Xbox Gets Nintendo-Style Direct, But Don’t Expect Starfield Yet

An image of the Xbox logo.

Image: Microsoft

After rumors circulated earlier this week, Microsoft confirmed a Nintendo-style Developer_Direct will take place featuring Bethesda and Xbox. The presentation, planned for January 25 at 12 p.m. PT / 3 p.m. ET, will focus on upcoming Xbox games like Forza Motorsport, Minecraft Legends, and Redfall, as well as new content for The Elder Scrolls Online. One game will be a no-show, though, and that’s the space RPG Starfield because Microsoft has a “standalone show” planned for a later date.

In the Xbox Wire blog post, Microsoft said the livestream will be presented “by the game creators themselves” and includes Arkane Austin, Mojang Studios, Turn 10 Studios, and ZeniMax Online Studios. The post briefly went over what each developer will cover as well. ZeniMax Online’s studio director Matt Firor, for example, will “unveil 2023’s major Chapter update” for The Elder Scrolls Online. Meanwhile, Arkane Austin will show “several minutes of [Redfall] gameplay,” including the single- and multiplayer components. Basically, we’re getting a glimpse of what’s to come from Xbox in the first chunk of 2023.

Read More: Todd Howard Dishes On What To Expect From Starfield

Something absent from the list is Starfield, the it’s-got-so-many-worlds space-faring RPG from Bethesda Game Studios. Microsoft noted in the post that a “standalone show is in the works” for Starfield, one that will “dedicate the proper amount of time for a deep dive” into the massive game that required a massive workload for devs.

Kotaku reached out to Bethesda and Microsoft for clarification on Starfield’s absence but did not receive a response before publication.

It’s been a minute since we’ve heard from the Starfield developers. Todd Howard, in a November 2022 interview with podcaster Lex Fridman, said the game features some sort of “dialed back” survival elements. He didn’t go into specific detail, however, it appears there may be resources to keep track of in Starfield, but managing them won’t be as stressful. We also learned that the game has dialogue and traits systems and will cost $70 whenever it hits Xbox (and PC) as a platform exclusive this year.

 

Starfield Drops In September, Deep Dive Direct In June

Astronauts looking into space.

Image: Microsoft

Bethesda announced that its long-awaited space-faring RPG Starfield will be coming to Xbox Series X|S and PC on September 6, 2023. And to finally shed more light on the game, Bethesda will be holding a Starfield Direct presentation on June 11, 2023. Like other Xbox first party titles, Game Pass subscribers will be able to play Starfield on launch day.

In today’s video announcement, Todd Howard was eager to assure fans that the game would be worth the wait. Bethesda had already delayed its big RPG from 2022 to the “first half” of 2023.

“We have poured ourselves into this game and even I’m surprised at how much we can pour,” said Howard. “It is large. We’re playing the game all the time.” Starfield will reportedly have over 1,000 planets and 150,000 lines of dialogue. Fans will have to wait another six months to see if Bethesda’s massive worlds will be fascinating places to explore, or if they’ll feel empty and abandoned at launch.

A developer uses the Starfield character creator.

Screenshot: Microsoft / Kotaku

These computer screens may well provide our only new glimpse of Starfield’s current state until this summer. “This June, we’re gonna bring you into the studio and give you a deep dive on the game at the Starfield Direct,” Howard promised. “There is so much that we still have to show you.”

“We know you’ve waited a long time to play something new from us,” he says in reference to Starfield being Bethesda’s first new IP in 25 years. “Believe it or not, we’re kind of the same. We miss it. And we can’t wait for you all to play it. Thanks, and we’ll see you soon.”

A developer looks at a Starfield monster.

Screenshot: Microsoft / Kotaku

While Starfield has survival elements, Bethesda also wants it to be more approachable than a hardcore sim with strict resource management. The developers are reportedly more concerned about “themes” and “tone” than giving players a rugged survival challenge. We’ll see how successful they are when we get our hands on the game in September.

Not Even Starfield Can Turn Around Series X/S Sales

In 2023, digital sales account for the majority of video games sold. But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, this really didn’t start until the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 era of gaming. And according to Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer, losing to Sony in that generation has put Xbox at a disadvantage, as owners of a given brand are unlikely to jump ship and leave behind all their digital purchases. As a result, Spencer doesn’t even think Bethesda’s upcoming, epic-scope RPG Starfield will get PS5 players to jump over to Xbox.

