In brief: Starfield got a new teaser trailer during Bethesda's E3 press event. It was a cinematic affair without any actual gameplay footage, but the video was created using the game's alpha build. However, the real news was the confirmation that Starfield will be an Xbox exclusive and the conflicting feelings surrounding that deal.
Starfield's Xbox exclusivity is not much of a surprise. Since purchasing Zenimax for $7.5 billion last September, we knew Microsoft would grab anything that Bethesda had not already nailed down in an exclusivity deal, including Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI. However, not all of Bethesda's heads feel the same about Starfield being exclusive to Xbox.
In a post E3 interview with GameSpot, Bethesda's Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications Pete Hines apologized to PlayStation 5 owners for the studio's move away from its historically platform-agnostic development.
"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 [sic] games I'm gonna continue to play on it," Hines said. "All I can really say is, 'I apologize,' because I'm certain that that's frustrating to folks, but there's not a whole lot I can do about it."
When Bethesda announced Starfield and TESVI during E3 2018, Todd Howard did an excellent job of exciting PlayStation and Xbox fans alike without saying too much of substance. Everyone, including Howard and the rest of Bethesda, just assumed the games would launch on both platforms, but that was well before the Microsoft/Zenimax merger.
That said, Howard was unapologetic about Starfield's Xbox exclusivity. Earlier this week, Howard told The Telegraph that he felt making Starfield exclusive to Xbox (and by extension, PC) was in the game's best interest.
"You don't ever want to leave people out, right?" Howard said but then went on to add that that is precisely what they are doing, and he's glad for it. "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."
He also goes on to paradoxically explain that excluding an entire demographic of Bethesda's former fanbase somehow gets its games into more players' hands.
"We're big believers in all of the avenues that Xbox and Microsoft are doing to get games to more people," Howard explained. "Whether that's the integration with the PC, which is huge for us, the cloud streaming and all those things. So I think it's about taking a long-term view."
He contends that because of "GamePass and other things," the ability of gamers to play Bethesda games does not decline but "goes up dramatically." Huh? By whose math?
Maybe that is true when only considering Xbox players, but certainly not in general. The studio was previously producing on all platforms, so the ability to get more games into more hands did not go up when Microsoft told Bethesda, "No more PlayStation development."
Was it the right move for Microsoft? Absolutely. Xbox has long suffered from a lack of console-selling exclusives. Xbox will benefit from Bethesda exclusivity tremendously. There are people who, when supply reaches normal levels, will purchase an Xbox Series X|S solely based on the fact that PlayStation is not getting Starfield or any other future Bethesda title.
Is it going to benefit Bethesda as an individual production house? Even early on in this current console war, PlayStation has a lead in console sales. When you consider the number of total units sold with past Bethesda games across all platforms, it's easy to see that its position is not as profitable from a pure numbers standpoint under the Microsoft umbrella. However, that's part of the deal, and as Hines said, "There's not a whole lot [Bethesda] can do about it."