A report suggests Starfield will be exclusive to Xbox and Windows PC, as screenshots leak online

Starfield
Starfield (Image credit: Bethesda)

What you need to know

  • Starfield is an upcoming new single-player RPG from Betheda, makers of Fallout and The Elder Scrolls.
  • A new report from Jeff Grubb suggests that it, indeed, is Xbox and PC exclusive.
  • A range of purported Starfield screenshots also leaked recently, alongside rumored artwork.

Starfield is a bit of an enigma. The game is known only by its teaser, alongside a trickle of information here and there from occasional interviews. What we do know is that Starfield is a single-player sci-fi RPG, built on a new version of Bethesda's Creation Engine, previously used in the modern Fallout and The Elder Scrolls games. One of the biggest burning questions of the game remains the state of its potential exclusivity, given that Microsoft joined forces with Bethesda earlier this year.

I wrote in a previous article that I expected Starfield, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and so on to all go exclusive to platforms where Xbox Game Pass exists. I had initially heard when we broke the news about Bethesda joining Xbox that the plan was to bring those games exclusively to Xbox Game Pass platforms. Xbox head Phil Spencer echoed that during the Bethesda Xbox roundtable show earlier in the year. I was reluctant to put a hard claim on that, however, knowing that plans can change over time.

Indeed, Microsoft has largely been coy about hard-confirming that expected exclusivity. I suppose the biggest impact that announcement could have is right at the end of the Starfield trailer after you've shown off (hopefully) some seriously explosive gameplay. In any case, we may have gotten some more definitive confirmation today from renowned industry reporter with great hair Jeff Grubb of VentureBeat, who clarified that he has confirmed that indeed, the plan is for Starfield to be exclusive to Xbox and PC.

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Grubb was responding to calls for clarity after some had suggested he wasn't sure on the status of Starfield's exclusivity while guesting on an earlier podcast.

Starfield also saw a few purported screenshots and artwork pieces leak recently, supposedly from earlier builds of the game. There was also a suggestion that Starfield may have some sort of custom ship-building mechanics, based on a survey where Bethesda asked respondents how long they take "customizing their players, vehicles, or spaceships." Starfield screenshots have been faked before, though, so take the below with a pinch of salt.

Starfield Wrist Watch (Image credit: Twitter)

Source: Twitter

If Starfield is indeed exclusive to Xbox and PC, that adds credence to the idea that pretty much all of Bethesda's games will go exclusive to Xbox and PC, including Fallout, DOOM, Dishonored, and so on. Microsoft signaled they would honor previous contracts, i.e. with the upcoming PS5-exclusive Deathloop, while also supporting ongoing games like Fallout 76 and The Elder Scrolls Online. After that, though, it looks like everything may be fair game.

Given the accessibility of Project xCloud game streaming with Xbox Game Pass, particularly now Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming is hitting the web, I don't think games like Starfield and The Elder Scrolls IV will have trouble finding an audience without competing platforms. Either way, I suspect we could see Starfield break cover once and for all during this year's digital E3 2021 events, with a release date in tow.