In a Thursday interview with Xcast, Kinda Funny’s Xbox podcast, the Xbox boss admitted that Microsoft lost the eighth-generation console war, calling it the “worst generation to lose” as that was when players built up their digital libraries of games. As a result, Spencer says most people who walk into a store to buy a console are already connected to an ecosystem and can’t be swayed by big exclusives or other rival-platform hits. He pointed out that some onlookers have suggested all Xbox needs to do to win is to “build great games,” and that that will shift things. But Spencer claims that just isn’t true anymore.

Kinda Funny Games / Xcast

“We’re not in the business of out-consoling Sony or out-consoling Nintendo. There isn’t really a great solution or win for us,” Spencer said. “And I know that will upset a ton of people. But the truth of the matter is that when you’re third place in a console marketplace and the top two players are as strong as they are and in certain cases have a discrete focus on doing deals and other things that will—that make being Xbox hard for us as a team—our vision is everyone on console has a great experience and they feel like a first-class citizen.”

Going further, Spencer told the Xcast podcast that even if Bethesda’s much-hyped open-world space RPG, Starfield, ends up being a critical hit, that won’t likely shift things in Xbox’s favor.

“There is no world where Starfield is an 11/10 and people start selling their PS5s. That’s not going to happen,” Spencer said.

Xbox’s future includes expanding its audience

Now, I’m not entirely on board with this, as I think people will buy new consoles to play great games and I also think Nintendo has shown that even if you release underpowered consoles that don’t support modern features, all that really matters is your games. Nintendo’s Wii U was a huge flop and yet the company bounced back with the Switch.

It’s also weird to see Spencer claim digital libraries are the main reason people aren’t buying his company’s consoles in the era of Game Pass, a service that basically negates any need to have a large, already-established digital library to get the maximum value out of a new Xbox Series X.

Still, it’s no secret that Microsoft has been shifting away from focusing purely on selling and promoting consoles, and Spencer once again hints at this, telling Xcast that the company has a “unique vision” for the future. While the Xbox console will remain a key part of the “Xbox brand,” Microsoft wants to make games available on more platforms, like phones and PCs, in order to reach as many people as possible.

“The console is the core of the Xbox brand, no doubt, so we will stay focused on making sure that console experience is awesome. Some people want to hold us up and believe we are a ‘better green version of what the blue guys do,’ and I’m just going to say, there is not a win for Xbox in staying in the wake of somebody else. We have to go off and do our own thing,” Spencer said.

Starfield Won’t Show Sex, But Will Talk About How Kinky It Was

A spacefarer disembarks their spacecraft and arrives in a city.

Image: Microsoft

We’re finally getting another update on what sort of content we might expect to see in Bethesda’s upcoming spacefaring RPG, Starfield. Rather than coming directly from its publisher, however, we’re getting this information from the game’s ESRB rating. The advisory board’s description reveals that the game will allow you to share a bed with other characters and engage in a little bit of pillow talk. And true to Bethesda tradition, your character will be able to take drugs to enhance your gameplay experience.

“The game contains some suggestive material in the dialogue, and after sharing a bed with characters,” says the video game content rating board’s description of Starfield. “A fictional drug (Aurora) is prominent in the game, with a section involving players’ characters working in an illicit drug lab; players can also obtain Aurora by stealing or buying it from vendors (consuming Aurora results in a distortion effect on the screen).” Oh, and the characters get to say “fuck.”

While we’ve previously reported that Starfield will not explicitly depict sex, it seems that the game will be very clear in communicating that sex has happened. The dialogue includes bangers such as “Talk about seeing stars, whew… that was amazing,” and “I’m all for getting a little wild, but next time let’s try it without the jetpacks.” There’s also a cringey line that likens life to a fatal sexually transmitted disease. I get that sex-related dialogue is hard to write, but they should have left this one in the drafts, IDK.

Drug use is less novel for the studio behind the Fallout games, but you can homebrew drugs in a lab if you want to roleplay some Breaking Bad. According to the website, you can create the narcotic Aurora yourself, or you can purchase it from vendors. If your character consumes it, you’ll be subject to a “distortion” on the screen.

Bethesda games have had drugs and sex in them for years. Addiction has been a character debuff since the very first Fallout game. Sex workers have appeared in every game in the series, and you could sometimes “sleep” next to certain NPCs. Starfield’s sexual content sounds fairly underwhelming when we live in a world with BioWare and CD Projekt Red RPGs.

