more Bethesda games that I didn’t like than ones I did. But I still love Skyrim with all my heart. Will I buy Starfield and TES 6 on the Microsoft store? I don’t know. Depends on reviews and such. But I’m skeptical.

    Not for the first time, I’m puzzled why Bethesda ripped off the Blizzard design for their launcher. To my mind, Steam is the best-looking one, at least in small mode.

    By the way, Shamus, what happened to Bob Case? It must be over a month since his last post, and I don’t remember him mentioning any scheduled delays. It’s been a turbulent few months. Did something unexpected happen?

  5. jurgenaut says:

    I’ve never had much confidence in Bethesda. Morrowind I remember playing a lot back when it was newish – I loved that the world felt so… alien? Unconventional? Mushroom forests, silt striders, a triumvirate of sort-of gods at odds with each other, “where did the dweomer go?”… There was just so much to latch on to.

    That was before Oblivion which was just boring and broken (you get weaker as you level up – the best thing you could do was to create a custom class and mainspec skills you would never use, just because it cause you to level slower). Skyrim was slightly better, but still not as good as Morrowind. No longer is the world of whatever-it-is-called (tamriel?) an interesting place. It’s just generic medieval europe BUT WITH MAGIC.

    ID software.. I haven’t played any Ids game since doom3 (the one on Mars), which wasn’t bad per se, I just grew bored with run&gun games. Wave after wave of faceless mooks, to quote btongue.

    1. Radkatsu says:

      This is because Morrowind was the product of one man’s fevered imagination. He left Bethesda before Oblivion and we ended up with hack writer Emil Pagliarulo’s awful, sub-sophomoric garbage instead. Emil is so bad that even Hollywood wouldn’t hire him.

  6. ForeverBackwards says:

    The only interesting thought that this event really gives me is the faint hope that, since Microsoft Game Studios has a close relationship with Obsidian these days, Fallout gets taken away from Bethesda Game Studios and given back to Obsidian where many of its original creators still reside (or, at the very least, Obsidian gets to make another game in the series).

    It probably won’t happen (and, even if it does, it may not produce another game as good as New Vegas), but a man can dream, right?

    1. BlueHorus says:

      He can indeed. If I thought it would help, I might well sacrifice a goat in order to get more Fallout in the vein of New Vegas…

      On that note, I’d be interested in Shamus’s opinion of Microsoft acquiring Obsidian…

    2. Echo Tango says:

      New Vegas had a decent story, characters, and world, but it still had very strong player-railroading, which really ruined all of those other aspects for me. I was walking along, enjoying the quests, finding out who I was supposed to ally with, how I could best gain skills and stay alive…and then the game threw nearly-invulnerable football-armor-wearing hooligans at me, who had weapons more powerful than I’d been facing by a wide margin. Yes, I’d killed their comrade who was pillaging a smalller town, but they’d all had normal small arms, I’d killed them all without a single radio-call for help, and got away (as I thought) Scot-Free. I wouldn’t have even minded that I was supposed to leave this group of people alone, but their one pillaging group that I’d seen so far, led me to believe that they were entirely bluffing and that I could take them all down easily.

      1. The Puzzler says:

        That’s not what I’d call railroading. Railroading would be if they didn’t let you pick a fight with the people you weren’t ready to go to war with.

        That’s just an encounter that was a bit beyond your level (and without adequate justification, because while it’s plausible that you were caught on a hidden camera or spotted by a hidden witness in the area, they don’t make that clear; reminds me of that Elder Scrolls games where chickens and horses could secretly report you for stealing stuff). That’s when you break out the mini-nuke you’d otherwise be carrying around forever.

        Or run away.

      2. Radkatsu says:

        Just an FYI, but that’s a bug. The Legion hit squad is NOT meant to be overpowered like that, it was just an oversight where it wasn’t checking player levels correctly (or a similar issue, I forget the specifics). Yes, they were meant to be tough, but still doable. Also, that’s a choice you made to attack a faction and become vilified with them, it’s not really fair to complain that they tried to kill you afterwards ;p

        Yes, you can say you were helping people or getting revenge for innocents or whatever you like, but that doesn’t make you immune from them getting revenge in turn for something they view as against their own moral codes (and yes, the Legion do have those, twisted as they are).

    3. Decius says:

      It would be freaking awesome if Microsoft sold off the entire license to inExile.

    4. Radkatsu says:

      Obsidian have already hinted that a NV2 might be a possibility. However, considering how poor Outer Worlds was, I’m not sure it’d live up to NV anyway. Not unless MS pulled together the original talent from inXile and Obsidian, and also hired Avellone again.

  7. BlueHorus says:

    Hey, someone mentioned BioShock! Cue the Objectivism debate!

    ..nah, not really ;)

    Valid points about the story of that game, but I’m not convinced that it was TRYING to be that smart. It made its point, showed very clearly how Rapture rose and fell*, then ended with a well-delivered twist.

    …oh, yeah. No it didn’t; it dragged on for a while afterwards and then ended with a deus ex machina and dumb boss fight.

    Still, I can’t remember it saying much more profound than ‘here are some Politics!’. And the big twist was more ‘clever observation’ than ‘profound insight’…

    *half because Ryan was a blowhard who abandoned his own ideals as soon as people stopped doing what he wanted as well as anything else…

    1. Michael G says:

      I’m pretty sure no one mentioned Bioshock or politics

      1. Daimbert says:

        Shamus mentioned it in a sidenote as a game that tried to do things the System Shock way and failed.