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

29 Comments
  • Betheda or Bethesda?
  • As a business you don't spend that much money to just let Sony have the games.
  • On the other hand, if the plan were for it to be exclusive, then why not announce that clearly now to gain the benefit on system sales? Maybe because they're backordered? That doesn't seem like a good reason... Maybe it's a more nuanced plan, which could also fit with Grub's post: exclusive to Xbox (GamePass systems) for an extended time like 12-24 months, then release to other platforms to gain those sales too.
  • Two reasons for that. One systems aren't really for sale there is still a massive shortage. Two consoles are are sold at a loss so it wouldn't matter too much if they bought them because they aren't profiting from the sales. Now if they wait for closer to launch to let people know and it's going on gamepass people are more likely to get gamepass in preparation closer to launch.
  • Annulator, systems being sold at a loss doesn't mean that MS ascribes no value to each sale (if they didn't see value per unit sold, they'd stop selling Xbox). I've sold into a similar market where the base games system was sold at break even, but we knew that we could ascribe an average dollar value for annual software sales per system sold. In our internal accounting, we add those future software games sales to the unit sale revenue to calculate the value of each unit sale. For that reason, even though we made no money on each unit directly, each unit sold still bolstered our overall profitability. So, if MS believes that the market would buy more Xboxes if it knew that Starfield were exclusive to Xbox, that would be a good reason to announce that exclusivity.
  • The reason that Xbox consoles are sold at a loss is because they believe that they will make money on the games people buy for those consoles. If Starfield is going to be exclusive but they don't tell people that and people buy a PS instead of an Xbox as a result then Microsoft won't make the money from the games either, so that is a loss. The idea that they wouldn't announce it as exclusive because they don't care if people buy an Xbox console because they won't make money on that specific transaction holds no water. Either they haven't decided yet or they feel that holding back the announcement will make them more money in the long run somehow.
  • 1- Bethesda has lately been holding back official announcements until 3-5 months before release.
    2- By playing coy they get more exposure and free promotion from rumors, speculation, and leaks, to everybody, not just XBOXers.
    3- As long as it isn't official, the Sony and Nintendo fans will keep an eye on the game, hoping it might come there. Get them interested enough they might go with PC or if their broadband is good enough they might sign up for GAMEPASS via web. Console wars are soo last decade. :D Reducing development cost by going with DX12Ultimate and using XCloud to go everywhere is the new game. Ports take time and cost money and Bethesda RPGs have always had PC as the lead platform. Which makes XBOX a minimal-cost spinoff but Sony a bigger cost investment. And with current gen games already running 8-9 figure budgets it takes a lot to recoup the porting costs. Sony exclusives aren't just Sony being a junkyard dog, it is them maximizing tbeir development costs, which makes sense when tbey're dominant (PS2/PS4 eras) but less so when they're not (PS3 era and now) hence their recent "discovery" of the PC gaming market.h Consoles get a lot of gaming press coverage but the entire sector is dwarfed by the PC and Mobile gaming communities. And once broadband tech gets good enough, all will be dwarfed by streaming just by the minimal engry cost. New era, new economics, new rules.
  • Um, PC games do not dwarf consoles. Mobile, sure, but not PC. Cross platform games sell far, far better on consoles than on PC.
  • It's the total market size, not individual game sales.
    Look up the total money going each way.
    There's lots more money being spent on PC and mobile games, more money to be contested. That's what xCloud is about: getting those people to spend their money on streamable gaming instead of on consoles: convincing folks to play your games without demanding $500 upfront. for a hunk of metal and plastic. Think of how streaming video and audio have decimated CD and DVD *player* sales. They still sell but at a fraction of their peak. That lies agead.
  • "And once broadband tech gets good enough, all will be dwarfed by streaming just by the minimal engry cost." You wrote a big huge wall of text but you still don't know what the problems are with game streaming? Its not a bandwidth problem, most people have many times the amount of bandwidth needed to stream. Most of your post doesn't make much sense. For Microsoft to ever make money in gaming, they are going to have to go where the gamers are i.e. Steam, PS devices, Nintendo devices, Apple devices, Android devices, etc. The alternative is Satya keeps writing checks.
  • Not trying to change anybody's mind so keep on thinking that.
    It won't change a thing that is happening or will happen, whether you believe in it or not.
    The future is not the past with a new calendar.