But I’m excited for you, Bethesda fans. At this rate, maybe you’ll finally get to fuck a dragon in Elder Scrolls VIII by 2035.

Starfield Controller Looks Real, Will Absolutely Take My Money

The saga of the Starfield Xbox controller has been going on for months, but we now have our first official look at the sleek retro-sci-fi-style gamepad and its corresponding headset from the extended Starfield direct at Microsoft’s Xbox showcase. They might just be my favorite-looking Xbox accessories yet.

The Xbox Series X/S controller is $80 while the gaming headset is $125. That’s about $10 more than the standard special design gamepad and $25 more than the standard wireless Xbox headset. But if you already pay for Game Pass, then Starfield won’t cost you a thing, so now you have something else to throw your pocket money at. There’s also a $300 version of Starfield that comes with a watch like the one players get in the game and early access to the open-world space RPG starting on September 1.

Here they are straight from creative director Todd Howard himself:

The special edition peripheral was first spotted back in April via photographs uploaded to Imgur that seemed linked to a user in China, possibly someone close to the manufacturing or shipping operation responsible for making it. Then in late May, dataminer and product leaker billbil-kun reported that the Starfield controller would be priced at $80 and announced alongside a similarly-themed headset at the June 11 Xbox Showcase (via VGC).

That brings us to June 2, when an image of a finished, boxed unit appeared on Reddit and was later shared on Twitter by Xbox gaming news account Idle Sloth.

Some fans were still skeptical that it might all be an elaborate fake, in part because it just looks too damn good. At the same time, Microsoft has a history of going all out on special controller designs for its blockbuster exclusives. The Forza Horizon 5 limited edition gamepad was especially inspired and I’m still kicking myself for having never bought one.

I’m not going to make the same mistake with the Starfield one. It’s much subtler and I love the grey flight UI overlay and retro rainbow colorway. As I wrote on Twitter, it doesn’t matter if Biden restarts student loan payments or my kids need new sneakers—I’m finding room in the budget. I’m also curious to see if the matching headset has a similar aesthetic.

Starfield, meanwhile, arrives on September 6. Unless it gets delayed again, of course.

Update 6/2/2023 2:57 p.m. ET: Some more images of the box that the controller comes in have seemingly leaked, including descriptions on the back.

Update 6/6/2023 11:09 a.m. ET: The leaks just keep coming. Fans are now discovering the controller on store shelves ahead of Microsoft’s showcase:

And here’s the headset:

Update 6/6/2023 12:59 p.m. ET: Keep ’em coming:

Update 6/7/2023 4:01 p.m. ET: Starfield Xbox controller watch continues and oh my god it’s shipping with a goddamn Duracell battery instead of a rechargeable one (which is normal, but still).

Update 6/11/2023 2:42 p.m. ET: Added new information about the controller from the official Xbox Showcase reveal.


Kotaku is covering everything Summer Game Fest, from the main show on Thursday to other events happening throughout the next week. Whether you’re into larger-than-life triple-A games or intimate, offbeat indies, you can keep up with all things SGF here.

Starfield Already Has An Expansion & DLC Planned After Release

The already gigantic Starfield will stretch even larger after it launches, developer Bethesda told IGN before the Starfield Direct showcase on June 11. The Fallout creator is planning a story expansion, called Shattered Space, and “a lot of [other] add-on content,” development chief Todd Howard said.

Read More: Starfield Gets The Gameplay And Story Reveal You’ve Been Waiting For

“Our plan is to do things of varying sizes, and we’ve done a lot of that in our previous games, so it’s something that we really like doing, our fans like,” he continued. “So despite the size of the game, there’s still things we want to add as far as features in the future or stories and things like that.”

How long is Starfield?

About the size of the game, though—Howard has promised players 1,000 explorable worlds, which seems like it could be too many worlds.

“I’m increasingly skeptical of games that lean on their sheer size and scope to inspire awe,” senior Kotaku staff writer Ethan Gach wrote about Starfield in 2022. “More often than not, the excess content feels like filler, or invites developers to crunch to get a game out the door, and sometimes both.”

But Starfield has been in Bethesda’s official field of vision since it filed its first related trademark in 2013, and a 10-year relationship can be messy to end. This is where “more is more” enters the picture.