      2. Drathnoxis says:

        Someone doesn’t read the footnotes.

    2. rob says:

      Agreed, I don’t think BioShock was trying that hard with story, after all it was a rehash of System Shock 2 in player versus protagonist terms. (Gotta laugh about the “surprise” twist in SS2, since Shodan was the box art, as pointed out on Zero Punctuation)

      I guess BioShock’s “screenplay” was really the good bit. The atmosphere was excellent. All in all, I’d rather like more “shooters with depth” at least. So I kinda wince every time Shamus puts it down as an also-ran! :)

      Also, I love SS2 dearly – so take this on good faith – but it has so many flaws.

      The inventory management is frustrating. I remember endless picking up broken shotguns to get a single shell out as loot, because you need every single one, and that is not fun. It’s teeth gritting time when your inventory is full, so you have to drop gear to temporarily pick up another shotgun.

      Then there’s the high-research weapons; worm launcher and fusion cannon… they’re Deus Ex swimming level of useless.

      And SS2 has a terrible boss fight at the end.

      And it’s all linear find-the-keycard missions, no puzzles. (But I love it still…)

      Pertinent to the Bethesda discussion, fans have patched and rebalanced everything, so even the shotgun shell complaint is fixed now.

      Oh, and on Shamus’ many recommendations I have bought Prey, yet to play it though!

    3. Radkatsu says:

      It’s not so much the game itself as it is the players and Youtube reviewers and the like who ascribed far more meaning and depth to the game than it ever had or claimed to have.

  8. quaazi says:

    If we now have AAAA games, is Serious Sam the only AAAAA game?

    1. DeadlyDark says:

      Its the AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA game

      1. DeadlyDark says:

        Accidentally enough, Serious Sam is not the only game of this genre

        https://www.mobygames.com/game/aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-a-reckless-disregard-for-gravity

        P.S. If someone doesn’t get the joke of “AAAAAA” – buy SS The First Encounter (remake or original) and play fifteen minutes. Its better you go there blind

        1. quaazi says:

          I am ashamed to have forgotten that excellent game.

      2. RFS-81 says:

        And its ESRB label looks like this.

    2. Radkatsu says:

      Don’t remind me ;_; I was so looking forward to SS4. Refunded it. Croteam totally lost their way, sadly.

  9. Thomas says:

    Arkane is the only studio of theirs I have even a passing interest in. My only real interest (unless the next Elder Scrolls turns out to be wildly different) is how this would effect me as a probable PS5 owner.

    The chances are the next Elder Scrolls will be very popular. If that is true, and if Microsoft make it exclusive then maybe people will buy a lot more Xboxes than PS5s. There is a sweet spot where I need Microsoft to be competitive enough to force Sony to keep trying, but not so competitive that people stop developing games for the PS5 (mostly indie developers), or Sony goes out of business.

    That’s all far to hypothetical to be worried about now. It’s as likely to benefit me as hurt me.

    1. zackoid says:

      I think since both next-gen consoles are basically PCs, we don’t have to worry too much about games not getting released on any one platform, except those that the publisher pays to be exclusive.

      1. Thomas says:

        For big multiplayer games, yes. although the audience size effects a publishers ability to pay for things to be exclusive*. But some indie developers don’t want the hassle of going through the approval process for multiple consoles.

        * For example, making Persona 5 a PS4 exclusive might have been virtually free for Sony. The Xbox One has a tiny install base, that’s virtually non-existent in Persona 5’s main market (Japan) and Atlas were unsure if it would sell well to a Western audience and wanted a lot of guaranteed publicity. They lost barely any sales by being a PS4 exclusive so Sony wouldn’t have had to drive a hard bargain.

        1. Radkatsu says:

          You’re forgetting something important: it also came out on PS3, which still had a HUGE install base. Sony-exclusive didn’t just mean PS4 at that point, so Atlus/Sega could afford it. The fact they just put P4G on Steam means they’re probably looking at Sony as more of a risk now (no surprise, considering the censorship and other issues on that platform ever since they foolishly moved headquarters to California).

  10. Dreadjaws says:

    it does seem weird that they spent so much time and money improving Fallout 76 if they didn’t care about it. I can’t escape the notion that their problem is much deeper: They do care about quality, but as an organization they don’t know how to properly uncover bugs, document them, etc.

    I really have trouble believing this is what’s happening. It sounds just as naive as your previous belief about id software. I can’t fathom how a company that actually cares about the product can get comparatively worse over the years. To wit:
    – They have refused to address complaints that have existed since they started with these franchises, which suggest they really have no interest in doing anything about them.
    – They know fans are constantly fixing their bugs and adding lots of content to their games. They in fact depend on those fans for their games to work. If they really cared about this, they’d contact those fans to work for them (or at least work to find people who knew how to handle something they don’t know how). The “they don’t know how to properly do this” excuse simply doesn’t fly after two decades of the same crap, and certainly not when there’s an easy solution right at their grasp.
    – Unlike previous games, Fallout 76 is a live service, which means constant engagement is more important than initial sales, so they have no choice but to keep working on it. If they outright abandon it, no one’s going to show up for the next live service game they release.
    – Please note that the very existence of Fallout 76 shows a complete lack of understanding of what people like about these games. How could they spend so many years working on these games and still not understand why people play them if they really cared? They just figured people would fly in droves to anything with the “Fallout” name on it.
    – And don’t even get me started on the whole “paid mods” thing.

