Microsoft Tightens Grip on Bethesda: Studio Closures Spark Fan Discontent

A round of layoffs earlier this year affected several Bethesda teams. Several studios are also closing now, including Arkane Austin and Tango Gameworks

by Sededin Dedovic
Microsoft Tightens Grip on Bethesda: Studio Closures Spark Fan Discontent
© Bethesda Softworks / Youtube channel

Microsoft's acquisition of Bethesda in 2020 promised a light touch, allowing for vaunted developer autonomy. However, recent events paint a different picture. After layoffs affecting Bethesda teams, the studio closure announced by Xbox Studio head Matt Booty sent shockwaves through the gaming community.

A leaked internal email reveals significant changes. Arkane Austin, the studio behind immersive sims like Redfall and Prey, will be shutting down completely. This is a significant loss, as Arkane was known for crafting some of Bethesda's best single-player experiences.

The impact is not limited to North America. Tango Gameworks, Microsoft's sole studio in Japan, will also cease operations. This comes on the heels of their acclaimed 2023 release, Hi-Fi Rush, which showcased their potential.

The closure represents a missed opportunity for Microsoft to gain traction in the Japanese market, a region where they have historically struggled. The mobile space is also affected. Alpha Dog Studios, the creators of Mighty Doom, will be disbanded and the game itself shut down in August.

Roundhouse Studios is avoiding a complete shutdown, but their team will be integrated into ZeniMax Online Studios to support The Elder Scrolls Online and other projects. Microsoft is positioning these closures as strategic "consolidation" for "deeper investment" in existing and new Bethesda franchises.

However, fans will likely be disappointed. The loss of Arkane Austin, known for innovative level design and immersive storytelling, is a blow to Bethesda's single-player offering. Dishonored and Prey fans are wondering about the future of these beloved franchises.

Similarly, the closing of Tango Gameworks is a missed opportunity for genre diversification. With titles like The Evil Within, they've carved out a niche in survival horror, a genre with enduring appeal. While the closure of Alpha Dog Studios and Mighty Doom may be less impactful, it highlights Microsoft's shifting priorities.

The focus seems to be on larger-scale projects, potentially leaving less room for niche mobile titles. The long-term impact remains unclear. Will this consolidation lead to stronger AAA titles? Or will it stifle creativity and homogenize Bethesda's output? The news sparked online discussions.

Fans question Microsoft's commitment to creative freedom and fear a shift toward online gaming and microtransactions, potentially abandoning the single-player experiences that made Bethesda special.