There’s a lot of hype surrounding the upcoming release of Starfield. It’s pretty hard to deny this. It’s a game that has been on the radar for many years now, and yet we’ve still not yet seen any gameplay. What we have seen, is Microsoft purchasing Bethesda, and thus Starfield has become exclusive to the Xbox brand. But that’s not the biggest point of interest at this time.

At the time of writing, the new generation of consoles has been with us for 16 months. PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S have been the headlines for over a year. However, there are still many players on the previous generation of consoles, for one reason or another. Whether it be unavailability due to ongoing chip shortages or unwillingness to fork out for a new console, the gaming masses still largely reside on earlier hardware. And with that comes a difficult decision for developers: do you make a cross-generation game and potentially hamstring your product? Or do you go full next-gen and limit your audience?

Xbox Series X|S consoles

Starfield Goes Next-Gen Only

The former has been true of most games in the last 16 months. Microsoft has so far only released one Xbox Series X|S exclusive, Microsoft Flight Simulator. Sony meanwhile, who prior to launched assured their audience that they ‘believed in hardware generations‘, have offered just three. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Returnal and Destruction All Stars. Outside of this, the industry leader seems reluctant to lock out their huge player base.

Third-parties have also been reluctant to jump ship. Ironically, it’s Bethesda that have released the most current-gen only titles on PlayStation 5. Both Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo have been launched on PlayStation 5 and PC only thus far. Even FromSoftware, who met the PlayStation 5 launch with the exclusive remake of Demon’s Souls, opted to keep Elden Ring cross-generational. And to good effect, it would seem.

Starfield however, is ignoring the trend. Starfield is going next-generation only.

Why Does it Matter?

A turn from cross-gen to next-gen only shows one of two things. Firstly, it may mean that the publisher has confidence that they can hit their sales target with only the newer console’s install base. Or secondly, it could mean that the publisher is making a strong push to expand the install base of their newer hardware. Which it is in this case is anyone’s guess, but there are strong signs that confidence in the new consoles is growing.

Being frank, Starfield will sell consoles. This is regardless of whether or not it’s actually any good. It’s a game that is well known for it’s heritage in The Elder Scrolls and modern Fallout titles, and for that there’s already an audience hungry for it. The only question is will it sell Xbox Series X|S, or will it sell…

Xbox Game Pass logo

Game Pass

Obviously the elephant in the room is Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft made it clear at the start of this generation that the agenda was less to sell hardware, and more to gain subscribers. This is essentially a two-pillar strategy: the hardcore will always adopt the new hardware, but the more casual audience who will be slower to migrate (or even not wish to own a console) can have access to the latest games without a heavy investment. This is an opportunity capitalised upon by making next-gen games playable on older hardware via cloud streaming. The aforementioned Microsoft Flight Simulator – a next-gen exclusive – can actually be played on Xbox One consoles via Xbox Cloud Gaming. So, is it truly a next-gen only title? Could Starfield benefit from the same release strategy?

Only time will tell. Microsoft will surely want as many people as possible to subscribe to Game Pass in order to play Starfield, but at the same time a tight rope is being walked with gamers who have adopted Xbox Series X|S hardware just to play these new games. The likelihood is that the game will be offered via to Xbox One players via Xbox Cloud Gaming some months after release, similarly to Microsoft Flight Simulator. But would that really change your opinion on your purchase of a next-gen console?

Categories: Games