Starfield director says Xbox exclusivity is “great” but feels pressure to sell consoles

Todd Howard discussed the benefits and challenges of being a first-party Xbox studio.

In an interview with the Lex Fridman podcast, Howard said Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax Media benefited the development of Starfield, which will be released next year for Xbox and PC.

However, he also said he feels the pressure to deliver a system-sellable title, which is a new responsibility for the Elder Scrolls and Fallout studio.

Constellation Questions: Talk to Todd Howard about Starfield

“We’ve had a lot of success with the games you’ve talked about, but we’ve never been sort of a platform seller, you’ve known ‘the game’ for a platform for a while, so there’s a lot of pressure, there’s a lot responsibility to ensure we deliver for everyone.”

Howard presented the first Starfield gameplay in a 15-minute reveal at the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase in June, shortly after the title was pushed back from this year to the first half of 2023.

He told Fridman the decision to delay the game was a difficult one, “but it was the right thing to do,” and that Bethesda was working with “Xbox’s top engineers” to get the game singing on consoles.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda was controversial because it means the studio’s future games won’t be released on PlayStation consoles, but Howard said the developer already has a history of releasing Xbox-exclusive content stretching back to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind dates back to 2002.

“Keep in mind that for us that exclusivity isn’t unique, even though we’ve done PlayStation stuff and I think the PS5 is just a crazy machine – they’ve done a great job and we’ve had great success on PlayStation,” he said said.

“In the beginning, we were traditionally PC developers. We switched to Xbox [and it] became our main platform, like Morrowind basically Xbox exclusive, Oblivion was Xbox exclusive for a long time, Skyrim DLC was exclusive so we did a lot, for example, our initial stuff is all Xbox.

“So when we go into development and say we’re focusing on Xbox, that’s not unusual for us in any way, it was kind of the norm. And on the development side I like the ability to focus and get help from them, you know the top engineers at Xbox to say we’re going to make this look incredible on the new systems, from my perspective it’s easy fantastic.

Elsewhere in the interview, Howard said that MachineGames’ Indiana Jones title was a “unique” genre mashup.