No doubt, the fact that Bethesda’s two big Xbox and PC exclusives have been delayed into 2023 is bad news for Microsoft and Xbox gamers.
Starfield was supposed to come out on 11/11/22—a release date that was apparently set “in ink, not pencil” according to Bethesda chief Todd Howard. Erasable ink, it turns out. Redfall—from Arkane, the studio behind Dishonored and Deathloop—was slated for a September release.
Both games were set to arrive Xbox Game Pass on day one, thanks to Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda last year. Now that won’t happen in 2022. Hopefully both games release in 2023, but obviously there’s no guarantee that any game will come out on its stated release date. Delays are common in this industry.
Game Delays Are A Good Thing
Game delays are also generally a good thing. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule—Star Citizen leaps to mind—but more often than not a game is delayed because it’s just not ready for release yet, and developers need more time to polish and fix problems. This can lead to a lot of crunch, unfortunately, but it can avoid a lot of bad press and angry consumers.
Halo Infinite was delayed an entire year and quite frankly, given the post-launch content issues, it probably should have been pushed back even further. Cyberpunk 2077 was one of the most highly anticipated games of the past decade but its launch was nothing short of a fiasco, damaging CD Projekt RED’s reputation in ways that seemed impossible after The Witcher 3. As badly as everyone wanted to play Cyberpunk 2077, it seems obvious now that rushing that release was a mistake.
You can conjure many other examples, from No Man’s Sky to Battlefield 2042. Rushed, buggy games with not nearly the amount of features and content promised, released to an angry mob upset over broken games and broken promises. Bethesda certainly has plenty of experience in this department—most recently with the hurried release of Fallout 76.
Many of these titles make up for it by releasing updates and DLC that helps fix the game over time, but often the damage is done. Delays can help avoid the worst of the backlash.
Still, PlayStation zealots, always eager to wage the console war, have latched onto these delays as proof that Xbox is the inferior platform. Xbox is in deep trouble, we are told, because the Xbox release landscape is now so barren compared to Sony’s 2022.
There’s some truth to this, of course. I’ve argued in the past that Sony’s primary strength is its focus on top-notch, AAA quality PlayStation exclusives. Why buy a PlayStation? Because that’s the only place you can play Uncharted 4 and Demon’s Souls and so forth. Xbox, as a console, is much less appealing in large part because all of Microsoft’s exclusives are also on PC. So you might as well get just a PC and a PlayStation and a Nintendo Switch.
Xbox Is Changing Its Approach To Console Gaming
But I’ve also made a side-argument that Xbox is moving beyond the console wars entirely—that Xbox as a console that we physically place in our homes is something that is slowly transitioning into a platform built on Xbox Game Pass and Cloud Gaming.
In other words, Microsoft’s strategy relies much less on exclusive video games for the Xbox Platform and much more on accessibility to its games via Game Pass and the cloud. You can play Xbox games on your PC, your tablet, your phone (even a smart fridge!) Microsoft also has All Access which helps gamers finance a new console plus Game Pass, making it easier to afford.
These are two different strategies and, in my opinion, both have their merits. I don’t think Sony should adopt Microsoft’s strategy necessarily. Sony believes that offering their premium AAA exclusives for free on day one with the new PlayStation Plus / Now hybrid service would be bad for business, and I think the company is probably correct in that assessment.
Sony, in other words, is relying on an older business model that emphasizes a physical console and premium exclusive content; Microsoft is leaving that strategy behind and adopting a new, more accessible, more wide-ranging approach that could theoretically lead to the end of that console as we know it entirely. These two strategies could both work.
Curiously, a lot of the flack I’ve been getting on social media centers on the delay of these two exclusive Xbox titles into 2023 despite my entire argument resting on the fact that exclusive content is not the backbone of Microsoft’s Xbox business model. It’s part of it, sure, but not to the degree that Sony or Nintendo rely on exclusive content. I never even mentioned either of these games in my original articles about this topic, but somehow the fact that they’ve been delayed totally invalidates everything I’ve said. (Naturally, it’s all because of my headlines which, yeah, I got you to click people. And then I made an argument which apparently nobody actually read!)
The refrain on Twitter, of course, is that I am “shilling” for Microsoft. I am actually poking the bear. What can I say? I get a bit of a kick out of the fanboys and the silly, pointless console wars. If you’re this worked up over which console is better, get professional help. I like Xbox, sure, but I also really like PlayStation!
The fact is, Xbox is leaving PlayStation behind—but whether that will be a successful strategy or whether it’s doomed to failure remains to be seen. Microsoft couldn’t compete with Sony on exclusives, and probably never will even after all its acquisitions because all those games also come to PC.
Quite honestly, I imagine all three major console platforms will continue to thrive and prosper and we, the consumers, will be benefit from the competition. Competition is good! I’m glad we have different approaches to console gaming from these different companies and a variety of games to choose from.
I have a PlayStation 5, a PlayStation 4 Pro, an Xbox Series X, an Xbox Series S, an Xbox One X, two Nintendo Switches, a Nintendo Switch Lite, a Wii U, several 3DS handhelds, a Gaming PC, a gaming laptop, a Google Stadia, an Amazon Luna, several different retro consoles, an Android smartphone, an Apple iPad, an Oculus Rift and an Oculus Rift 2 and I think they’re all fun little toys. I’ve owned lots of older consoles over the years and back in the day it never occurred to me that I should choose between Xbox or PlayStation. I just played what I could afford.
I like to play games. I don’t really care which hardware is “best” at all. I enjoy my Demon’s Souls on PS5; I play Elden Ring on Xbox; I stick to PC for my first-person-shooters. If I’m desperate I’ll play a mobile game from time to time.
Life is too short to constantly express opinions about articles you haven’t bothered to even read beyond the headline, even if that headline rubbed you the wrong way.