For the past year or so, a familiar topic has popped up in the PC Gamer work Slack from time to time: “Do you think Starfield is really going to come out in 2022?”
Pretty much everyone agreed: no way in hell. Just about everybody at PC Gamer was absolutely sure it wouldn’t see the light of day until sometime in 2023. Skyrim in Space, popular opinion held, was definitely getting delayed.
But somehow I… didn’t think it was? I can’t say I’m completely stunned by the news, because games get delayed all the time. But until yesterday I’d have bet money it was going to hit its launch date. (Not a lot of money. Some money. Like, $28.)
I’ve got no issue being completely wrong—it’s something I have a lot of experience with. But it’s hard not to feel a bit sheepish about missing the mark on this one. The writing’s been on the wall, and I saw it. I read it. I just didn’t interpret it as pointing to a delay.
As Rich points out in his piece: Why hadn’t we seen any real gameplay footage of Starfield yet? Surely, if the game was ready to rock some footage would be rolling by now.
Well, I personally thought Bethesda was just doing what they’ve done before. We only got our first real look at Fallout 76 at E3 2018, a few months before it was released in November of that same year. And with Starfield there’s been a slow, pre-E3 buildup over the past couple months as Bethesda has released some short, unsatisfying videos about the game and the soundtrack, featuring the developers sitting in a room telling each other how good it all is while not actually showing any actual gameplay.
But this didn’t raise any red flags for me. I just figured they were saving it for the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase in June, which I think is probably still the plan. And I don’t think that the lack of gameplay footage was a real sign something was wrong. I mean, if the game is so far from completion that Bethesda can’t even edit together a gameplay trailer for it, then it’s not gonna be done in 2023, either.
I also thought, having recently been bought by Microsoft for eleventy-jillion dollars, Bethesda would probably move heaven and earth to hit its release date. If I were Mike Microsoft (I assume that’s the name of the person who owns Microsoft) I’d be constantly popping down to the Bethesda sector of Microsoft Mansion (I assume that’s where everyone who works at Microsoft lives), rapping on the door, and demanding they a) let me play it, and b) reassure me it’ll be released on time.
“Well it’s not quite finished, Mike,” Todd Howard might say when my hulking bodyguards dragged him over to me. And I’d say, “First, call me Mr. Microsoft. And second, I paid eleventy-jillion dollars for it. So I think it is quite finished. Todd.“
There was also the novelty release date of 11/11/22, which has historical significance to Bethesda RPGs (Skyrim came out on 11/11/11). It felt like it would be extremely hard to give that up to some other game. What if TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection casually slides into that spot and steals all your elevens? It’d be a sick burn.
But the real reason I didn’t think Stardfield would be delayed was because I simply couldn’t imagine Bethesda saying what everyone else says when a game is delayed: We need more time to polish the game.
Bethesda RPGs, from Oblivion to Skyrim to Fallout 4 and 76, are notoriously unpolished. Bethesda games have been buggy. Glitchy. Janky. Rough around the edges. I know times have changed and we’re not quite as fond of the clunky nature of Bethesda RPGs as we once were (particularly when it comes to Fallout 76). But I don’t think most people would be seriously outraged about some bugs in Starfield like they were for a game like Cyberpunk 2077. I figured Bethesda would roll the dice and release the game on target, jank and all.
But I was wrong. More time is needed to polish it, apparently. I never would have predicted that, but as this all shows, my prediction meter could clearly stand for some recalibration.