In a nutshell: Starfield officially launched to the general public this week after a brief early access period for those who pre-ordered the more expensive deluxe editions. It has been mostly well-received by critics and fans, so Todd Howard didn’t waste any time running victory laps and touting what a great decision it was to cancel the PlayStation version.
Thanks to the high drama of Microsoft acquisitions, it might be hard to remember that when Bethesda teased Starfield at E3 2018, it was supposed to launch on all platforms, including PlayStation. Even after Microsoft disclosed it was in talks to buy parent company Zenimax, it promised that it would not make future Bethesda games like Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI exclusive.
However, as the deal solidified, Microsoft changed its tune and forced Bethesda to cancel PlayStation versions. As if to offer a generous consolation prize, Bethesda senior executive Pete Hines told PlayStation owners they could still play older Bethesda titles. It was quite a blow for fans waiting to play Starfield on their PlayStation 4 or 5. It also appeared to cause an internal shakeup, leading to Hines apologizing to PlayStation users. However, this was two years ago – ancient history in gaming terms.
In a Tuesday interview with the BBC, Bethesda talking head and Game Director Todd Howard said that canceling the PlayStation version was the right thing to do and resulted in “a better product.” He mentioned that, at times, he and some of the staff felt overwhelmed because of the scope and the amount of work needed for release on multiple platforms.
“[Starfield] ended up being much larger than anything we’ve done. At times, we thought, ‘Are we in over our heads?'” Howard related.
He recalled being somewhat relieved at getting word that the title was going exclusive. Workloads shifted to one platform, and the team could better focus on the game without worrying about how something might cause a conflict or be more challenging to work into a PlayStation version.
“When you’re making something exclusive, then the more you can focus,” said Howard. “You know this is the hardware or the thing people are playing on, so the ability to focus on that always yields a better product.”
Howard also claimed that he has been “told” that they are expecting Starfield to reach more players than any other Bethesda game despite its exclusivity. However, this sounds like corporate Kool-Aid. The current console race sits at PlayStation 40 million – Xbox 21 million. Cutting out a demographic that has sold double the hardware does not typically amount to “more sales.”
“You do want people to be able to access it, of course,” Howard dodged when reminded of the recent trend of cross-platform play. “But being with Xbox means there is an ease of access for us, and I’m told we’re expecting more people playing this launch than anything we’ve ever done before, and that’s despite the success of our previous games.”
“More access” than, say, Skyrim, which has versions on no fewer than 8 platforms? It sounds more like a morale-boosting memo from Microsoft corporate saying, “Good job, team. Keep up the good work, despite selling fewer units than before we owned you.”
But what do I know? Maybe there are a ton of PlayStation owners out there with Xbox Game Passes who have chosen to play Starfield on their phones. I guess that’s possible. Some have argued that Bethesda titles will eventually work their way to PlayStation, and they just might. However, don’t hold your breath.
According to GamesRadar+, at this time, Microsoft has no plans to release Starfield or any other future Bethesda game on PlayStation. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Kotaku notes that Todd Howard kept a promise for early in development saying that Starfield would be like “Skyrim in space.” So for those tired of Bethesda’s worn-out RPG formula and Creation Engine, maybe not having access to it isn’t such a bad thing.