    This is why this buyout doesn’t bother me when it comes to Bethesda itself. Things just can’t get much worse, and if these franchises die, well, I’m at a point where I’m not going to miss them. But yeah, I hope Arkane doesn’t get dragged into the mud.

    1. Redrock says:

      Never understood what the problem with paid mods was. It’s not like they were banning free mods, they were just creating a marketplace for anyone who wanted to sell their mods and get a cut of the profits. At which point mods became basically outsourced DLC. I see nothing wrong with that.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Paid mods open the door for a lot of abuse. For example, I make a free mod, but someone else puts it up for sale and profits from my work. Even without outright abuse, there could be situations that still need intervention – which of the creators of the things in a mod-pack get how much money, and how do you decide that. Neither Bethesda nor Valve had any plans for how they would prevent, mediate, or moderate situations like that.

        This is of course, on top of the pay cut they were going to take, for things which traditionally had money going (nearly) directly to the creators. Paypal and other services already existed at this point. That part by itself, makes it clearly a corporation grasping at the paycheques of people it had previously had no dealings with.

        1. Shamus says:

          I don’t mind the idea of paid mods, but I get REALLY uneasy when talking about paid mods related to Bethesda games. Like, paid Minecraft mods? Brilliant. Those folks work hard.

          But Bethesda’s plan feels like they’re trying to find a way to monetize their shameful and negligent QA, which creates really perverse incentives.

          Broken quests? Items with wildly inappropriate hitboxes? Unbalanced systems? Animation glitches? Areas with nonsensical lighting?

          Why spend money fixing this stuff when we can just let the community turn our bug list into half a dozen mods that generate money for us? The more jank, the more money we make!

          1. Redrock says:

            Yeah, I get that point, although I should point out that the majority of mods aren’t actually fixes or community patches or whatever, but new content – skins, wepons, quest, features, etc. And despite how much we poke fun at Bethesda games, the fact remains that they’re being purchased and played by devil knows how many consumers on consoles without access to mods, jank and all. My first playthrough of any Bethesda game is usually unmodded, and they’re fine. Janky, glitchy, yes, but fine, well worth the price of admission. And, again, it’s not like they were trying to make people pay for every mod – it was a pretty limited program. Like I said, I can see a lot of potential problems – just not with what was actually proposed.

        2. Grimwear says:

          If I recall correctly this is exactly what happened. A Bethesda “approved” paid mod ended up using someone else’s free animation. It seems inconsequential at the time but once money gets involved that’s a big problem. Not even getting started with what happens if an update ruins a previous mod you paid for and the modder has moved on. More importantly how can Bethesda feasibly check to make sure each mod is 100% the creator’s? What if a creator just wants to throw in someone else’s tree or bush for environment diversity? Just a cluster any way you look at it.

          1. Radkatsu says:

            “More importantly how can Bethesda feasibly check to make sure each mod is 100% the creator’s?”

            As if Bethesda would even care. THEY steal modders’ hard work themselves, why would they even give a shit if modders do the same?

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        It’s not like they were banning free mods, they were just creating a marketplace for anyone who wanted to sell their mods and get a cut of the profits.

        Yeah, a 25% of the profits. And only after a certain sales threshold was reached. Bethesda and Valve had no business pocketing the other 75%. This was just an excuse for Bethesda to get some free money at the expense of the work of others. If you think the whole “30% cut” over Valve’s profits on the games in their platform is a problem, then this is many times worse.

        And what about the limitations? Mods had to follow certain regulations if they wanted to be sold on their store, which left very little place for creativity, and creativity is the entire point of mods.

        Plus, what you see that happened was only because the system was never popular. If paid mods had taken, who’s to say free ones wouldn’t eventually get banned? If I don’t recall, there was a rule in place that a mod being offered in the store couldn’t be available elsewhere. That meant that some previously free mods were inevitable going to get a price now if the creator wanted a profit. Free mods might not have been directly banned, but there were incentives for their removal already at the system launch. It’s hard to think things were going to get any better.

        Sure, on paper the very idea of paid mods isn’t a bad thing, but the execution was an absolute mess that ended up benefitting no one.

        1. Thomas says:

          I’m 100% behind the cut being totally wrong. But as long as they’re not demanding free mods have to go through the system, I’m not with you on the creativity at all. It’s just straight up illegal to take money for half the mod stuff, so sure Bethesda can’t do that. But as long as they don’t block off the traditional ways mods get distributed, what’s the harm?

          1. LoneLizard says:

            You might as well ask why Epic has to make games exclusive to their store.

            With big outside companies, it’s generally safer to assume they’d like to take over and profit from the ecosystem for mods, while contributing as little as they can get away with. It doesn’t look like Bethesda have proven otherwise…

  11. Infinitron says:

    The bigger picture: Microsoft can now organize Obsidian, inXile and Bethesda into a machine for pumping out annual open world RPG releases, Call of Duty-style.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      They could call it MicrUbiSoft, and the endless series could be called ‘Murderer’s Doctrine’.

    2. Geebs says:

      I think the best business plan would be to have Obsidian make the first two thirds of each game, and then get another studio in to scrape the last third together out of whatever odds and ends they could find.

