Starfield Is An Xbox Exclusive, And Pete Hines Is Sorry

Starfield Is An Xbox Exclusive, And Pete Hines Is Sorry
Image: Bethesda

Starfield, the big space-faring RPG from Bethesda, isn’t coming to PlayStation. Microsoft confirmed as much in its E3 2021 press conference. This morning, Bethesda’s Pete Hines addressed — and even apologised — for the exclusivity in a live-streamed interview with GameSpot.

“I don’t know how to allay the concerns of PlayStation 5 fans other than to say, well, I’m a PlayStation 5 player as well, and I’ve played games on that console, and there’s games I’m gonna continue to play on it,” Hines said. “All I can really say is, ‘I apologise,’ because I’m certain that that’s frustrating to folks, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.”

Now, contrast that with remarks made by Starfield exec producer Todd Howard. In a wide-ranging interview with The Telegraph from earlier this week, Howard detailed why he thought Starfield’s exclusivity for the best.

“You don’t ever want to leave people out, right?”, Howard said. “But at the end of the day, your ability to focus and say, this is the game I want to make, these are the platforms I want to make it on, and being able to really lean [into] those is going to make for a better product.”

Howard further cited the ways in which you can release first-party Xbox games as one reason for why the deal is a positive. Between Xbox Game Pass — which debuts first-party games on launch day at no extra cost to subscribers — and Xbox’s push toward cloud gaming, it’s easier to get games into the hands of players.

“Their ability to play our games doesn’t go down,” Howard said. “It goes up dramatically.”

Bethesda’s role-playing games like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls have historically launched as platform-agnostic titles. It’s easy to see how fans who have no access to an effective gaming PC or Xbox console might feel burned by this decision.

It’s also interesting to square Starfield’s just-announced Xbox exclusivity with comments that Xbox head honcho Phil Spencer made to Kotaku last fall:

This deal was not done to take games away from another player base like that. Nowhere in the documentation that we put together was: ‘How do we keep other players from playing these games?’ We want more people to be able to play games, not fewer people to be able to go play games.

Spencer caught up with Kotaku shortly after Microsoft dropped $US7.5 ($10) billion on Bethesda parent company, Zenimax, without blinking. At the time, it was unclear what would happen to all of the non-Xbox games previously revealed under Zenimax’s vast umbrella.

Xbox plans to honour exclusivity agreements already in place for some games, like Arkane’s Deathloop (which remains a PlayStation exclusive) and Tango’s Ghostwire: Tokyo (which has a lengthy console-exclusivity window on PlayStation). This weekend, Arkane unveiled Redfall, a fantasy shooter set in a Massachusetts suburb overrun by vampires. That game is an Xbox exclusive. Here’s my surprised face.

“We’re big believers in all of the avenues that Xbox and Microsoft are doing to get games to more people,” Howard told The Telegraph.


  • Was Deathloops exclusivity misreported as a 1 year window rather than a permanent exclusive?

    And is it all that interesting to square Todd’s comments against Pete’s, both statements are true.

    Bethesda gains a tonne of resources from Xbox Game Studios, and less platforms to target do allow them to better optimise. Also cloud gaming lets any device that can run a modern web browser play games, so they are right that they are getting games into more hands.

    …. But, that always was going to be at the expense of Playstation players (unless Sony allows Microsoft to sell Gamepass on PS5, lol). That said, I am rather tired of Playstation players whining about not having a few exclusives when they received 95% of exclusives last gen (including plenty of paid exclusives, not just first party studio games). I get it, it sucks as a consumer, but as consumers we supported this bullshit, so now we have an industry trying to sequester as much content as it can in order to compete.

    • No point whining about Microsoft removing games from the PS5, they are simply all in on gamepass. They don’t give a stuff what platform you use as long as its gamepass. They’ve literally invested 10’s of billions into it.

      I like they way Microsoft go about it because gamepass is super cheap and super accessible. Sony on the the hand, over priced and locked to a console. In some cases locked to a console you literally cant even get your hands on.

      • Heh. I don’t trust them to stay cheap forever but for now they’re willing to take a serious hit to land that monthly spot under Netflix on my credit card statement.