  • It has nothing to do with believing, its a fact what the problems are with it and those problems aren't going away. Bandwidth hasn't been a problem for game streaming for 15-20 years generally speaking. The problem with your statements is you believe its a solvable issue(s), not really. "The future is not the past with a new calendar." The future is the past, which is why there is history classes/books, metrics i.e. track the past to understand better the next cycle. The failure of rinse and repeat cycle of game streaming is well documented.
  • Actually, fjtorres' posts makes sense, while yours simply do not. Somehow, you think you know more than the Xbox leadership? Or maybe you wrote the $7.5 billion for the Bethesda acquisition and the strategy behind GamePass and Xcloud?
    GamePass alone is enough to make Xbox more than profitable. No question about it. I'm pretty sure you must have bet that Netflix will be a 'failure' or something like that. Maybe you thought 'historically' since there was nothing like it before and no one thought it in the classroom or textbooks. There is a reason there is very good growth with GamePass. It is quite simple actually. For the vast majority of games, only a handful are purchased at full price. Except for relatively few titles, most games sales come at a fraction of the original price. This completely excludes the used games sub-market which yields zero sales for the publishers. You need to study the state of the gaming industry. It has very low survival rate for studios on the current model on all platforms, especially the new studios. It's why GamePass will not only succeed, but it will force the hand of others in the industry. GamePass is actually becoming a lifeline for many games studios which would otherwise have been sentenced to obscurity and extinction without it. Think Netflix Originals or similar giving countless actors/actresses a chance they would never have had with the traditional moviemaking model. It's actually quite inevitable that Sony will follow with a similar model.
  • Boy you can't even read what he wrote, he is talking (or our discussion my response to him) about xCloud. <----- "GamePass alone is enough to make Xbox more than profitable. No question about it. " There is doubt, without risk there is no reward. That is business 101. LOL Microsoft doesn't release profit/losses from individual products/services, usually what happens is they hide the losses.... than eventually shutdown the product/service. Only a few to go on the consumer side.... redoing Microsoft Store again now. LOL "You need to study the state of the gaming industry. " I would say anything Microsoft has been doing for the last 20 years in the consumer market has failed, they keep it afloat by writing checks from the business enterprise side which is usually legacy based or now central processing of legacy products. The lack of studying seems to be on your side of the street. " It's why GamePass will not only succeed" Right, which is why Xbox hardware sales have nosedived since Game Pass was released. LOL They nosedived from a very low level as well. Where do you guys come from, you clearly didn't even read what we were talking about which was xCloud limitations.... and than you went on a strange rant where Game Pass has increased Xbox sales (or implied). You don't see all this strange commentary from the winners like Steam, Nintendo, Sony, etc. everyone just goes and plays their games. Nobody really gives a crap about what you are talking about, if they did... there would have been sales. Heck, Sony has a service where you can play 700 games,, so freaking what... nobody cares. Its a stupid business model but that isn't what I was discussing with him. Microsoft has really two choices in gaming.... deliver good games to where the gamers are (Nintendo, Sony, Valve, Apple, etc.) or be prepared to keep writing checks. - PC gamers never wanted anything to do with MS, its been like that 20-25 years, GFWL put the nail in the coffin... the MS Store is just putting tons of dirt on it.
    - MS did a great job with the original Xbox/Xbox 360 even though they lost huge amounts of money, they have spent 10 years messing that up FUBAR.
    - Xbox unit sales have gone down fairly noticeably since GP was released i.e. nobody cares.
    - Xbox unit sales have gone down fairly noticeably since xCloud was released. Why is MS needed as a middleman again in software distribution and/or game distribution? Clearly the world is working better without them.... says the old GFWL users.
  • Daisy, we don't have the data to know for sure, but seems like sales are controlled right now by production constraints and nothing else. Every unit MS builds is sold before it's off the assembly line. GamePass has been very well received (I don't use because no family plan, so no dog in this fight), so highly unlikely that launch of GamePass has adversely affected hardware unit sales.
