Bethesda Softworks has always been a respected publisher in the industry—the type of company that regularly puts out critically and commercially successful games, but for whatever reason has never been thought of in the same category as Electronic Arts (EA) or Activision (ATVI).
But after Sunday night’s press event, which was loaded with gigantic upcoming games, it may have leveled up.
Fronted by Fallout 4, the follow-up to 2007’s roughly 5 million unit selling smash, the publisher unveiled a strong lineup for the upcoming year—with hints of a strong 2016-2017 season.
Set in Boston, Fallout 4 will hit store shelves on Nov. 10, adding to what is already a tremendously competitive holiday season. The game will face off against Star Wars: Battlefront, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, and Halo 5: Guardians, among others.
To build enthusiasm for the game, Bethesda has also released a Fallout game for smartphones and tablets, which blends elements of The Sims, Tiny Tower, and XCom.
In 2016, the company will release Doom, the fourth installment in the trend-setting shooter series in the spring. And further down the road is Dishonored 2, the sequel to 2012’s stealth-action game that greatly exceeded the company’s sales expectations.
Bethesda, owned by privately-held ZeniMax Media, is an anomaly of sorts in the game publishing world. It doesn’t have an annual franchise like Activision’s Call of Duty or Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed. But it does control several series that are favorites among the gaming public—including the aforementioned Doom and Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, which regularly sets the bar for role-playing games.
The company’s board of directors, meanwhile, is a who’s who of media and entertainment executives. Robert Altman is chairman and CEO and the board itself includes CBS president and CEO Les Moonves, director Jerry Bruckheimer, and baseball legend Cal Ripken, Jr.
Rather than licensing content from Hollywood, though, the company owns all of its franchises, which means significantly higher margins on each copy it sells. And, while some titles haven’t performed as well as others, it hasn’t had a true flop in years.
It also creates its own graphics technology (which can be licensed to other developers—though it has chosen not to do so). It has a talented roster of game makers. And it has a reputation as a fun place to work in the industry—something that’s critical as developer/publisher relations continue to deteriorate at many high-profile game makers.
The knock against the company has been its slow pace of production. But this year’s presentation shows that it’s ready to ramp that up.
And if it can do that while keeping its quality levels as high as they’ve historically been, Bethesda could very well become one of the leading publishers of this generation of consoles.