    3. Paul Spooner says:

      Maybe we can finally all get the Symbiocom sequel we’ve always wanted!

  12. Philadelphus says:

    Like, re-introducing old bugs? What the hell? Are they not using source control???

    Or even more than source control, automated testing suites. Anytime you find a bug, you write a test that covers it (in addition to all the tests you’ve already written covering anticipated bugs) so you know if it ever pops up again in future. I mean, I guess the answer is “clearly not” if this is/was happening, but still.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Well, that’s generally more complicated than it sounds, especially on large systems. Not everything can be automated, at least not easily, and to even start you need a robust automated testing framework. And then if you get that up and running, if you have a large system then it can take absolutely forever to run, so you need to at least turn it into a regular sanity run, but then if it takes too long to run sanity people complain about that and so won’t run it when they make a fix themselves, which means you find it in the weekly run, which causes headaches for people and much grumbling and wringing of hands. And, again, you can’t test everything that way anyway.

      I think Shamus’ comment about source control is aimed more at the idea that they seem to be merging out fixes while checking in new code. However, those sorts of errors might be caused by someone fixing a bug in a way that introduces a new one, and then those fixing the new one break the original fixing theirs, and so on and so forth. Early in my career, I had a bug like that between two different groups (working on different products) over an if statement. The one group added their product and broke the original, so the next person “fixed” it for their product but screwed up the logic so it broke the original product, and so the original group fixed it and screwed it up again, and they ended up screaming at each other in the comments of the bug report until it came to me and I broke out all the logic and made it work for both products.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        The worst bug I’ve heard about with Fallout 76 is absolutedly the kind you can test for. Item-chest gets duplicated when a player moves it to a new location? That shouldn’t be a problem.

    2. MaxEd says:

      That doesn’t work in gamedev. First, no one has any time to write tests ever. Yes, that’s a problem, no, nobody’s gonna fix it, because games are *always* running over budget, and so by the middle of the project no one has time to do anything not related to getting the product out of the gates. If companies could afford (both in sense of cash and PR) to postpone releases for years instead of months (because that’s how much the initial estimate is usually wrong by), maybe the end result would be much more stable, but only a few companies can afford “when it’s done” policy. And before anyone says anything about engineering, no, *novel* engineering projects also usually run well over budget both in time and cash (google around for quotes from folks in space program – they sound a lot like stuff programmers say, in a way).

      Second, tests for game logic are very hard to write. It is never isolated in small, easily testable functions requiring just a little state – most often, you can’t test a part of game code unless you have the entire game up and running, and in a very specific state (i.e. in the middle of the combat with a specific set of opponents in specific positions). Which state often cannot be achieved easily from just a save (e.g. most RPGs don’t allow you to save in combat).

      Let’s look at an example, a favourite bug of mine from the recent time: a game was behaving badly when turn passed from one friendly unit to another, the camera moved to center on the new unit, and the mouse cursor was positioned on a friendly unit before the end of turn, but ended up on an enemy after the transition. To write an automated test for this bug, I need the game to load at least a location, some characters, to start a combat (ensuring the order of turns is right – it should be “friend – friend – enemy”), then position characters in a certain way, then position a cursor in a certain way, then simulate “end turn” event, wait for camera movement to be over, and finally to check for the right value of a variable that used to go wrong at this point. This is highly non-trivial to write, requires the test to be run inside the game, but with access to all game’s runtime data, and in reality, requires the game to load a lot of assets, because there is no way to load “just a few” (not an ideal architecture, but kind of dictated by Unity and way too late to change), so the test will take at least a minute or two to run. Now, imagine doing the same things for the hundreds of bugs we fixed lately. It would help if we had a tool to simplify this, but I can’t quite even imagine how it would work, much less how many man-hours would be required to create and maintain it (I guess a replayable record of all game’s actions would work, but this is also non-trivial and bound to break if any part of logic changes – the other place I worked at had this kind of tool, but for a much simpler game, and even then it was only compatible with the latest version, old recordings broke all the time).

      That is not to say it is impossible to do any automated testing on games, but only that it’s very, very complicated, and the very nature of games often resist it (if a simple bot can play a game, it’s probably a very easy, or a very abstract game). And a lot of bugs are extremely hard to notice in any way, but by looking at the screen (e.g. textures and animations bugs, UI bugs). I heard Zynga used to do pixel-by-pixel comparison of a screenshot from a current build with a reference screenshot from a known good build for regression testing, but their games were very simple-looking back then, this could never fly with anything as complex as Skyrim.

      So, to conclude: it is impractical, and maybe even impossible to write automated regression tests for many of the bugs in games, and for cases when it’s possible, there is usually no time. Currently, the only way to ensure a complex game’s quality is to throw people (QA and/or beta-testers) at it – which means time and money.

      1. Naota says:

        Absolutely agreed – there are some basic tests that get run daily at my studio to ensure that major regressions haven’t happened, but they’re based on the game state itself.

        Targeting specific bugs with bespoke code just to ensure they don’t re-occur seems like a completely unfathomable task in an environment where new features or even basic quality of life changes often get cut or put on indefinite hiatus due to a lack of programmer time to invest in them. There are just far too many bugs, with far too many conditions and repro steps, and not nearly enough programmer hours to address them just to be safe.

