March 9, 2021

Legal Fallout fallout lingers as Microsoft’s ZeniMax buy is approved

By Eric Johansson

Regulators have given the thumbs-up to Microsoft’s planned acquisition of ZeniMax Media – owner of Doom, Fallout and Skyrim maker Bethesda Softworks – but a lawsuit could yet throw a monkey wrench into the proceedings.

The Redmond-headquartered tech behemoth announced its plans to buy ZeniMax in September last year. Now, with both the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the European Commission approving the merger in the past few days, the way seems clear for the $7.5bn acquisition to go ahead.

“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 European Commission said in a statement.

The acquisition will see the number of gaming studios under the Microsoft umbrella jump to 23 with Bethesda sub-studios Arkane, MachineGames, id Software and Tangeo Gameworks joining the existing names.

However, a class action-lawsuit could still cause problems for the acquisition.

The suit claims that Bethesda misled gamers when it said that all future downloadable content (DLC) for the 2015 smash hit game Fallout 4 would be available for anyone who bought a season pass.

Gamers who bought passes were later enraged to find that some new Fallout content, released by Bethesda under the label “Creation Club” rather than “DLC”, required them to pay again for access.

In February 2020, lawyers acting for the gamers said they might ask the courts to block the Microsoft deal, citing fears that Bethesda could try to shift its assets to a new legal entity and shield itself from any legal liability related to the class-action.

Read more: Microsoft announces double helpings of Azure for cloud-hungry China

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