Starfield announcement reignites controversy over Bethesda’s potential Xbox exclusivity

Starfield announcement reignites controversy over Bethesda’s potential Xbox exclusivity


Games being exclusive to certain pieces of hardware is nothing new. Franchises such as Mario and Pokemon have been found predominantly only on Nintendo hardware (most recently the Wii U). Microsoft, owners of Xbox, have been, over the past few years, buying up studios to expand their in-house development of titles. Perhaps the largest of these was their purchasing of ZeniMax Media (for $7.5 billion), the parent company of many famous studios such as Bethesda. Bethesda have had a history of releasing their games to as many pieces of hardware as possible, going to far as to jest on the matter at E3 2018 with Keegan-Michael Keys playing Skyrim (one of their most famous titles) on his Amazon Echo, Samsung Smart Fridge and even an Etch-A-Sketch. With such a rich history, gamers have been concerned about Bethesda titles now being exclusive to Microsoft platforms (specifically the Xbox and PC).

Since the Acquisition (Officially March 2021 but announced in September 2020) Phil Spencer, Executive Vice President of Gaming at Microsoft and seen as the head of the Xbox brand, has been open about the future of Bethesda games. In an interview with Kotaku back in September 2020, Spencer was asked if it is possible to recoup the investment if future titles weren’t released on PlayStation, Spencer answered with “this deal was not done to take games away from another player base like that” and while emphasising that he is answering the question directly “I don’t have to go ship those games on any other platform other than the platforms that we support in order to make the deal work for us”. Spencer finally finished with the assertion that the future of any ZeniMax games would be determined on a ‘case-by-case basis’

At the time of writing (June 15th) E3 2021 is still currently taking place, but second day belonged to the Microsoft presentation, unveiling many new titles. Todd Howard, executive producer at Bethesda showcased the trailer for the studios first new IP in 25 years, Starfield. The game was announced to be a Xbox and PC exclusive, with many fans who aren’t on these platforms took to twitter to voice their displeasure. A large part of their displeasure is the accusation that Spencer lied to them. They claim that they were led to believe that Starfield would also be released on PlayStation 5. Spencer did state that the deal was not about taking games away from gamers, something that having a title be exclusive does. Counter arguments that the title will only launch as an Xbox exclusive, but later come to PlayStation are currently unsubstantiated and with current information, unlikely as the end of the trailer for Starfield states “Xbox Exclusive”. Spencer’s original statement about the deal not being about taking games away from gamers could have been more to do with existing franchises and the PlayStation exclusivity deals for Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, but as the future for the highly anticipated Elder Scrolls 6 and the unannounced Fallout 5 is unknown, whether this proves to be true is yet to be seen.



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Aaron Petty

Australian born Economics and Politics student at the University of Reading. Passionate about a wide variety of topics, from politics to music and gaming.