        Instead, we just have people play the game every day and give them a checklist of known and fixed issues to verify for us.

      2. Chad Miller says:

        I heard Zynga used to do pixel-by-pixel comparison of a screenshot from a current build with a reference screenshot from a known good build for regression testing

        I’ve also heard of at least one emulator that does this, but that’s also a different situation; an emulator is mostly for playing games that are already entirely finished and so you already know what the final product is supposed to look like, more or less.

        1. MaxEd says:

          Huh, I guess it’s pretty much the only way to test an emulator on real games… Although you’d have to take a screenshot at a very precise moment, or it would differ. I guess emulator can try to count CPU cycles since the beginning of the game for a very accurate reproduction, though I’m not sure – it all depends on host system hardware, too…

          1. Addie says:

            Most home computers and consoles up to about the early PC era were fixed things with a very definite configuration, and programmers of the day would use every trick they knew to get the last squeak of performance out of them.

            Emulating something like a Super Nintendo is ridiculously tricky, because you have to update the state of all the secondary hardware at just the right time, often every few pixels while drawing scanlines on screen, and you have to emulate just the right number of CPU commands in the blanking time available while the CRT was moving its electron stream back from the bottom right back up to the top left of the screen again, with an allowance for some memory accesses being slower if that memory location was being contended by the audio hardware at the just the same time the CPU. And programmers of the day would experiment to find just the number of commands they could run per frame, with no concern about manually synchronising because all the hardware would be running in lock-step anyway and the code would run in a completely deterministic fashion.

            The same goes for any home computer that relies on secondary chips to achieve their power; emulating something like an Amiga accurately requires about a thousand times more processing power than the original machine had.

            So yeah; a good emulator will know exactly what every single frame will look like for a given input sequence; most of them will know what should be present mid-frame, too. It’s this determinism that makes tool-assisted speedruns (see, for instance http://tasvideos.org/) so awesome – some TAS’s have their input sequences played back on ‘real hardware’ too, if you’ve any doubt that the emulation is perfectly correct.

  13. Erik says:

    I dont think microsoft shoved skype in the back of the fridge. Sure, they might’ve done so with the CONSUMER release, but Skype for business is still widely used

    1. Daimbert says:

      They seem to be heavily pushing Teams for that space now, though, and not Skype.

    2. epopisces says:

      iirc Microsft’s purchase of Skype was a bit more nuanced (though quite possibly not planned cleverness, it may have been accidental).
      Microsoft had Lync, their business messaging offering, which was a bit of a mess. They bought Skype as their consumer offering, relabeled Lync as ‘Skype for Business’, and began redeveloping Lync from the ground up with Skype code/architecture into what would become Microsoft Teams, which is actually pretty decent software (speaking as someone who has to use it daily in two different business settings). So yes, they are decomming Skype, but the successor is the fruit of that original purchase.

      Unsure if that was planned or just ‘how it happened’, but the acquisition was a good move.

      1. LazerFX says:

        Hah, glad someone else posted this. Yes – Lync was crap, MS bought Skype and did a short-term ‘Skype for Business’ overhaul, and then just re-packaged it as Teams. They’re dumping the consumer level Skype users, because those don’t bring in the regular subscriptions and they don’t care about them.

        Makes me think this will work and be on-going, as MS is all about subscriptions now – Buy an Xbox Series X / S on subscription… buy your games on subscription… easy, simple, regular money.

  14. Joe says:

    In breaking news, we may have had a Starfield leak! https://www.pcgamer.com/rumor-starfield-images-may-have-leaked/

    Not enough to properly judge, but it’s still interesting.

  15. Jabrwock says:

    Xbox App for the PC… ugh.

  16. zackoid says:

    I was under the impression that a lot of Bethesda’s problems had to do with using much fewer staff than other big studios, but I may have made that up. Do we have any numbers on such things?

  17. Redrock says:

    Ever since Microsoft went on its game studio shopping spree back in 2018 I’ve been wondering just how hands-on are they going to be in controlling their newly-aquired studios. Honestly, I still can’t tell. I wanted to say that Obsidian switching from developing old-school RPGs to making a boring looking survival sim was an example of insidious corporate corruption, but apparently Grounded was in development at Obsidian even before the Microsoft deal, so that doesn’t matter much. Same with inXile – getting acquired by Microsoft didn’t seem to impact the development of Wasteland 3 all that much, apart from letting the studio high more people and spend more money.

    I’ll admit, the idea of Obsidian and inXile possibly getting access to Bethesda’s IP and resources sounds amazing. Moreso for the former than the latter, but still. I get the impression that Microsoft is more like Sony than it is like EA or Ubisoft in terms of messing with developers and forcing questionable decisions on them, but I guess we’ll see.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      I only very briefly played the Grounded demo but it felt to me like it was spun off from the Outer Worlds based on the stuff they were already making; TOW has a somewhat awkward survival mode built in and the Grounded demo assets felt familiar.

  18. AndrewCC says:

    “Microsoft is more interested in hurting Sony than trying to get PC gamers to buy an Xbox.”
    I think this is fundamentally wrong.
    Microsoft is MOST interested in money.
    I think that for them selling X million more copies on PS5 is more valuable than pushing a fraction of that number to buy Xboxes (which they are probably selling at cost or at a loss at the moment).
    And if you wanna sell Xboxes the best way is to show Sony fans that they can pay 70$ for the game on PS5, OR they can pay 35$/month and have it AND hundreds of other games to play. And for those who don’t go for the deal, (70$ – Sony’s cut) is better than nothing.

