If Starfield had hit its original release date we'd be playing it right now. Bethesda's space-is-the-place RPG was scheduled to release on November 11, exactly 11 years after Skyrim came out. While Arkane's co-op vampire shooter Redfall didn't have a firm release date, it was also scheduled for a summer 2022 launch before Bethesda announced both Starfield and Redfall were being delayed into 2023. How did Microsoft, which spent $7.5 billion acquiring Bethesda's parent company Zenimax, feel about those two big upcoming games being delayed? According to Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer, pretty good actually.
Talking to The Verge (opens in new tab) for its Decoder podcast, Spencer said, "We have experience shipping games too early, but in hindsight when you look at a game like Starfield, which has taken so long and so much investment in new IP from the team, the decision to give the team the time to build the game that they feel they should be building is just the right thing to do."
Spencer explained that, while the financial impact of those decisions was obviously taken into consideration, "Starfield and Redfall, which are our first big Xbox games with ZeniMax coming into the team, I just wanted to make sure those teams felt that they had the support they could get from Xbox. Maybe feel some of the benefit of being part of a larger organization that has other revenue streams and other things going on that could be helpful."
The announcement of Starfield's delay wasn't a huge surprise. As Rich Stanton pointed out at the time, "The game is apparently an expansive and huge new IP that supposedly marks a huge technological leap, but six months away from release we hadn't seen anything." That said, Chris Livingston wasn't expecting the news and said he would have bet money on Starfield making its announced date, though admittedly, "Not a lot of money. Some money. Like, $28." Spencer, who has been at Microsoft for 34 years now with credits going back to the fondly CD-ROM encyclopedia Encarta before he became the official Xbox guy, suggested he wasn't shocked by the need for a delay.
"I, as somebody who has seen a few county fairs here, might get some gut instinct about where we are," Spencer said, "just in the way the teams are talking about their game, where we are in playing builds. But you want teams to feel like they own their dates. It's one of the things that, when teams feel like they own their own destiny with their games, they deliver better. So you wait for the real signal from the creative teams and production teams."
Right now, Starfield and Redfall both have releases scheduled for the first half of 2023. Xbox studio head Matt Booty would very much like people to know Starfield isn't just a "reskin" of Skyrim, while Arkane's Harvey Smith would like to assure people that his studio's game actually does resemble a previous hit, making it plain that Redfall does have Dishonored in its DNA.