        • how many subscribers at the moment? 20 million ish? that $300 million a month or $3.6 billion annually. Very rough numbers but i would also assume those number grow over time….. it will be paying for itself in no time

          Price hikes will come but part of the model for this to be successful is to keep it cheap.

          • Pretty sure there is only barely 5 million consoles sold. I doubt they are going to have 20 million subscribers. XB1 only sold 50 million during it’s life. Having almost half your console owners be subscribers would be a unrealistic at this stage.

  • Not at all surprised – but of course disappointed as a PS5 playing, Bethesda loving, sci-fi RPG fan.

    It is an interesting calculus for MSFT though. Forgetting arguments for a moment about whether making a single platform game leads to a higher quality game (which I don’t believe it causally does, but could be wrong and haven’t thought much about that – but just taking that off the table for a moment) it is interesting to think about the out-and-out economics of this for a moment.

    Surely MSFT making the game exclusive only makes economic sense if the revenue from Gamepass and/or physical XBOX units it moves as a result of the exclusivity exceeds what would have been the game sales of the game to PS5 players. I’m sure the boffins have done the maths (well, having worked with these companies I’m actually not sure of that!) but I’d love to see the modelling. Maybe they are betting that this is the sort of title that will move units to people who otherwise wouldn’t buy one… I think, as I write this, I might be in that category. I’d um and Ah and be shitty about it but eventually I think I would buy an Xbox to play this game. So maybe the decision works.

    Either way, I wish this was going to be on PS5, coz I don’t want an Xbox. That simple for me.

    • Well you obviously do want an xbox because you want to play these games haha. That’s what its all about. I have no interest in owning all 3 consoles but I have to if I want to play all the best games. Unless you get a PC to play xbox games but even then that’s waaaaaaaay more expensive and PC doesn’t have the same list of games as the xbox. Many never made their way to PC

      • You may not even need a console soon if rumours are true MS may release smart tv apps or dongles like a chromecast to play their games.

        • This exactly! Its all about gamepass. They want you to play on literally anything just as long as you’re subscribed

      • You’re right PC doesn’t have the same list of games, it has far far more. There are more games only on PC than exist on the consoles combined exclusive or not. But if we’re talking Xbox One, there’s only one notable game which didn’t come to PC and that’s Halo 5, everything else did. Xbox has always been the superior console with incredibly ergonomic controllers, but the reason I only have a PS5 is because Sony is where the great exclusives games are and I have a badass PC for everything else. For new console only gamers I would recommend an Xbox, backwards compatibility across all generations means access to hundreds of the best games from the past two decades from the start.

        • Granted, PC does have many more other games but I was more referring to almost the entire 360 library and there actually a fair few games on xbox game pass that aren’t on the PC version.

          If your purely looking at it from game pass perspective, and that’s the topic here, the xbox version is still far superior.

    • If you already have a PC just upgrade it, the main cost will be the graphics card. A PC plus your Playstation will give you access to every game you could ever want to play.

    • The value is more abstract in the long term. It makes financial sense for Nintendo to release any individual game of theirs on every platform, but by building the exclusive library they’ve put themselves in a position where they’ll sell not just their next Switch, but the Switch after that and the one after that. Personally I’d say that’s been Microsoft’s biggest and most long running failing. Even though they’ve done lots of great stuff they’re still constantly working to convince people to switch to them, while Nintendo and Sony get a yes by default and only get a no when they screw things up. The 360 is their biggest success and most of it comes down to Sony botching the PS3 hard at launch.

      Also factor in seemingly little things like the platform stores cut. If they expect a game to sell 1 million digital copies combined if it’s released on XBOX and PS and they have confidence in it’s ability to sell 700k copies if released on XBOX alone, that seems like a big hit. However their data might indicate that with a multiplatform release people will choose PS5 over Series X even if they have both consoles. So the split would be 300k on XBOX and 700k on PS.
      Suddenly they’re looking at the majority of sales not just losing 30% but putting 30% straight into Sony’s pocket. On paper it might not completely balance out the raw loss of 300k sales from going exclusive but it’s certainly a big step in bridging the gap.