    PS: I’m an exlusively PC gamer, myself.

    1. Redrock says:

      I mean, if Microsoft really cared that much about selling extra consoles, they would’ve probably gone for more Xbox-only exclusives, delaying their releases on PC as well. Which would’ve been spectacularly bad PR, sure, but no one bats an eye when Sony does that. But Microsoft seems to really care way more about selling their software wherever they can than they do about forcing people into buying their hardware. Which is absolutely fine by me.

    2. Nixorbo says:

      Gamepass is absolutely the play for Microsoft here. We already know they’re not shy about publishing their games on other platforms (Minecraft Dungeons, Ori and the Blind Forest) and that console hardware is essentially a loss leader for the first X years of a console lifecycle. I expect some of the smaller IPs and maybe something like Starfield to be a console exclusive, but the big guns like Doom, Elder Scrolls, Fallout, will be cross-platform. They’ll get their publisher’s cut from every Playstation copy sold plus everything they make from people signing up for Gamepass because holy shit, they’re available day 1 for $15 a month and you can play them on almost any device with xCloud.

    3. Bloodsquirrel says:

      Yeah, gaming nerds tend to overestimate how much Sony and MS actually care about “beating” each other. Sure, they’re competitors, and there’s some marketing value to be had in “winning”, but at the end of the day both companies are out to maximize profits, and that doesn’t always mean being the #1 console seller at any cost. Otherwise, you know, they’d just give away their console for $50 at launch. Either company would take being #2 and making twice the money over being #1.

      It’s why Microsoft has always shown a lot of cross-platform games at E3. Pushing exclusives just isn’t the end-all-be-all strategy. If the latest CoD game is what will make some gamers care enough to drop the money for a next-generation console, then that’s what MS is going to show them.

  19. MrPyro says:

    “A possible silver lining: Maybe Microsoft will throw away Bethesda’s hilariously broken and inadequate launcher?”

    “Introducing the new Bethesda Launcher, from the team that brought you Games for Windows Live!”

    1. Andrew_CC says:

      AMEN! RIP(iss) Bethesda.net Launcher.

  20. ulrichomega says:

    Author’s note 5: “liner” should be “linear”?

  21. Carlos García says:

    «That’s a very sane point of view, but I’m afraid it doesn’t apply to Microsoft. Remember that this is the same company that bought Skype for 8.5 billion before shoving it to the the back of the fridge and forgetting about it until it went bad.»
    And just this year paid a huge amount of money (relative to what it spent in, at least) on Ninja and Shroud to promote Mixer and a few months later shut it down.
    Having business success isn’t a guarantee of intelligence or cunning.
    People are so given to consider successful businesmen like some super smart people. Sure, maybe some are, but there’s also a lot of morons.

    1. Andrew_CC says:

      They paid Ninja and Shroud to try to make Mixer work. For reasons (too many to count, mainly that people don’t want to switch to something other than Twitch and Youtube) it didn’t work, so they shut it down.
      Neither the decision to pay the top streamers, or the shutdown, afterwards, were bad decisions in and off themselves. It just didn’t pan out, and the few tens of millions of $ was nothing to MS, compared to the potential profit.
      They could have forced Mixer to work, by throwing mountains of cash at it (like Epic mostly succesfully did with EGS) but they decided not to.

  22. MelTorefas says:

    Remember that this is the same company that bought Skype for 8.5 billion before shoving it to the the back of the fridge and forgetting about it until it went bad.

    I wish this had been what happened. No, Microsoft didn’t forget about Skype, they actively worked to “improve” it until they made it unusably terrible. THEN they abandoned it. Not that I am bitter, or anything.

  23. Zekiel says:

    I have to say I am sad about the acquisition. My first console in 25 years is a PS4, and I made the decision between Xbox & PS4 after concluding that Microsoft didn’t seem to know what they were doing with consoles (as well as being enraged by their idiotic console naming decisions). I still don’t feel like MS know what they’re doing with consoles, but if I stick with Sony I’ll really miss Arkane’s new stuff in a few years, as well as the potential that Bethesda might manage to do something as good as Wolfenstein The New Order again.

    On Dishonored 2:

    I remember being a little lukewarm on this game when it was new, but now I remember it as something brilliant. Am I being swayed by nostalgia, or have the last three years simply lowered my standards?

    Naturally I can’t say for you, but I think Dishonored 2 is quite an odd fish: it can be *incredibly* good at providing a sandbox with lots of interesting tools to experiment with and guards to manipulate; its also extremely pretty and does some excellent world-building. On the other hand its attempts at drama and characterisation generally fall rather flat, and it frustrates by having a lacklustre ending, and a really interesting mission 3/4 of the way through that annoyingly takes away all your fun powers. It is exactly the sort of game that someone might be annoyed by on first play, but appreciate more when you’re aware of its flaws.

    By the way Shamus: pleeease can we get a long-form deconstruction of Arkane’s Prey? Searching your archives you seem to have written more about the original than the new one.

    1. Shamus says:

      Prey is on THE LIST of titles for a retrospective. One of these days I’ll run through the game again, and it’ll happen.

