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Microsoft has no plans to release Bethesda’s upcoming space role-playing adventure Starfield on Sony’s competing PlayStation 5 console. That shouldn’t surprise too many people after Xbox boss Phil Spencer said in March that Microsoft acquired Bethesda to add exclusives to Xbox Game Pass. But I’ve separately confirmed that this situation applies to Starfield through sources familiar with the decision.
But some people keep asking about Starfield on PS5 because they don’t have insight into Microsoft’s reasoning. While Sony or Nintendo would certainly keep new acquisitions locked to their platforms, Xbox has a history of playing nice. Minecraft, for example, is still getting full support on PlayStation and Nintendo platforms. Microsoft even released the new Minecraft Dungeons game on PS5 and Switch. So why wouldn’t Microsoft do the same with Bethesda’s games?
The difference is that Minecraft is a platform unto itself with millions of active players and in-game transactions. And it’s platform like that thrives when it’s available everywhere.
I’ve asked Xbox for a statement, and I’ll update this story if the company decides to comment.
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Starfield is most valuable to Microsoft as a means to grow Xbox Game Pass
Where Minecraft can exist as its own service, Starfield is about growing the Game Pass service. And even if Bethesda has ambitions to make massive, connected live-service games, it’s unlikely that anything will turn into the next Minecraft. So an effort like a blockbuster game release from the team that made The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is best if Microsoft treats it as an investment into a larger service.
“With Game Pass now the center of the Xbox ecosystem, it is becoming more important for Microsoft to invest in exclusive content and IP that increases the value of the service and leads to new user acquisitions,” Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad explained on Twitter.
Ahmad nails it.
Microsoft likely did investigate what its financials would look like if it made Bethesda games exclusive or not. In the end, it chose exclusivity. And yes, that means it will miss out on money from sales on PlayStation 5. But the point is that Microsoft doesn’t see that as losing money — it sees that as built in marketing for Game Pass. And then it also expects to offset many of those costs by building a deeper relationship with more players who then go on to play and buy even more games on Xbox platforms.
So yes, Starfield is exclusive. And The Elder Scrolls VI will be as well.
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