During Thursday’s big Xbox vs Federal Trade Commission court hearing, Pete Hines of Bethesda (Fallout, Starfield) confirmed that the upcoming Indiana Jones game from MachineGames was originally planned to be a multiplatform release, meaning available to more people. But after Xbox bought up Bethesda, things changed and the game will be an Xbox console exclusive.
We don’t really know much about this upcoming Indiana Jones game. It was first announced in 2021 and is being developed by MachineGames, the same studio behind the fantastic WW2 shooters Wolfenstein: The New Order and its sequel, The New Colossus. Now we know one more thing: It will be an Xbox console exclusive.
Today’s trial between Microsoft/Activision Blizzard and the FTC follows over a year of Xbox trying to convince various legal groups and committees around the world to let the company buy Call of Duty and Warcraft publisher Activision Blizzard. Today’s trial isn’t about blocking the deal, but pausing it long enough so the FTC has time to “evaluate the antitrust merits” of the case. There’s worry that merging the two mega companies will make competition within the realm of video games harder, as one entity goes on to own a ton of valuable stuff. And one person called up to the stand today was Pete Hines, Bethesda’s senior vice president of global marketing & communication.
While speaking in court and answering questions, Hines revealed that before Bethesda was acquired by Microsoft, Disney had an agreement with the publisher for a multiplatform AAA Indiana Jones game. However, things changed after Xbox bought up Bethesda. Hines confirmed that Disney and Bethesda amended the deal and the upcoming Indiana Jones game is now planned to be an Xbox and PC exclusive that will launch on Game Pass day one.
As for why the deal changed, well, according to Hines it’s not just simply the fact that Bethesda is owned by Xbox, but also about “reducing risk.” Recently, Xbox has been going around making a variety of deals that promise it’ll continue servicing other platforms, all in an effort to convince legal entities that the larger merger will actually give players more options. The reality behind the scenes, however, is a bit more complicated.
“There’s a couple of different reasons,” Hines said. “But honestly, the primary one, in my view, is just in my view, is what I said before about reducing risk and trying to get to a degree of certainty.”
However, a different reason for the change was cited in emails from January 7, 2021, revealed during the hearing. In the email exchange between Hines and Xbox boss Phil Spencer, we see Hines bring up the issue of multiple consoles. In response, Spencer points to other Bethesda games that came out on PlayStation after the deal that specific prior deal with the worry that people might start to assume future games from the Elder Scrolls publisher won’t “directly benefit” Xbox owners.
“While it is not in our messaging, I think it’s important to highlight that Lucasfilm brought up to me the issue of platforms because we have a signed agreement with them to make the game for PC and multiple consoles...I do understand their concern and want to highlight that in their interviews. They may say something about multiple consoles”
“The upside here is a game coming from Bethesda that everyone will be excited about. This is the most important thing. The downside will be for Xbox a feeling that with Death Loop, Ghostwire, and now an assumption on [Indiana Jones] that a large percentage of the output from Bethesda won’t directly benefit the Xbox console community in any way.”
Interestingly, earlier in the day, Head of Xbox Game Studios, Matt Booty, offered up a similarly vague answer about future exclusives.
The context is important here, as the FTC lawyer was asking about how Bethesda games that weren’t under contract with other platforms have only been launching on Xbox platforms, alluding to the idea that something similar might happen if Activision was purchased by Microsoft.
When asked by the FTC if Obsdian’s upcoming first-person RPG Outer Worlds 2 was going to be an Xbox exclusive, Booty suggested that a “decision has not been made” yet about what platforms it will be released on. This would be a big change of plans as Outer Worlds 2’s marketing and trailers, as well as the game’s official website, have all confirmed it is only on Xbox consoles and not PlayStation.
So it makes sense that Booty would, in this situation, try to downplay Outer Worlds 2 being an Xbox exclusive. Though, I highly doubt it will be released on PS5 anytime in the future.