Todd Howard has discussed the benefits and challenges that come with being a first-party Xbox studio.
In an interview with the Lex Fridman podcast, Howard said Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax Media has benefitted development of Starfield, which will be released next year for Xbox and PC.
However, he also said he was feeling the pressure to deliver a system selling title, which is a new responsibility for the Elder Scrolls and Fallout studio.
“We’ve had a lot of success with the games that you talked about but we’ve never been kind of the platform seller, you know ‘the game’ for a platform for a period of time, and so, there is a lot of pressure, there’s a lot of responsibility there to make sure we deliver for everybody.”
Howard presented the first Starfield gameplay in a 15-minute reveal at the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase in June, shortly after the title had been delayed from this year to the first half of 2023.
He told Fridman the decision to delay the game was a tough one “but it was the right thing to do”, and that Bethesda was working with “the top engineers at Xbox” to make the game sing on consoles.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda was controversial because it means the studio’s future games won’t be released on PlayStation consoles, but Howard said the developer already had a history of releasing Xbox exclusive content dating back to 2002’s The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.
“Keep in mind that for us that exclusivity is not unique, even though we’ve done PlayStation stuff and I think the PS5 is just an insane machine – they’ve done a great job and we’ve had great success on PlayStation,” he said.
“We were traditionally a PC developer in the beginning. We transitioned to Xbox [and it] became our lead platform, like Morrowind’s basically exclusive to Xbox, Oblivion was exclusive to Xbox for a long period of time, Skyrim DLC was exclusive, so we’ve done a lot of, like, our initial stuff is all Xbox.
“So when we get into development and say we’re focused on Xbox, it’s not abnormal for us in any way, it’s been kind of the norm. And from a development side I like the ability to focus and have help from them, you know the top engineers at Xbox, to say we are going to make this look incredible on the new systems, from my standpoint it’s just awesome.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Howard said MachineGames’ Indiana Jones title is a “unique” genre mash-up.