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Will Starfield Ever Catch a Break?

Starfield is just okay. That’s the biggest sin a game can make in today’s reaction-led world. But those reactions are starting to wear a little bit thin.


Reviews on Steam are negative again after an update added some paid mods to the game. Skyrim and Fallout 4 both have these mods, and they’re completely optional. And yet it’s another case of Starfield living rent free in some people’s heads.

I should clarify that I found much of the critique around this game to be confused and overly harsh. I’ve spoken before about how the negativity seemed to go viral, with talking points being parroted over and over again. This went far beyond the confines of gamer spaces. I met with an old friend just after it’d come out and we spoke about it briefly – he was a Fallout fan, but not into games beyond that. He told me the problems with the game word-for-word what I was seeing on social media.

Now, that’s not to say some of the criticism wasn’t valid. I played all of 15 hours and bounced off it for more interesting titles. But there were moments of brilliance in there, and that was recognised in a decently high Metacritic score and plenty of fan recognition.

That’s enough for Bethesda, I’m sure. But this latest round of controversy has me wondering whether this game is actually ever going to get a break. Will people stop crapping on it every chance they get?

It would be easy to paint this as a fanboy issue, even on PC. It’s a Microsoft game now, and there’s no doubt they get viewed more harshly than other publishers. But I think going to this well would be too obvious.

Accepting Starfield

I mean, think about it. Either there are people just sitting around waiting to complain about this game – possible but unlikely – or there’s a sizable amount of people still playing it, still seemingly passionate about it, and still not enjoying it. The people who actually don’t enjoy it are long gone.

And I genuinely don’t know the answer to this riddle. If it was bad it would have faded into obscurity. If it was just fanboy nonsense, it would be the usual sarcastic comments on Twitter. But this seems like people who want to play the game but are angry about it.

I don’t really know what to make of it. I guess in the modern communities of the internet, it’s easy to get negative about things, even if you’re playing the hell out of it while angry.

What interesting about this – and Starfield isn’t alone – is that it’s almost like a new kind of discourse. How do you, as a marketing department, combat this kind of conversation? Can you? Is Starfield forever doomed to negative reviews, despite it not being that bad a game?

The real hope, I suppose, is that your game is good enough in the first instance to not have to deal with the viral negativity. But that bar is getting increasingly high, and the reality is that many developers are going to fall short of that. Worse, they won’t all be owned by Microsoft.


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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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Twitter: @matgrowcott