Long after it was first teased and nearly a year after it was originally supposed to come out, Starfield is finally releasing September 1 as an Xbox console exclusive. It would have taken even longer if the open world sci-fi RPG was also on PlayStation 5, Bethesda executive Pete Hines claimed in recent federal court testimony.
The head of Bethesda publishing made the claim while being grilled by Federal Trade Commission lawyers last week during Microsoft’s current court battle to close its $69 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard. The FTC pointed out that Bethesda made a bunch of its major upcoming games Xbox exclusives after the tech giant purchased it in 2021, while Hines tried to argue that exclusivity has its advantages, including streamlining development on big-budget games.
“[Director Todd Howard] has called it an ‘irresponsibly large’ game,” Hines told the court on June 22. “I think it’s a pretty accurate description, and as someone who has been playing it a lot and sees all of this stuff to do, there’s no question in my mind that being able to focus on fewer platforms to support, [fewer] hardware to support, has been a big benefit to that team.”
He went on to talk at length about the important role quality assurance testing plays in getting the game ready for launch, and suggested no longer releasing on PS5 was removing a big chunk of that work. “Would not be putting this game out in nine weeks if we were supporting an entire additional platform, in my opinion,” Hines said.
Starfield promises 1,000 planets to explore and tons of gameplay systems from spaceship dog fights to crafting, making it both one of the most anticipated blockbuster games of the year and also a very ambitious project to actually get out the door. It was originally supposed to ship on November 11, 2022, a date that was locked in months in advance and appeared set in stone, only for the game to get pushed into 2023.
The implication of Hines’ testimony is that if Microsoft had never purchased Bethesda, the game might not be coming out in 2023 either. In fact, it might not have even come to Xbox Series X/S consoles at all. During the court battle, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer also revealed that part of the motivation for the acquisition of Bethesda in the first place was to stop Sony from paying to make Starfield a PS5 exclusive. Whether the game eventually makes it to PlayStation platforms at some distant point in the future remains to be seen, but in the meantime it’s still also coming to PC.