We already know Microsoft bought ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion two years ago because it didn't want Starfield to be exclusive to the PlayStation 5. But, did you know that Microsoft also has a good reason why it's making Starfield available to play only on the Xbox Series S/X?
The open-world space game is due to launch on September 6 and it will be exclusive to the Xbox Series S/X and the PC, a supposedly calculated strategic approach.
Bethesda's publishing boss, Pete Hines, credits the exclusivity to the Xbox Series S/X as why Starfield didn't take as long to develop as it did.
Hines on Starfied exclusivity:
Todd has called Starfield an "irresponsibly large game."
"Focusing on fewer platforms has been a big benefit to that team."
— Derek Strickland (@DeekeTweak) June 22, 2023
Hines’ argument claims focusing on fewer platforms has considerable benefits. Multi-platform development means more time, more cost, and ultimately, greater risk. According to Hines, a narrow focus streamlines development, optimizing the gaming experience for specific platforms, and making it easier to roll out fixes.
Starfield's Xbox exclusivity is a testament to the evolving relationship between Bethesda and Microsoft, post-acquisition as well. Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, spoke about Bethesda's growth and maturation over the years. Bethesda has built a reputation after creating iconic franchises like Fallout, Skyrim, and Elder Scrolls. However, Spencer acknowledged that when Microsoft took over, Starfield was slated for a much earlier release.
After discussions with Bethesda's leadership, it was decided to extend the timeline to allow the team more time to perfect the game.
History is full of exclusive titles that come out with relatively few performance issues, so Hines' statement plenty of sense. We don't need to look further for examples than this year's GOTY frontrunners, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Final Fantasy 16.
Of course, we can't bring both up without talking about the elephant in the room - Redfall. The Xbox Series S/X-exclusive title fell flat on its face at launch, disappointing Phil Spencer and prompting talks of a potential closure of its developers. Although it's currently being supported, the writing is on the proverbial wall for Arkane Austin.
While the consensus agrees that Starfield's Xbox exclusivity is smart, the game isn't out of the woods yet. Its ambitious size and scope - referred to by Hines as an “irresponsibly large game” - might be more manageable but it's not in the hands of gamers yet. The ultimate litmus test will have to wait until September when critics and audiences have had a chance to take Starfield out for a spin to find out if the platform exclusivity and decision to cap the FPS are both good for the game or if it's just Bethesda trying its best to justify what could potentially be a disastrous decision.