Starfield preorders: Constellation Edition and more

Howard didn’t delve into the extra story content Shattered Space will offer, but since we know the game is a sexless, but bloody NASA role-playing game with No Man’s Sky-type interplanetary travel, I’m going to generously guess it will offer more of that.

Starfield’s Digital Premium Edition and sold-out, collector’s Constellation Edition all include the downloadable content. Preorders for the Premium Edition are currently open, and you’ll receive a deep mining helmet, deep mining pack, and laser cutter in-game for being an early bird.

Both the $100 Digital Premium Edition and Constellation Edition notably include five days of early access play. There’s also a space watch for those of you who want to match your Starfield character. Otherwise, the game is officially out on September 6, on Xbox Series X/S and PC.

 

Why Is Starfield 30fps? Space Sandwiches, Probably

After years of speculation, Starfield director Todd Howard recently confirmed that the open-world RPG will only run at 30fps on Xbox Series X/S, where it’s a console exclusive. While some fans were immediately dismayed, others have pointed out that there’s likely a good reason for capping the game’s framerate lower than other “next-gen” games like Forza Motorsport and Spider-Man 2, and it probably has to do with sandwiches.

When Howard confirmed the lower framerate in an interview with IGN, he said the goal was to keep performance consistent and prioritize visuals. “I think it’ll come as no surprise, given our previous games, what we go for: always these huge, open worlds, fully dynamic, hyper detail where anything can happen,” he said. “We do lock it at 30, because we want that fidelity, we want all that stuff.”

But it did come as a surprise to at least some fans who believed part of the promise of “next-gen” consoles like the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 was enjoying higher framerates like those players with more expensive gaming PCs are normally accustomed to. And with Redfall’s poor launch and a promised 60fps performance mode not arriving until sometime later on, some players started speculating that the framerate restriction meant Bethesda’s spacefaring RPG was unfinished in some way.

So what does food have to do with all of this? Well, Starfield’s first big teaser trailer back at E3 2021 prominently featured a half-eaten sandwich sitting on a table next to a sci-fi gun and a thermos aboard the player’s spaceship. Fans fell in love with it—one even made-up a real-life recipe for it—and it’s become an iconic part of the game’s pre-release marketing ever since, including during the most recent Xbox Showcase.

Footage during the Starfield Direct displayed an entire table full of sandwiches, with producer Jamie Mallory telling viewers that one of her favorite things to do in the game is go around stealing everyone’s sandwiches and hoarding them in her ship’s cargo hold. In keeping with past Bethesda RPGs like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, the implication was that players would be able to pick up tons of random objects in the world, add them to their inventory, and later deposit them in other places. But unlike Skyrim or Fallout, Starfield features thousands of planets you can visit rather than just one single map.

“While it’s used as a gag in the video, this sandwich pirate concept highlights one reason why 60 fps would be tough to achieve,” Digital Foundry analyst, John Linneman, wrote on Twitter. “Like prior BGS titles, it seems that Starfield tracks the location and position of arbitrary items in the world. Given the scope this stuff begins to add up. The player has so much freedom in this regard that it becomes, presumably, impossible to keep the frame budget below 16ms. Lowering the resolution would not make this possible.”

Dannie Carlone, an artist on God of War Ragnarök at Sony Santa Monica, also weighed in. “60fps on this scale would be a large hit to the visual fidelity,” he wrote on Twitter, pushing back against criticisms that 30fps signaled the game was “unfinished” in some way. “My guess is they want to go for a seamless look and less ‘pop in.’” In a follow-up tweet he speculated that the framerate and resolution on Xbox Series X/S was an intentional trade-off to improve image quality. “They want to keep it locked at 30 4k and push the visuals to a high level on this scale.”

Linneman echoed this in the latest “tech breakdown” episode of Digital Foundry looking at Starfield’s newest footage. “It all comes down to what the developer’s trying to do, basically the maximum framerate they can achieve their vision with,” he said. Speculating that the performance bottleneck with the game is likely on the CPU end because of all the complex interlocking systems and persistent objects in the world, Linneman argued it’s likely a testament to what the rest of the game is attempting to do rather than a shortcoming of the tech behind it.

Xbox Game Studios head Matt Booty has already promised Starfield will be Bethesda’s least buggy game launch ever, and if it can look anywhere near as good as some of the 4K gameplay shown in the recent trailer, it’ll be an impressive achievement.

