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Starfield: Xbox is DOOMED (again)

Sometimes a series of events is so poor you have to hold your head in your hands. The Starfield delay, and what it means for Xbox, is one of those times.

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After years of fighting off accusations of having a thin first party line-up, this is what happens. How does it get to the point where the only major game you have officially coming in 2022 is Deathloop, a game that was released last year on PlayStation?

Granted, more could be announced at next month’s Xbox showcase. Games will be coming – third party day ones on Game Pass if nothing else. But 2022 is not going to be Xbox’s best year. And given the set-up they’ve got, and the awful years they’ve had in the past, that is not a good look.

Not just Starfield, but Redfall too. Both games have been pushed into 2023, leaving maybe Forza as the only major Xbox game of 2022. And that hasn’t even been confirmed yet.

It’s obvious what the reaction online has been. And I wouldn’t disagree with much of it. The situation is beyond poor.

But no, Xbox is not doomed – no matter what the forums have been filled with. The games are coming. And at this rate, we’ll all be retired and able to enjoy them all the more when they finally arrive.

Games Development Takes Time

There’s no doubt that game development takes time. And getting through a global pandemic and a buyout during that time doesn’t help any either. Starfield was inevitably going to be baking for a while.

So this single delay isn’t the problem. More it’s the situation that Xbox yet again finds itself in. And I know last year had Psychonauts and Flight Simulator, and they were both incredible. Forza was brilliant. Halo was better than expected. 2021 was not a bad year for Microsoft. But I don’t think it seemed that way from the outside. Psychonauts released everywhere. Flight Sim, while incredible, had a niche appeal. Forza is a car game so unfortunately disregarded. And Halo has been plagued by publicity issues since.

2022 should have been the start of a new age for Xbox. Instead it’ll likely be their worst year in a long time, if not ever. And that’s a management problem. If the games aren’t ready, that’s fine. But why not? What else could be done to fill the gap?

Maybe not announcing the purchase of Activision in January and then not talking again for five months might be a useful start…

Starfield and its Impact

Starfield represented a brave new frontier for Microsoft and Bethesda. It was an original IP, likely a shot at GOTY. It was the line in the sand that said “this is what Xbox games are from this point onwards”.

That didn’t mean every game had to be a gigantic WRPG, or that every game needed to be on that level of content, creativity or cost. Starfield was the new threshold of what was possible. And it still is. It’s just that, unfortunately, that means waiting up to 12 months to see. By which point the Series X could be three years old.

Delaying this game was probably for the best. But it leaves a gap in Xbox’s armour that the other two console manufacturers don’t have to worry about. Sony is a proven hand when it comes to its first party output, whether you like it or not. You know there will be a new Sony game within a few months, and it’ll probably be pretty good. Nintendo can go forever without talking about their first party output, and nobody cares. Delays are disappointing, but fans know they’ll eventually get something.

Microsoft doesn’t have that benefit of the doubt yet. They have bought countless studios and almost a couple of publishers, and for the second year in a row they have very little to show for it in terms of top quality exclusives.

And those games are coming. One day soon the dam will open and we’ll have too many exclusives to play. We’ll be complaining about the tidal wave of content. That’s why Xbox can just tick along as they have been.

But the Starfield delay means the dam may hold longer than we’d like. And one way or another, Microsoft need to address that. Hopefully their summer showcase blows us away. Only time will tell.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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