It’s the $7.5bn dollar question: is Starfield good enough to make people buy an Xbox? It’s a platform that’s been frustratingly lacking in killer apps, but we’re starting to see the tide turn on that front, and Bethesda’s latest opus is a key title in Xbox’s line-up going forward. In the video below James and I discuss whether it’s good enough to warrant owning a Series S or Series X console:
Starfield didn’t start life as an Xbox exclusive: it became one as a result of Microsoft’s highly publicised acquisition of Bethesda Softworks back in September 2020. Or March 2021, depending on whether or not you consider announcing the intent to buy something and actually buying it the same thing.
This put some noses out of joint, because a lot of people love Bethesda games, and a high percentage of them are PlayStation users. All of a sudden, folks who were quite content to not own an Xbox now found themselves facing the terrifying prospect of having to buy one in order to continue enjoying Bethesda’s specific brand of petty theft simulators. Some insisted that this was Microsoft’s plan all along: incentivising people to buy their then upcoming Series X/S consoles. Others dismissed this as an outlandish conspiracy theory, and were convinced until very recently that Starfield, Fallout 5, and The Elder Scrolls VI would definitely still show up on PlayStation (these people remain easy marks for the wallet inspector).
Kidding aside, Microsoft’s spending spree on studios big and small has obviously been with the aim of correcting Xbox’s biggest weakness when compared to its competitors: a lack of decent exclusives. It has limped along for years as a third-party box, a platform that many see as an optional secondary console, and entirely superfluous if you’ve already got a gaming PC. But studios take time to make games, and so simply acquiring a load of companies and dev teams isn’t a quick fix to this existential problem. Not only that, but when you purchase a company, you also purchase its existing commitments and contracts: which is why Xbox found itself in the embarrassing position of getting games that it owns, such as Ghostwire Tokyo and Death Loop, a whole year after their timed exclusivity on PS5.
We’re now three years into this console generation and it has felt frustratingly like Xbox Games Studios has been in a permanent state of spooling up, but now we’re starting to see the real goods. Fable, Avowed, and Outer Worlds 2 are right around the corner. Starfield is as guaranteed a success as you can have in this industry, and it’s gone down very well with critics and punters alike. Sure, it’s had the odd 7/10 review, and lots of people love sticking the boot into it on Twitter (and you can’t judge the success of something on whether or not people on Twitter are sticking the boot into it), but generally, it’s seen as a compelling and accessible space adventure that has the Bethesda magic, and that’s a pretty solid foundation for success.
But is it a system seller? Is it good enough to warrant owning an Xbox? Well, the jury’s still out on that front, and time will tell whether or not it leads to a boost in Xbox sales. But for our money, it’s definitely the best thing to show up on Xbox in years, and once its big name stablemates start hitting their release windows, Xbox will have a slate of console exclusives to be proud of.