Is Starfield Truly Better Without PlayStation 5?

Starfield 20 photos
Photo: Bethesda
There has never been so much controversy surrounding a gaming company like Xbox has been facing for the past couple of years. One of the problems the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has with the ongoing Activision-Blizzard transaction concerns game exclusivity on Xbox to the detriment of PlayStation users. But like always, there's a catch.
The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are the only regulatory bodies that have not agreed yet to let Microsoft buy Activision-Blizzard for the unprecedented amount of almost $70 billion.

The exclusivity the FTC is most worried about is future Call of Duty entries not being available on PlayStation platforms.

Recently, more than a few documents have been made public from the Sony-Microsoft-FTC ordeal, where one of the main subjects is that once future games like CoD are under Xbox's 1st party umbrella, then it's bye-bye PS players.

It's not as cut and dry as I've just made it out to be, but you get the main jist. Microsoft has offered PlayStation a 10-year deal in the past, but Jim Ryan, President and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, and his executives have refused.

Photo: Bethesda
While that might seem generous for some, keep in mind that we, the general public, have barely seen the tip of the iceberg. Who knows what Jim and Phil Spencer, Xbox CEO, have been discussing behind closed doors into the wee hours of the night?

One of the main reasons the Federal Trade Commission is concerned about stems from games like Starfield and Redfall that have become exclusive to Xbox (also available on PC) ever since their parent company, Zenimax, was bought and paid for by Microsoft for $7.5 billion in 2021.

A far cry from the $68 billion from the current transaction, but that's a tale for another time.

Photo: Bethesda
Circling back to Starfield's exclusivity, after being called on the stand in court by the FTC, Pete Hines, Head of Publishing, said: "There’s no question in my mind that being able to focus on fewer platforms to support, hardware to support, has been a big benefit to the team."

Then he continued explaining how development for just one console means fewer issues, a faster production time, and less money invested. Matt Booty, head of Xbox 1st party studios, said before that because Starfield is only on Xbox, it will have the least amount of bugs of any Bethesda game.

A good opposite argument would be Redfall itself, which had a disastrous launch because of its poor technical condition, even though it didn't come out on PlayStation.

Whether what Hines said holds true or not for Starfield, we'll all find out on September 6, when it finally lands (pun intended) after suffering a few delays.

Photo: Bethesda
While these two statements are factual in a vacuum, they only cover part of the entire picture. The only constant here is development time, which, in the end, would have yielded the same game on PlayStation 5 as on the Xbox Series X.

In fact, it would have been a better version when compared to the much less powerful Xbox Series S. A game cannot be leaps and bounds better on one platform if it's similar in power to another. It would be the exact same game, short of missing entire gameplay mechanics and features, or if it's suffering from severe technical problems (see Redfall).

Sure, it would have taken more time and money, but the rewards would have been greater as well. It would have cost $70 on PS5 without a doubt, compared to being free on Game Pass for PC and Xbox. That scenario sounds like a win-win-win for every party involved: Xbox, PlayStation, and players.

So while the game took less time and money to develop, with fewer problems for the QA team and so on, "the powers that be" are the only ones that benefit. But when you draw the line, there is no practical advantage to Starfield's exclusivity; at least not for players.

Photo: Bethesda
Sure, if the game had run at 60 fps on Xbox and 30 fps on PlayStation, which would have compromised the director's vision, then yes, it would have been an inferior version on Sony's platform. But given that aside from a possible slight decrease in resolution, no one could have told them apart.

The real kicker to support my wild tin foil hat theories comes from the FTC itself. A recent article by "Games Hub" says that the commission found evidence of a multiplatform release intention from Bethesda before Microsoft bought it. Redfall was also meant to release on PlayStation 5.

On the other hand, it would be hypocritical only to mention Xbox exclusivity when rumors from 2020 suggest that PlayStation was also trying to poach the game for themselves, albeit not by buying the entire company.

However, these timed exclusivity deals happen all the time in this industry, and the game publisher has the last say after being presented with stats, numbers, and all sorts of nerd whatnots. Also, these deals typically last about 6-12 months, not their entire lifetime.

Photo: Bethesda
Furthermore, PlayStation, just like Nintendo, is known for the AAA exclusives that made the console so famous in the first place. There is a conflict of optics here. PlayStation can keep Spidey, Horizon, Uncharted, The Last of Us, and God of War on PS5 and PC, but when Xbox tries to do it, then it becomes a problem?

The answer is not at all straightforward, and it might lie somewhere between creating an exclusive franchise from scratch compared to just going shopping for a 3rd party juggernaut like Call of Duty and then making it exclusive.

Both parties have good and bad arguments, each sticking to their own side of the story, as they should. But with some luck, maybe we'll see the answer laid out in front of us by the FTC sometime in the future.

With all the commotion this deal has been causing so far in the gaming industry, it would be nice to have closure and see the truth come out in the end.
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About the author: Codrin Spiridon
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Codrin just loves American classics, from the 1940s and ‘50s, all the way to the muscle cars of the '60s and '70s. In his perfect world, we'll still see Hudsons and Road Runners roaming the streets for years to come (even in EV form, if that's what it takes to keep the aesthetic alive).
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