Bethesda Softworks announced plans to delay Starfield and Redfall on Thursday, pushing back its 2022 lineup into the first half of next year. The decision marks a huge setback for the Microsoft-owned publisher, delaying its first two Xbox console-exclusive titles under new ownership. It's a surprising shakeup for Microsoft's gaming efforts, gutting its schedule for what looked to be a promising year for upcoming Xbox first-party titles.
Microsoft has long battled with its perception as a video game publisher, previously failing to establish a strong identity around its in-house brands and development teams. The company has spent the past five years looking to fix its image, making high-profile acquisitions to scale Xbox Game Studios, its creative arm now housing 15 studios. The $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda parent ZeniMax Media later followed, with Activision Blizzard also set to join the family in an industry-shaking deal valued at $68.7 billion.
Microsoft has made serious investments in gaming, and while altering its image, we're still yet to see the results at scale. Starfield and Redfall look to be Bethesda's first IP launching exclusively between Xbox consoles and PC, fueling Microsoft's platforms and services, including the Xbox Game Pass subscription service at the center of its business. The latest delay has slowed that momentum, emptying its slate for the remainder of 2022.
Starfield continues to shape up as one of Bethesda's biggest titles in a decade, developed by Bethesda Game Studios, best known for its work on hit RPGs like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. The sci-fi universe marks its first new IP in over 25 years, with understandably high hopes among longtime fans. While Bethesda has now defaulted on its once-planned Nov. 11 release date, the project is still expected to see a more extensive unveiling at the Xbox Bethesda showcase this June.
Redfall also marks a new IP for Arkane Studios, best known for prior work on Deathloop and the Dishonored series. The vampire-slaying shooter was first unveiled in 2021 with an ambition to release this summer but will now release sometime in 2023.
"The teams at Arkane Austin (Redfall) and Bethesda Game Studios (Starfield) have incredible ambitions for their games, and we want to ensure that you receive the best, most polished versions of them," the publisher stated in its announcement. While a significant change for Microsoft, it's also not entirely unexpected, with the delayed effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still looming for many projects.
The delay will disappoint many, but the long-term benefits are evident. The scope and approach to projects can change with time, plus the additional polish won't go unappreciated. Both projects are also exclusive to the latest-generation Xbox hardware, and with stock shortages still ongoing, Microsoft gets more time to get consoles into players' hands.
But with Bethesda closely intertwined with the future of Xbox, the move has a rippling effect on Xbox and its games output for the remainder of 2022. With Starfield and Redfall now absent, Microsoft finds itself without a single first-party Xbox game this calendar year — a huge blow to Xbox Game Pass subscribers — at least based on official announcements to date.
A glimpse of hope comes via the Xbox Bethesda showcase, likely providing some insight into what's to fill the gap over the next six months. The upcoming next-gen Forza Motorsport entry seems likely for this fall, almost half a decade after Forza Motorsport 7 was released on Xbox One. Forza has traditionally followed the same schedule each year, seeing a reveal in June before releasing later in the fall.
343 Industries and Certain Affinity might also debut Halo Infinite's Tatanka, a large-scale mode expected to expand on the battle royale formula. Development on the mode started in 2020, with a potential release sometime later this year. And while from a third party, Xbox console exclusive STALKER 2 remains set for Dec. 8, with Ukrainian developer GSC Game World still committed to the date, despite current world events.
Between Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda, Microsoft has the studios and projects to maintain a steady output further down the line. However, the delay of Starfield and Redfall won't go unnoticed for Xbox, and with its June showcase fast approaching, the company will need to provide some answers about what's coming next.
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