#121: Star burst

On the implications, for Bethesda, Microsoft and Game Pass, of Starfield and Redfall being delayed to 2023.

Welcome back! Before we start, a huge thank you to those of you that have taken up the 20% discount on 12-month subscriptions. The offer is available until Sunday night (I think), so if you’ve yet to take the plunge, kindly interface with the button below.

We also hit 2,000 signups yesterday! My hearty, slightly tearful thanks to you all. And congrats to Richard Thompson, the 2,000th reader through the door, who gets a complimentary lifetime subscription for his good fortune. Onwards, to 3,000!

In what is surely the least surprising news of the week — and month, and year — yesterday Bethesda announced that both Starfield and Redfall have been delayed from their planned 2022 release dates into the first half of next year. Putting a release date on anything Bethesda is making is a risky business, and the scant sight we’ve had of Starfield so far — a video series comprising airy chats over montages of concept art — hardly hinted at a game in the final stretch of development, even assuming Bethesda was keeping its powder dry for the Xbox not-E3 showcase in June. Things had been even quieter where Redfall was concerned, and given that Arkane’s Deathloop was delayed twice this was always on the cards. And hey, everything gets pushed back these days, right? In case of emergency, deploy Miyamoto quote. Good. Fine.

The implications of this are quite significant, however. “The teams at Arkane Austin and Bethesda Game Studios have incredible ambitions for their games,” the delay announcement reads, “and we want to ensure that you receive the best, most polished versions of them.” While this is fair enough for Redfall — Arkane’s games tend to launch in fine technical shape — it is a hell of a thing to say when talking about the team that brought you Skyrim and Fallout 76. Polished? This lot? Come on. I wouldn’t trust Todd Howard to polish a coffee table. It would come back with one leg shorter than the others. (One of the upstairs windows would also be missing, for some reason.)

I think we all kind of assumed that Starfield would arrive with its developer’s traditional jank and comedy bugs, and that if we were lucky Howard and co would fix the game up post-launch rather than leaving it to the mod scene as per. Yet implicit in the delay is the suggestion that this Bethesda’s traditional way of working is no longer acceptable. One of the more positive aspects of both Game Pass and the acquisition spree on which Microsoft has embarked to beef it up is the security net it gives developers who are bought out. There is less pressure to hit a specific release date, a reduced focus on Q4, and less risk of financial disaster if targets are missed. But in making moves like this, Microsoft is making an implicit commitment to quality (Spencer has pretty much made it explicit, too). I am not about to complain about developers being given the time and resources to actually finish their games before they release them, and not risk financial ruin by pushing launch out to a traditionally quieter time of year for sales. But this does ratchet up the pressure in other ways on a studio with a pretty shaky track record when it comes to the stability and performance of its games.

It also leaves Game Pass, and therefore Xbox itself, looking a bit shaky for the rest of 2022. Starfield was the year’s firstparty big-hitter, and now it is gone the cupboard looks troublingly bare. Sure, with not-E3 around the corner, that may change. But we already know just about everything Xbox Game Studios has in development, and I can’t imagine that much, if any, of it will be ready for release this year — and if anything is, I can’t see it matching Starfield for profile. There are rumblings that a new Forza Motorsport is on the way, but that’s a niche proposition and, let’s be honest, hardly quickens the pulse. It would also be an awkward callback to the Xbox One days, when Microsoft’s firstparty slate was so wearyingly reliant on the old reliables of Gears, Halo and Forza. I cannot fault Game Pass as a catalogue of thirdparty games; on that front Microsoft has absolutely exceeded expectations. But firstparty is another matter entirely. Oh, Forza again, is it? All those billions spent and we’re pretty much back where we started.

Sure, the industry has become less obsessively focused on Q4 in recent years. And a subscription service is obviously an eternal, evergreen thing that unhooks Xbox from the game industry’s traditional rhythms; there is no need to launch your biggest banger in the year’s busiest sales season when you’re collecting revenue year-round. And I can imagine Microsoft’s external partners are quite happy that there’s no big-ticket subscription game to pull focus away from their own Q4 releases (something Spencer admitted was important when Microsoft was umming and ahhing over Halo Infinite’s release date late last year).

And hey, I’m sure we humble consumers will not lose out. The delays presumably mean Microsoft will now go out, chequebook in hand, to secure some high-profile Q4 thirdparty thing or two for Game Pass at launch. We’ll get Starfield whenever it’s ready, of course, and it’s not like we’re going to struggle to find something to play in the meantime. The wait for Game Pass to truly show the benefit of all Microsoft’s firstparty endeavours, however, continues, and I wonder how long people’s collective patience will last.

Polished! Man, that’s a good one. I need a lie down.


Empty. My fault for writing about FIFA the other day, I suppose. I hear you. Leave a comment or hit reply and let’s get this thing back up and running. It’s rapidly becoming my favourite part of the newsletter, and not just because it’s less labour-intensive for me (though that is also nice).


  • PlayStation staff are furious at an internal email in which Jim Ryan asked them to “respect differences of opinion [on abortion rights] among everyone in our internal and external communities,” before spending five paragraphs talking about his cats’ recent birthday and his desire to get a dog. “Respect does not equal agreement,” he continued, “but it is fundamental to who we are as a company and as a valued global brand.” Later he praised dogs as “man’s best friend” who “know their place” and, well, yikes. I gather Jim sends these chatty emails every so often, and this is not the first time he has managed to misread the room. But this is a bridge too far for many of his staff, and I hear the internal uproar is significant.

    I do not want to get into this too much as a) I’m not sure this conversation needs the input of yet another old white guy with an opinion and b) a few of you have got in touch to say you appreciate Hit Points’ reluctance to wallow in the bleaker issues of the day. But I am struck, and quite shocked, at the game industry’s relative silence on this issue compared to, for instance, its collective reaction to the murder of George Floyd, and its broader recent willingness to go to bat for minority and marginalised communities. I can’t believe I have to type this, but human rights isn’t a fucking buffet.
  • Alongside its latest fiscal results, Square Enix has detailed its NFT and blockchain plans. A pretty bad week to hitch yourself to this particular bandwagon if you ask me, but as Hit Points discussed last week, the publisher rarely seems to have its finger on the pulse.
  • Square Enix has also admitted it was taken to court by Yuji Naka, as the Sonic creator revealed recently. Square declined to comment further but added that Balan Wonderworld “is a game that we recommend with confidence.” Stop sniggering at the back.
  • You may laugh at this one, however: on Tuesday, UK videogame influencer / boxer / sexual harrasser KSI bought $3m worth of ailing cryptocurrency Luna. Today, it is worth $10.
  • A class-action suit has been filed against the game-grading firm Wata for allegedly colluding with an auction house to drive up the prices of retro games.
  • Criterion Games has slurped up Codemasters Cheshire following the latter’s acquisition by Criterion parent EA. The two will now work under the singular Criterion banner to “create the future of Need For Speed.” Could we not have Burnout back instead? I miss it so.

All done, all done. It’s nice to be back to three editions a week; I’d enjoyed having a bit more time for other things, but definitely felt like something was missing from my life. This feels like the right cadence for Hit Points, I reckon. I hope you agree!

As ever, if you’ve enjoyed this, do please give it a share — I’ve no hope of getting to 3,000 readers without your help spreading the word. And a final reminder about that discount on subscriptions! It applies to both monthly and annual subs; my preference is monthly as it’s easier to budget around, but either is good, obviously. Have an excellent weekend, and I’ll see you all on Monday.