  • Xbox hardware has been in decline for 10 years, over the last 4 its been huge decline. Game Pass was released 4 years ago next month. The sales of Xbox hardware ware half the annual average original Xbox numbers the last two year, or even below... which were (original Xbox) horrible. Not sure what production constraints has to do with that, Microsoft continues to push out all kinds of SKU hardware... that nobody is buying. Microsoft has one of two choice if it wants a gaming business.... 1.) go to where the customers are (Steam, gog, nintendo, sony, apple, google, etc.) or 2.) keep writing huge checks. The customers aren't going to come to them, proof... declining Xbox sales over the last 10 years from only mediocre sales to start with i.e. Xbox 360. And the continuous failure of their pc Stores i.e. Games for Windows Live/MS Store. "GamePass has been very well received" Well true, because you can get it without paying anything, but it has it really resulted in a stopping of the decline? Let alone a reversal, let alone a huge reversal? No. "unlikely that launch of GamePass has adversely affected hardware unit sales" Oh, I don't necessarily believe that... its just that nobody really cares. If advertising sold products the Windows Phone would still be a thing. Nobody cares, just like nobody really cares about PS Now... its simply a rental service. For the record, in years to come I wouldn't mind picking up a Xbox series X (stupid naming convention) at sub $200 to play my Xbox 360 library. As far as what they are doing, it has about as much chance as the Windows Phone.
  • You probably care more about Xbox hardware sales than Microsoft does. They care about subscription numbers that's all.
  • Where exactly are they going to sell subscriptions on, they are not going to make any in roads on PC. PC gamers hate Microsoft.
  • "PC gamers hate Microsoft" is te dumbest thing i ever read. Maybe you do but you is not everyone 🤦‍♂️ speak for you and not others fanboy.
  • Its not dumb at all. LOL I take it you are very young. You keep saying I am fanboy, but what would I be a fanboy of. Literally MS has failed at every consumer product its been involved in. LOL I am typing on a Surface Pro right now, dumb ass. Or should I be typing on my windows Phone. (funny enough I finally had to get an Android a year ago to replace my WP) You kids are something else. iPhone/Android -> Windows Phone
    iPad/Android Tablet/Amazon Fire -> Windows Tablet
    Fitbit/iWatch -> MS Band
    Twitch -> Mixxer
    Youtube -> MS Soapbox
    Spotify/Pandora -> Groove Music (formerly Xbox Music)
    PS/Nintendo -> Xbox
    Steam/Gog -> Games for Windows (formerly Games for Windows Live) or its dead Uncle MS Store
    Alexa -> Cortana MS basically has a .000 batting average, and for obvious reasons. Getting mad at me isn't going to change anything. What I am a fanboy of.... Valve, Apple, Google, Amazon, Sony, Nintendo, Fitbit, etc. The consumer picks the winners, not me. <------ The failures of Games for Windows Live and MS Store is just throwing tons of dirt on the buried coffin. www(dot)neogaf(dot)com/threads/ms-promises-to-bring-more-first-party-games-to-pc.710494/page-4#post-88868188 The typical PC gamer gave up on MS in the 90s, the 2000/2010s just put all the nails in the coffin. Somehow the world has survived without MS being involved, I wonder why.
  • First, total console sales have been stagnant for 20 years. This an industry fact. No gen has seen the total sales between Xbox and PS change in a real upward trajectory. Since the first Xbox and PS2 days it has been 170 +/- 10 million. Xbox & PS2, PS3 & XB 360, X1 & PS4 when gen tallies are made it falls in that 170 +/- 10 range., And if we are talking decline Sony hasn't seen the days of the PS2 hardware numbers in the PS4, PS3 and most likely that will continue with the PS5 numbers. PS4 being up from the PS3 gen will still be 10's of millions lower then the PS2. In fact, it is Sony that should be worried. With MS the console is one endpoint. Where as Sony is all about one endpoint, and their current business model lives or dies by it. So with a much more competitive Xbox (which seemed to ignore when discussing them) Sony numbers are more likely to see XB360 vs PS3 numbers. I am also willing to bet that Series S will take over and lead console sales between the two companies in regions where Xbox has never really been in any meaningful way. You already see it happening in countries like India. The excitement for this gen seems to on the Xbox side. Even the media has seemed to like Xbox over PS so far this gen (which has never happened). In fact, you can look at PS and see what could be happening soon for the rest of the world. Sony has seen only a decline in their home market since the PS2. Asia for them has not followed the Western trend of the PS4 numbers over the PS3 numbers. I personally don't know where you are getting hardware sale numbers for Xbox for the last 4 yrs (probably just made up in your head) but their overall revenue is higher not down. And so are profits. Engagement numbers are up as well. The last stats is what really counts. And what MS looks at. In fact, Sony realizes that is a much more important stat too. Selling a console means little if they aren't using it. In fact, it can be a negative cost if engagement is low. So that MAU matters more. The only market that has seen real growth in the past 10 years is mobile. Which now dominates all gaming revenue and that endpoint is one that will be supported directly. AS for the rest of your arguments, I am not going to respond because they are fanboy arguments. For example, MS PC stores? What does that have to do with console gaming? Can we say that Sony selling off their whole PC business says they should get out gaming all together then? Or Sony's waffling mobile attempts mean what? Well using your logic, they should stop making consoles and make games for Steam and Apple. You are just all over the place looking for points that are not points in reality.
