Horse Armor rides again: Bethesda is charging $7 for a single Starfield mission and after months of minimal post-launch support, unhappy fans are feeling ripped off

Starfield "The Vulture" promo image - man wearing a cowboy hat, hefting a space rifle
(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Starfield made a pretty big splash at the Xbox Games Showcase over the weekend, serving up our first look at the upcoming Shattered Space expansion and also dropping a major update heralding the launch of the Starfield Creation Kit, a free editor that enables players—and Bethesda—to make and share new content for the game. Shattered Space looks cool, but the rollout of Creations, as they're called, has not gone over entirely well.

"New missions have been added to Starfield as part of this update," Bethesda said in the update announcement. "Trackers Alliance establishes the first of several missions enabling you to live your best bounty-hunting life. The first mission, The Starjacker, will have you in contact with a mysterious Tracker located in settlements throughout the Settled Systems. From there, let the hunts begin!"

The problem is that the second Trackers Alliance mission, The Vulture, is only available as a Starfield Creation, and it sells for $7—which is really $10, given that you'll need to purchase 1,000 Starfield Creation Credits in order to have enough to access it. The Vulture is an official Bethesda product so, leaving aside jokes about Bethesda jank, it's safe to assume there's a level of production quality that's not always going to be present in fan-made stuff. Even so, there's a widespread feeling that it's a lot of money for a single quest.

To compare, the Starfield premium edition upgrade goes for $35 and includes the full Shattered Space expansion, the Constellation skin pack, digital art book, soundtrack, and 1,000 Creation Credits—enough to buy The Vulture mission. 

"Is Shattered Space actually just 2 quests in a trenchcoat? Probably not," redditor TheMightyNovac wrote. "So I doubt that even Bethesda believes this is reasonable pricing. So, for the love of god, drop the price. 

"Oblivion sold entire elaborate player houses (complete with questlines) for less than $2, so accounting for inflation, I'll be generous and say... $3. I think $3 for a fun quest and some cool new equipment would at least be reasonable, compared to what is currently being offered."

Redditor Bubba1234562 was somewhat more succinct in their analysis: "DLC is fine. Charging 7 dollars per quest is fucking stupid."

There's some pushback against this notion from players who point out that nobody has to pay for these missions, and that the release of the Creation Kit will mean a flood of new content, all for free, on sites like Nexus Mods—enough to keep everyone busy for a very long time. But it's not just the cost of the mod that's an issue for some players: Recalling Bethesda's catastrophic attempt to introduce paid mods in Skyrim in 2015, there's also a feeling that this is part of a long-standing effort to separate gamers from their money.  

Bethesda quickly walked back that initial effort to charge for mods in response to the angry uproar but dipped its toes back into those waters a couple years later with the launch of Creation Club, and then went a little deeper in 2023 with the Verified Creator Program, which enables members of the program to sell their work. And again, fine, there's still plenty of free stuff out there, but there was a significant wave of negative reaction to the news, and of course the attendant spike of negative reviews on Steam.

Starfield is drawing similar ire: Not enough to constitute an all-out review bombing, but the influx of negative reviews sure isn't doing its already "mixed" rating any good:

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks (Steam))

One redditor said the price of The Vulture "sets a dangerous precedent" because, assuming it goes over well enough, future content releases could be "cut up and sold piece by piece." I think that's overstating things a bit— Bethesda games typically come front-loaded with massive amounts of content, and it's really not reasonable to expect an endless stream of post-release more for free—but I can see where it's coming from. I don't think Starfield is a bad game, strictly speaking, but it is a standout disappointment in the Bethesda RPG pantheon. In light of that, it's natural to think the studio might be more inclined to let new monetization schemes slide for a while, rather than using the launch of long-awaited mod tools to lean into it.

Then again, Bethesda has something of a history of breaking ground in the field of squeezing more money from committed fans. The new Starfield mission has drawn many comparisons with the infamous Horse Armor that outraged so many Oblivion players back in 2006. But as we noted in 2019, Horse Armor won: Despite all the online upset and mockery, people bought it, and the door to microtransaction ubiquity in mainstream gaming was flung open. That may well be the case here too: I won't dispute that seven bucks for a single "kill this guy" mission is kinda bullshit, yeah, but if people are willing to pay for it, you can bet we'll see more in the future.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.