      $60 a copy and using very dumbed down numbers puts them at $60m total for a million copies with $18m from the 300k on XBOX, $29.4 from 700k on PS and Sony netting $12.6m in fees (while also pumping their library). Don’t get me wrong. $47.4m is fantastic. Personally I’d burn this whole place to the ground for the .4. However you compare it to 700k sold as an XBOX exclusive and they’re raking in $42m without even factoring in console sales and their competition isn’t making a dime off the game.
      Even at 500k sales, half of our expected total for multiplatform, it’s only a $17.4m difference. A huge hit for sure but not as dramatic as you’d expect from halving the number of sales and again they’re denying Sony that easy middleman money.

      It requires a lot of confidence in the product and a willingness to ignore the part where you spend a mountain of cash rolling the dice purchasing these studios, and it doesn’t factor in physical purchases which have their own stuff. It doesn’t consider small things like not having to have PS5 dev tools or the bottlenecks of dealing with third parties, but honestly I doubt Microsoft would even notice the difference in resource costs there.
      It also means Sony can’t offer them a truck full of money to get limited exclusivity and as much as Microsoft might be the bad guy in this specific case there’s always going to be an exclusivity arms race with consoles.

      • I do too but I guess the question is would Bloodborne have been made at all if Sony wasn’t backing it to get it as an exclusive? It’s usually hard to determine but in the case of Starfield it’s pretty safe to say there’s probably a PS5 and maybe even Switch version that Microsoft swept under the rug.

    • This is it exactly. They could make a bigger short term gain by releasing it on Playstation, but they’re gambling that it will drive enough people from PS to XBox to make even more money that way.

      The gamble might pay off, but it all depends on how out-of-this-world amazing Starfield is. It might be the next Skyrim. Or, it might be the next Fallout 76.

      In any case it will take more than just one high calibre xbox exclusive to make me come over. I want to see a line up comparable to Last of Us, God of War, Bloodborne, Spiderman etc. But buy a new console or game pass just to get one new Bethesda game? Nah.

  • It’s all good, I wasn’t as bothered by the news as I thought I would be.
    My plan was to upgrade my PC sometime over the next few years and E3 didn’t really do anything to change my mind there.

  • Sure I was looking forward to playing it but lets face it if Bethesda wants to trade having a game that is so huge it crosses all the platforms it becomes a gaming institution that all players, no matter where their dedicated platform is, have a chance to experience it, all for just a pay cheque from Microsoft? thats on them on.

    Microsoft needs to offer a lot more high quality unique gaming experiences in order to get me to buy their console for a single game. Sure Sony is their own worse enemy sometimes but it is clear there is some form of curation with their exclusives, for years, pretty much all of them have been extremely high quality. Even the Switch is the same, a exosystem of unique games. Microsoft doesnt have that same type of legacy, for me it would feel like buying an xbox ‘just for a game’.

    • And what do you think every one of those studios did? Naughty Dog, Insomniac, they all signed up with Sony for a paycheck. That’s just how it goes. Or does something “crossing all platforms and becoming an institution” only count so long as you get to play things on the Playstation?

  • After seeing how many difficulties Sony’s first party devs have been having with bugs/crashes/corruption and other associated issues with the PS5 and it’s BC development, there might (for once) be a grain of truth to working on one less platform being easier in this instance.

  • My son has a series X in a house that has always been PlayStation.

    I’ll be honest, I’ve been very impressed by the game pass. He loves it and has done since launch.

    Now with Starfield…’s a big deal…..I might get a Xbox too. So yeah, job done Microsoft.

  • Is anyone surprised? Anyone at all? Well. I mean, apart from people who found some hope from Pete’s earlier non-committal assurances that the sky wasn’t falling, back when it was in fact decided to bring the sky crashing down.

    This was the entire point of Microsoft buying Bethesda. Pretending/believing it wasn’t was just deceptive/naive.

  • I am interested in seeing more from this game. Kind of looks a bit like NMS with potentially in-depth RPG elements. Could be big.

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