      Looking back, the summer would have been the perfect opportunity for that, but between the move, some personal difficulties, and a month-long Skylines binge, the summer sort of evaporated. :(

      1. Zekiel says:

        Ah fantastic! (About the retrospective, not your crappy summer.)

        I really really like Prey. I’m looking forward to a replay focusing on psionics once I can get an SSD for my PS4 which will hopefully make the loading times a little less painful :-)

    2. Andrew_CC says:

      There’s like a 90% chance that Microsoft will not make any of their games exclusive to Xbox. Maybe at most a short timed exclusive, but I doubt even that. There’s just too many millions of $ to be made by selling to PS owners too.
      So don’t worry too much.

      1. Zekiel says:

        I don’t understand this argument (not being snippy, I genuinely don’t understand). Surely the same argument would apply to Sony not publishing its massive exclusives on the Playstation, yet it does so.

        Isn’t it quite likely that Microsoft would just like to crush the PS5 and get everyone to buy Xbox (or Windows) for all these games?

        1. Sartharina says:

          That strategy hasn’t worked in the past 20 years. No reason to believe it would work at any point in the next 20.

          It’s cheaper and easier to make the competition work for you instead of against you.

        2. Radkatsu says:

          Because those exclusives are actual Sony developers like Disobedient Canine, paid for directly by Sony. Stuff like the Zenimax/Bethesda games are just a company acquisition for MS and likely to remain much as they are now, except MS can also potentially have some of their own studios work on IP like Fallout as well now.

          Also, MS’s stance has changed a lot since 2013, they’re more focused on a ‘service’ with as many users as possible now. Honestly, it’s not even a console war any more, it’s just Sony thinking there’s a war when MS have mostly already stopped viewing them as competition (given MS has all sorts of advantages like Azure, Gamepass, ability to drop games on both XBOX and PC simultaneously, etc). Sony’s not even in the same league any more.

  24. wumpus says:

    Like, re-introducing old bugs? What the hell? Are they not using source control???

    Source control is certainly helpful, but when fixing a bug in file A creates a bug in file B, the person who fixes the bug in file B can easily recreate the bug in file A without realizing it, especially if they’re not the same person. I’ve actually done this with my own code too, with significant time elapsing between ‘fixes’. Eventually you end up with a big comment in both places.

  25. Paul Spooner says:

    At 380 tons, Mr. Altman would need a new car. Good thing it’s buried under that 24 foot tall pile of twenty dollar bills!

    1. The Puzzler says:

      It would require a fleet of around 15 trucks to carry that much. You could probably buy those trucks for $1.5 million. Which, if you took it from the heap of $7.5 billion, would not even make a noticeable dent. You’d still have $7,498,500,000 left.

      1. Shamus says:

        When writing the article, I was trying to come up with some reasonable volume measurements. I really expected there to be a web page somewhere where you could type in a dollar amount (say, a million dollars) and a denomination (say $5 bills) and it would give you the cubic volume. Not only does that somehow not exist, but I couldn’t even find satisfying back-of-the-napkin calculation to use as a starting point.

        Eventually I found a long thread on a forum somewhere (it might have been Reddit) where someone worked out that a million bucks in $100 bills would fill “a bowling bag”. That’s a really odd unit of measurement. Like, bowling ball bags aren’t common at all, both in real life and in fictional depictions. The last time I saw one in a movie / tv show was in the late 90s: Either Big Lebowski (1998) or Mystery Men (1999). Also, bowling bags are usually soft and have a lot of volume that goes unused. It’s just not a great object to use for visualizing volume.

        These sorts of exercises are more useful to the general public if we use universally familiar objects that are mostly rigid , cubiod, and don’t have a lot of variation in size: Toaster, king-sized bed, one of the major appliances, pizza boxes, etc. I can visualize a stack of 1,000 pizza boxes more easily than I can picture (say) a heap of 1,000 bowling bags or backpacks.

        Anyway, using 1 bowling bag = 1 million in $100 bills, I figured that would mean we needed 7,500 bowling bags, which sounded like a dumptruck load to me.

        Given how sloppy this is, I could be off by an order of magnitude in either direction.

        Someone really needs to make a webpage where you can express money in terms of home appliance volume.

        This video is also helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbVb63qPDQ8#t=5m5s

        1. houser2112 says:

          According to a comment on this Reddit thread, the volume of a US bill is 0.0689 cubic inches. Armed with this constant, one could craft a formula with inputs of denomination and total value to calculate the volume of such a stack.

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            Yeah, that’s the number I used. I used the total volume to calculate the height of a conical pile with a 45 degree angle of repose. It would be shorter if it was a neat cube of stacked bills.

      2. Paul Spooner says:

        Or, if you wanted to do it all in one load, you can buy a CAT 797F for a cool $3.5 million. Gives you a nice visual estimation for the size.

  26. Paul Spooner says:

    Typo: “jank and and the tools”

  27. Paul Spooner says:

    Given the ending analogy about Skype, “Microsoft hides Zenimax in the freezer” will hopefully not look like a prescient article headline six months from now.

  28. Fallout? Elder Scrolls? Both games began as classic RPGs back in the 90s, but since then Bethesda has turned them into moronic trash-picking games about inventory management

    TES has always been that. Hell, most ‘classic RPGs’ are that.

    1. jpuroila says:

      Not nearly as much as Fallout 4 is.

