Legal documents indicate that Microsoft intends to create a new wholly owned subsidiary called Vault, in order to complete its acquisition of ZeniMax Media. However, it is unclear if ZeniMax will be known as Vault after the deal closes.
The European Union is currently deciding whether to approve the $ 7.5 billion acquisition that was revealed in September 2020. The documents you see on the European Union Law EUR-Lex website refer to the logistics of the acquisition, mentioning a “Merger whereby Microsoft’s subsidiary (‘Vault’) will merge with ZeniMax.”.
While it’s unclear exactly how this whole thing will work out, the ‘Vault’ subsidiary would be a good way to house Microsoft’s new acquisitions under a quasi-independent brand, providing ZeniMax studios (which include Bethesda, Arkane, MachineGames, and plus) a level of freedom while remaining the property of Microsoft. The text explicitly says that Microsoft will acquire “exclusive control of all ZeniMax”regardless, but the document suggests that they will achieve this through the Vault subsidiary. We will make sure to learn more once the agreement is clarified by the European Union.
It’s a different approach to Microsoft’s previous acquisitions, such as Obsidian, Ninja Theory, and Double Fine, which were formally made part of Microsoft and housed under its Xbox Game Studios brand. Whether or not the ZeniMax studios are known as part of Vault, the decision to create a Microsoft subsidiary to complete the merger appears to mark a level of independence compared to other acquired companies.
This is consistent with previous reports on Bethesda’s partial independence under Microsoft. Without going any further, Phil Spencer commented via CNET (in September) that “it’s not about becoming us”, in reference to the deal. For his part, Bethesda’s Senior Vice President of Global Marketing Pete Hines endorsed this, saying in a statement that “We are still working on the same games we were with yesterday, made by the same studios that we have worked with for years, and those games will be published by us.” And this statement appeared around the same time as Spencer’s statements.
On the other hand, it is still unclear how the acquisition will work with respect to the exclusivity of future Bethesda games. However, Bethesda boss Todd Howard recently said that it is “hard to imagine” make a game like The Elder Scrolls 6 exclusive to Xbox. And we also know that Microsoft will honor the deal after acquiring Bethesda when Arkane’s Deathloop launches later this year as a timed PS5 exclusive.