  • You come up with all these hardware stats... than you say, "I personally don't know where you are getting hardware sale numbers for Xbox for the last 4 yrs". LOL problem #1 "And so are profits. " LOL problem #2, MS doesn't give profit/losses numbers for individual products. "AS for the rest of your arguments, I am not going to respond because they are fanboy arguments. For example, MS PC stores? What does that have to do with console gaming?" Microsoft isn't just selling on consoles. Duh. Kid, that's a wall of text not to make any sense. statista has plenty of stats on console sales, why doesn't MS give their console numbers? I know. LOL "I am also willing to bet that Series S will take over and lead console sales between the two companies in regions where Xbox has never really been in any meaningful way." By the end of 2020, PS was outselling Xb by 3 to 1, the overall numbers are 2.15/1. Nintendo is selling about 9 to 1. This gen is about the same as last gen 2-2.5 to 1. "Well using your logic, they should stop making consoles and make games for Steam and Apple. You are just all over the place looking for points that are not points in reality." If they are going to be in the gaming business its as a normal publisher, Microsoft never had a large market share and has lost that over 10 years. Microsoft will have to go to Apple devices, Google devices, Amazon devices, Sony devices and Nintendo devices, Steam/Gog.... the users are not going to go to them. If they don't go where the customers are, Satya will have to continue to write big checks that he doesn't want to disclose to the shareholders. Funny, Microsoft thought they were going to sell 200 million Xbox Ones, yet you say there is no growth. www(dot)forbes(dot)com/sites/olliebarder/2016/10/02/microsoft-originally-aimed-for-200-million-xbox-one-sales/?sh=411f98335d60 This is called losing... as a MS fanboy you should be very much aware of that right? Microsoft has continuously lost at this.... this is like bizarro world on this site... trying like hell to rewrite history. iPhone/Android -> Windows Phone
    iPad/Android/Amazon Fire -> Windows Tablets (RT as well)
    Steam/Gog -> Games for Windows (formerly Games for Windows Live) (because renaming is the new redoing)
    Steam/Gog -> Microsoft Store (formerly Windows Store)
    PS/Nintendo -> Xbox
    Twitch -> Mixxer
    Fitbit/iWatch -> MS Band
    Spotify/Pandora -> Groove Music (formerly Xbox Music, formerly Zune Music)... when 1 rename doesn't work, you just keep doing it. LOL
    Youtube -> MS Soapbox The market picks the winners. Can someone remind me again what MS is good at in the consumer space? Oh btw Microsoft said Sony isn't their competition.
  • you can't even buy an xbox right now. they'll wait until there is capacity before really pushing sales. Why end up with even more disappointed potential buyers.
  • So, bad Xbox hardware sales in the last 20 years is based on capacity issues? This isn't a one year deal. Xbox hardware really has only had two decent to good years in sales i.e. 2010-2011.
  • That's why Xbox changed leadership and bought exclusive studios to make exclusive games. They are even changing the way games are gotten. Why buy them when you can effectively rent in Game Pass for much less cost overall?
  • The current leadership at Xbox has been there longest, going on 7 years. Buying more studios isn't going to help Microsoft as a middleman for third party software sales, if they want to be traditional publisher than having studios could be good. If Game Pass is what people wanted or were willing to pay for they would be selling hardware, which is not what is happening. Btw the $1 GP deals are cool, but you can't run a business like that forever. That's called a charity.
  • You act like you work at Microsoft. It's very clear you don't understand business. Your responses are very similar like a PlayStation fanboy
  • Your statement doesn't make much sense, I work for MS but I am a PS fanboy. LOL I hate to tell you but MS hast LOST at all of its consumer products services, MS says Sony isn't the competition. LOL Getting mad at me isn't going to change anything. Game distribution -> Valve Steam/Gog
    Consoles -> Nintendo/Sony
    Mobile Phones -> Apple/Google
    Tablets -> Apple/Google/Amazon
    Voice Assistant -> Amazon
    MP3 Players -> Apple (merged with mobile now)
    Game broadcasting -> Twitch
    Music Streaming -> Spotify/Pandora And its funny you say all this we have 4 Xboxes in the house as I type on my Surface Pro. LOL If MS is going to stay in gaming, its as a big publisher i.e. Ubisoft, EA, Take Two, etc. not a middleman in software distribution. Next thing you are going to tell me is how the consumers love MS products. LOL
  • Here's to hoping it comes out this year!