    2. Radkatsu says:

      … no. Not even close. Yes, the older games had inventory management and a bunch of problems because the devs were terrible at coming up with a system that wasn’t clunky as hell, but the main point of the games was never inventory management. Bethesda’s recent titles ARE about that, because you spend most of your time wandering around collecting junk to build other junk with.

  29. Bloodsquirrel says:

    Everything needs a phone tie-in from now on. Actually, cancel the phone games, we think tablets are going to be huge next year. Actually, don’t bother with tablets, we need more VR stuff. No, make streaming-friendly games! More multiplayer! More cinematic stuff! No, screw that, more focus on short-session gameplay! Push the top-end hardware! More backwards compatibility! Make new IP! Remake / remaster older games! Family games! Cute mascots! More gruesome adult violence! Motion controllers!

    The good news is that most of that was a Don Mattrick thing. He was the one who was pushing Kinect, cloud computing, and the whole Xbox-TV nonsense. Pretty much all of that was phased out after he “amicably parted ways” following the disastrous Xbox One reveal, but they were stuck with his legacy for a while. He’s the one who put Lionhead Studios and Rare on garbage projects that killed the former and have largely relegated the latter to irrelevance (Although Everwild looks much more promising).

    They’ve been consistently more focused on just providing a basic gaming platform since then, with most of their initiatives being things like Gamepass. Aside from some rather stupid naming decisions, the Xbox Series X is just… a console. It’s going to play video games. Most of their flagship series and studios now seem to be free from any kind of gimmicks or dumb trends. Obsidian’s next game looks pretty much like another Bethesda-style RPG, which is pretty typical of what they were doing before they dropped out of the AAA scene in the first place.

    Hell, they bought Mojang, remember? They’ve been pretty hands-off with them.

    1. Andrew_CC says:

      Phil Spencer really turned the Xbox ship around after Mattick set course for the iceberg at full speed.

  30. Lino says:

    I’ve always found it weird how in the console wars Microsoft are often cited as the underdog in most generations. Because, in reality, they can probably buy and sell companies the size of Sony every year. They have Windows running on 90% of the world’s computers. Azure has 20% of the world’s cloud computing market. Really, they operate on a completely different scale compared to Sony. And it shows. In 2019 Microsoft had an annual revenue of 143 billion dollars, while Sony had a revenue of 76.9 billion. And that’s even before we get into stuff like gross profits and market caps, and tge like.

    So, I wonder what would happen if one day they just decided “Hey, let’s push around some of our trillion-dollar Market Cap, and let’s buy ourselves a Sony! BTW, who’s up for some coke in the bathroom?”

    I mean, monopoly legislation notwithstanding, it’s technically very possible.

    1. Andrew_CC says:

      Microsoft can’t outright buy Sony. You said it yourself, they’re just twice as big, and about 4,5x in profit. Plus Sony is a Japanese company so the goverment might have to say something about selling to foreigners.
      They probably can’t even buy just Sony’s gaming division, since that is the most profitable part of the company.

      1. Radkatsu says:

        Sony’s annual revenue is roughly equal to how much free cash MS had before the Zenimax purchase. Let that sink in.

    2. Radkatsu says:

      “In 2019 Microsoft had an annual revenue of 143 billion dollars, while Sony had a revenue of 76.9 billion.”

      For reference, MS had about ~$75B in cash BEFORE the Zenimax purchase. Afterwards, they still have around $65-68B available. Sony couldn’t even have bought Zenimax ONCE with their currently available cash.

  31. Aquarion says:

    I’m more worried about ID and Arcane than Bethesda. Microsoft’s rep for owning studios isn’t great, and they’ve got a bad track record for turning them into sequel factories until saturation point. This is less of a problem for Bethesda, who can continue rotating around Fallout, Skyrim & maybe Starfield until the bird’s beak wears down the mountain, but I think that would kill Arcane really quickly.

  32. Draklaw says:

    I’ve got to tell you the awful truth Shamus: Visual Studio is not a good software. Really.

    I know the project I’m working on is a big bloated piece of crap so it does not help, but VS is regularly crashing, freezing or failing in various stupid ways.

    The completer is lost half the time. It sometimes can tell me the type of a variable in the tooltip, but somehow fail to do completion. Or when I try to jump to the declaration of a method that the completer was suggesting, it jumps to the wrong place. Like there are different pieces of code that analyze the source and don’t reach the same conclusion.

    The debugger regularly crash or hang, we’re used to the little popup saying “This operation takes longer than expected”. Sometimes, you can fix a compilation issue by restarting VS. Even the compiler crash (a friend got it to crash by writing “auto SomeType const myVar = someValue;”).

    When working on a big solution with a lot of projects on a 16 core cpu, VS tries to be helpful and compile 16 project in parallel, with 16 compiler per project. That’s 256 compiler running at the same time, making your computer unusable, and the only solution is to limit the number of project built in parallel (also it seems to be a long-standing issue). Oh, and sometimes, a compilation fail because one of the compiler ran out of memory. I wonder why…

    To be honest, I’m sure there are a lot of fancy features that I never use. But that’s part of the problem. They can’t get the basic stuff right and just add loads of useless features on top of it. Quite typical corporate nonsense. No wonder they built a completely new – lightweight – editor with VScode to lure the web developers.

  33. Drathnoxis says:

    I watched Weekend at Bernie’s because of you. I hope you’re happy.

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *