What you need to know
- Starfield officially launched on September 6, but Premium or Constellation Edition players could begin playing from September 1.
- Gamesight analysts tracked viewership for Starfield content on Twitch and YouTube during this early access period.
It’s been just a week since the gaming community got their hands on what could be considered the biggest Xbox exclusive launch in years. It’s time to look back at the Starfield release window for post-launch analysis.
While the game was a day-one-launch for Xbox Game Pass subscribers beginning on September 6, those who preordered Starfield’s Premium or Constellation editions had a limited Early Access period starting September 1 when they could play without any limitations or information embargoes, including the freedom to livestream or produce video content for Twitch and YouTube.
Data analysts at Gamesight gathered engagement metrics surrounding Starfield’s debut on Twitch and YouTube during a 72-hour window of the game’s early access period. According to the analysis, Starfield viewership during this limited pre-launch window peaked at 18,772,052 views on its best-performing day on YouTube. Starfield was among the year’s top five most-watched video game launches on YouTube, with viewership numbers that dwarfed Baldur’s Gate 3 and squared up alongside Diablo IV.
Only Sons of the Forest and the well-reviewed Hogwarts Legacy overpowered Diablo IV and Starfield regarding viewership numbers during their respective launches. However, Gamesight analysts have said they consider Hogwarts Legacy’s success more of an anomaly given that it had the backing of a widely recognized transmedia IP, pushing it forward despite the mountain of controversies surrounding the game.
J.K. Rowling, the original author, and creator of the Harry Potter series, has been criticized by many for diatribes of transphobic statements that led to a community of would-be players calling for a boycott of the Hogwarts Legacy game. Despite the outrage surrounding the author, Hogwarts Legacy was one of the strongest launches in a year full of powerhouse hits, ultimately breaking the record for the most-watched single-player game of all time.
It would be unfair to chalk up Hogwarts Legacy's success entirely to the surrounding controversies, as even Starfield was puzzlingly targeted by players disgruntled by the inclusion of a choice to choose a player's preferred pronouns. Some YouTube content creators even went so far as to announce they would not be playing Starfield for their audiences.
The metrics used by Gamesight for measuring viewership on Twitch, a livestreaming platform, are somewhat different from those measuring YouTube's view counts. Gamesight's analysts considered concurrent viewership across Twitch, which includes the number of people watching Starfield streams simultaneously. During the same 72-hour pre-launch window of viewership, Starfield streams peaked with 552,021 concurrent viewers. Like YouTube, this view count put Starfield among the five most-watched days for a video game launch on Twitch for the year.
Starfield took 4th place for viewership, once again placing above Baldur's Gate 3, with Sons of the Forest, Diablo IV, and Hogwarts Legacy having more concurrent viewers on Twitch during their respective launches. Starfield may have enjoyed an additional boost during its launch window by simultaneously being available on both Xbox consoles and PC. In contrast, its closest counterpart in the lineup, the fantasy D&D-based RPG Baldur's Gate 3, was only available on PC during its launch. By comparison, Hogwarts Legacy and Diablo IV were multiplatform launches with much larger potential install bases.
Three of the five single-player game launches from 2023 with the most viewership on Twitch and YouTube had early access periods. Hogwarts Legacy, Diablo IV, and Starfield all had limited access windows. This marketing tactic gave those gamers who were on the fence about purchasing these games or upgrading to premium editions pre-launch an opportunity to see them in the hands of similar players. For some, watching a live stream or YouTube 'Let's Play' video is a more trustworthy way to determine their level of interest in a game than critic reviews.
Windows Central analysis
There are a lot of interesting details we can pick out about Starfield's launch from the viewer counts, but it's not necessarily going to be an accurate measurement to determine the game's long-term success. Hogwarts Legacy, Diablo IV, and Starfield may have benefited from FOMO marketing. The 'fear of missing out' on a cultural touchstone moment can be daunting, and the gaming industry has shown in 2023 that it is more than willing to capitalize on that human need to feel included.
Each of these titles featured limited access periods, planting the seed that if you didn't jump in with everybody else, you risked being exposed to spoilers or otherwise being 'late' to experience the games.
Live streams and YouTube content about a game also have a unique ability to draw players who are otherwise willing to hold out on purchasing a game or its upgrade. Growing distrust of in-game critics and reviewers has led to players embracing looking for other sources that allow them to see and experience as much of an upcoming game as possible, and only once they've seen the game for themselves do they feel comfortable opening their wallets.
Bethesda games have a long history of buggy launches. Xbox players who felt recently betrayed by the middling-scored Redfall may have found themselves even more motivated to wait to hop on board Starfield despite the intense marketing hype. And for all intents and purposes, it seems to have worked.
Having a chance to see the game in action without PR and marketing spin may have been what ultimately assuaged player fears about a buggy launch. Bethesda celebrated Starfield as the biggest launch in the publisher's history, as more than 6 million players took to the stars within 24 hours of the game's official launch.
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Cole is the resident Call of Duty know-it-all and indie game enthusiast for Windows Central. She's a lifelong artist with two decades of experience in digital painting, and she will happily talk your ear off about budget pen displays.