Xbox Really Needed Starfield This Year

It’s equal parts comedy and tragedy that Microsoft felt the need to clarify that its not-E3 summer games showcase had the “most gameplay they’ve ever shown in a briefing in Xbox history(Opens in a new window).” In an era where most conferences are dominated by CGI trailers, showing gameplay is a novel act.

As part of this desire to keep things real, Xbox also chose to focus only on games coming in the next 12 months, as opposed to some nebulous future over the horizon. If you subscribe to Xbox Game Pass right now, this is what you can expect to play until it’s time to re-up. As much as I respect that decision, though, it also unfortunately highlights how Xbox’s next-gen lineup feels somewhat lacking, especially with its only truly huge game, Starfield, now delayed to 2023.


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Todd Howard Is Back!

Fortunately, Starfield looks like a game that’s worth the wait. The showcase gave us our first look at gameplay for the upcoming sci-fi RPG, Bethesda’s first major game since Fallout 4 (and the company’s first new franchise in 25 years). The progression systems seem to build upon previous Bethesda games. Like Skyrim, Starfield rewards you for using your favorite skills by making you better at said skills. And conversations with NPCs will instantly feel familiar to not only Bethesda fans, but fans of Bethesda-inspired games like The Outer Worlds. Here’s hoping the gunplay is better than Fallout 4‘s.

The shift in setting adds fresh energy to the mechanics and the gameplay. This isn’t a fantasy world or an irradiated wasteland. This is an outer space frontier with a spirit of adventure, the missing link between current-day, real-world NASA and Mass Effect’s diverse alien worlds. Even the color scheme splits the difference between aerospace realism and otherworldly color. You can customize your spaceship to fly to hundreds of planets in various systems, too. It may be too gigantic for its own good. Like No Man’s Sky, having so many worlds may leave each world feeling less unique.

Starfield

Starfield looks like a massive game, and I don’t want to suggest the team should have crunched to reach its previous November 2022 launch date. Halo Infinite was originally an Xbox Series X/S launch title before it got delayed a year, and that turned out great. Plus, given Bethesda’s history of buggy and broken initial releases, this is the moment to take your time and launch with a clean slate, a new franchise on new consoles. We don’t need another Cyberpunk 2077 situation. Still, like Halo in 2020, Starfield’s absence this holiday season leaves an obvious and unfortunate void for Xbox.


Starfield’s absence this holiday season leaves an obvious and unfortunate void for Xbox.


Mystery Box

You should absolutely play more video games beyond big-budget AAA behemoths. There are so many exciting experiences to uncover once you open yourself up to smaller games, indie games, across all genres. Xbox Game Pass is especially great at encouraging subscribers to sample these games, at no extra cost. This showcase did highlight intriguing overlooked games, such as As Dusk Falls, Cocoon, Hollow Knight: Silksong, and Minecraft Legends.

Coming to Xbox

However, big singular games drive hype and excitement. They push players to the platform where they can then enter the larger ecosystem. They serve a crucial role in a console’s library, and based on this showcase, Xbox needs more of them sooner rather than later.

Take a hard look at the next 12 months for Xbox and what do you see? There’s a lot of upcoming content for existing games: custom ships in Sea of Thieves, Halo vehicles in Microsoft Flight Simulator, and Hot Wheels DLC in Forza Horizon 5. One of the biggest announcements was Atlus porting old Persona games to Xbox. Even if the deal hasn’t quite gone through, Microsoft is certainly behaving like it already owns Blizzard as we finally got solid info and launch plans for Overwatch 2 (Oct 4) and Diablo IV (2023). Redfall looks good, but was also recently delayed. Oh, and I guess it’s time for another “serious” Forza with Forza Motorsport (2023). 

Recommended by Our Editors

Still, it doesn’t feel like enough. Many of the games at the show have nebulous 2023 release dates, since the first half of 2023 still falls under the 12-month window. And we’re still waiting on the fruits of Microsoft’s recent studio purchasing sprees. No word on Avowed, Everwild, Fable, Gears 6, Hellblade 2, Indiana Jones, Perfect Dark, or State of Decay 3. Now, we can add a new, vague Hideo Kojima game to the list of tentpole Xbox projects to look out for…eventually. 


Greatness Awaits

I enjoy my Xbox Series S. With Game Pass, it’s the most affordable and least ugly way to get into next-gen gaming. And I will play the heck out of Starfield whenever it comes out. However, between the increasing costs and labor of modern development, and the aftershocks of a worldwide pandemic that’s slowed production for years to come, we’ll have to accept that the biggest video games will just be ready whenever they’re ready. 

For more on Summer Game Fest, check out PCMag’s video game feed and tune into The Pop-Off YouTube channel(Opens in a new window) for more video game discussions.

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