The ongoing FTC v. Microsoft court battle over the tech giant’s $68.7 billion Activision merger isn’t going the way the Federal Trade Commission nor antitrust activists would necessarily like it to, but the attempt to block the merger has also allowed some juicy bits of gossip to leak down to us about some moves the companies plan to make in the coming years.
One of those redacted emails confirmed that Activision is just one of several companies that have seen an “NG Switch.” The email shows Activision CEO Bobby Kotick met with Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa to discuss the next-generation Switch. The news was first reported by The Verge.
The vast majority of the document is redacted, but one paragraph reveals that back in December last year, Nintendo was doing the rounds with at least the big studios on what could be expected from a new Switch console. Activision wrote:
Given the closer alignment to gen8 platforms in terms of performance and our previous offerings on PS4 / XboxOne, it is reasonable to assume that we could make something compelling for NG Switch as well. It would be helpful to secure early access to development hardware prototypes and prove that out nice and early.
During Gamescom last month, reports showed that Nintendo shared Switch 2 development kits with some key partners. The rumor mill has it that the company will release its new Switch sometime in 2024. It could maintain the LCD display and be backward compatible with the older Switch games, but there’s very little concrete details for anybody who’s not Activision to ruminate on.
Another of those files released during discovery shows several slides of first-party games Microsoft has previously released or plans to release in the coming years. The document references both Arkane’s RedFall and Bethesda’s Starfield. The most notable development is the mention that now that Bethesda’s under the big, shady tent of Microsoft’s first-party devs, the company said that the release date for The Elder Scrolls VI is still to be determined, but it’s expected by 2026, or even later.
Starfield is currently limited to Xbox and PC, and it’s very unlikely it’ll see a launch on PlayStation any time soon. The same is true of Bethesda’s next big open-world game in its venerable fantasy franchise. In the document, the company used a GQ interview from back in 2021 where Xbox head Phil Spencer said “[I]n order to be on Xbox, I want us to be able to bring the full complete package of what we have. And that would be true when I think about Elder Scrolls 6.”
Bethesda first announced The Elder Scrolls VI back in 2018, years before Microsoft announced it was buying up Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion in March of 2021. The release date isn’t all that surprising considering how long Starfield was under the hood. It wasn’t until this month that the company released Starfield, which had been in development even before the game’s 2018 announcement date. We wouldn’t be surprised if today’s pre-teens will be in high school before they finally get to sink hours of their lives into the next Elder Scrolls.
But there is good news for Xbox players. According to another revealed document, Microsoft is planning to expand its Game Pass service and allow players to stream PC games through the cloud. Currently, the service only supports streaming titles on Xbox consoles. Any PC titles needed to be downloaded to the computer itself before becoming playable.
The emails go back to 2021, with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talking with Spencer and other company heads, saying he was “assuming” the company planned to do more with Game Pass on PC. This talk with Spencer revolved around Google Stadia, but that was years before the service’s untimely demise in January 2023. All that’s left is speculation that the company could eventually offer PC games through streaming, something that would offer direct competition with Nvidia’s GeForce now, a service for playing games you own through the cloud on the company’s own rigs.
Other documents similarly reveal surprising tidbits of some of the game industry titan’s business plans over the past few years. One even shows Microsoft had designs on buying Sega gaming studios, to “help accelerate Game Pass.”
Back in July, California Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley ruled against the FTC over its request for a preliminary injunction that would block the $68.7 billion acquisition, but the agency has since appealed. The documents were released after the judge granted the FTC’s request to release more evidence related to the ongoing court battle. All the documents were revealed on Sept. 15, and you can find the lot of them here.