        

Starfield Would’ve Taken Longer If It Was Also On PS5

Long after it was first teased and nearly a year after it was originally supposed to come out, Starfield is finally releasing September 1 as an Xbox console exclusive. It would have taken even longer if the open world sci-fi RPG was also on PlayStation 5, Bethesda executive Pete Hines claimed in recent federal court testimony.

The head of Bethesda publishing made the claim while being grilled by Federal Trade Commission lawyers last week during Microsoft’s current court battle to close its $69 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard. The FTC pointed out that Bethesda made a bunch of its major upcoming games Xbox exclusives after the tech giant purchased it in 2021, while Hines tried to argue that exclusivity has its advantages, including streamlining development on big-budget games.

“[Director Todd Howard] has called it an ‘irresponsibly large’ game,” Hines told the court on June 22. “I think it’s a pretty accurate description, and as someone who has been playing it a lot and sees all of this stuff to do, there’s no question in my mind that being able to focus on fewer platforms to support, [fewer] hardware to support, has been a big benefit to that team.”

Read More: Starfield Is An Xbox Exclusive, And Pete Hines Is Sorry

He went on to talk at length about the important role quality assurance testing plays in getting the game ready for launch, and suggested no longer releasing on PS5 was removing a big chunk of that work. “Would not be putting this game out in nine weeks if we were supporting an entire additional platform, in my opinion,” Hines said.

Starfield promises 1,000 planets to explore and tons of gameplay systems from spaceship dog fights to crafting, making it both one of the most anticipated blockbuster games of the year and also a very ambitious project to actually get out the door. It was originally supposed to ship on November 11, 2022, a date that was locked in months in advance and appeared set in stone, only for the game to get pushed into 2023.

The implication of Hines’ testimony is that if Microsoft had never purchased Bethesda, the game might not be coming out in 2023 either. In fact, it might not have even come to Xbox Series X/S consoles at all. During the court battle, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer also revealed that part of the motivation for the acquisition of Bethesda in the first place was to stop Sony from paying to make Starfield a PS5 exclusive. Whether the game eventually makes it to PlayStation platforms at some distant point in the future remains to be seen, but in the meantime it’s still also coming to PC.

            

Xbox Head Phil Spencer Is Probably Playing Starfield Right Now

Starfield isn’t out until September 6, but Xbox head Phil Spencer already appears to be playing the massive spacefaring RPG.

Read More: Starfield’s Most Expensive Version Has A Fancy Space Watch

The Xbox app has a section called “popular with friends” that shows you the games your buddies are playing. It can be a handy little tool for bothering your friends about their progress in Diablo IV or needling them over their refusal to stop playing Overwatch 2 (it’s me, I’m that friend).

But based on a picture shared on Reddit, it looks like at least one person has early access to Starfield: Phil Spencer. The screenshot shared shows Spencer’s Xbox profile picture, an Xbox Avatar version of him (notice he’s also wearing a t-shirt and jeans, so it’s lore-accurate) against a purple background, underneath both Starfield and Exoprimal, a dinosaur shooter from Capcom that came to Xbox Game Pass on July 14.

While Spencer playing Exoprimal checks out as the game just launched, his apparent access to Starfield is interesting. It makes sense, though—Spencer and Todd Howard have worked closely together to promote the upcoming Bethesda RPG ever since Microsoft bought Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax in 2021. At Summer Game Fest, they sat down for a press presentation alongside the head of Xbox Game Studios, Matt Booty, and head of Xbox’s gaming ecosystem, Sarah Bond. If you’re the head of Xbox, you can have a little Starfield early access as a treat.

After several delays, Starfield is finally dropping this fall. The “irresponsibly large game,” as Pete Hines called it during his FTC testimony last month, boasts space combat, extensive ship customization, 1,000 worlds and over 250,000 lines of dialogue, as we learned during the massive Starfield Direct from Summer Game Fest.

Based on the Reddit post, it seems like Spencer was playing Starfield on July 14, the day the news dropped that the FTC failed to pause Microsoft’s $69 million purchase of Activision. Maybe he was celebrating the lengthy battle by hopping from planet to planet in Starfield, his mind finally free from fretting over whether Microsoft would get another jewel in its gaming Infinity Gauntlet or not. In space, no one can hear you gloat.

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