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Starfield: Why It Didn't Show Up At E3 2019

Bethesda’s 2018 E3 showing was one for the ages; Doom Eternal, Rage 2, Starfield, Fallout 76, and The Elder Scrolls VI were all shown in some capacity, and, when it came to topping last year’s efforts, Bethesda certainly had their work cut out for them. Were we destined to get a look at the Maryland-based developer’s new, mysterious science fiction IP? No, of course not.

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The Bethesda E3 2019 Showcase

So, what exactly did they do to grab the attention of attendees and stream followers alike? Well, aside from an adorable Japanese game dev and an overly zealous yelling man in the audience who may or may not have been Eric Andre, not a whole lot. Proceedings initiated with Todd Howard pretending to tuck his tail between his legs and apologize/poke fun at the notoriously awful launch of Fallout 76. Bethesda then incited many an incredulous eyebrow raise as it was announced that their divisive entry into the Fallout franchise would, at long last, be receiving human NPCs—a long-awaited community request which was subtly joked about in the update’s trailer—alongside a new battle royale mode for which none of the game’s twelve remaining players asked.

Following that was a worryingly-long segment dedicated to Bethesda’s terribly-structured, microtransaction-laden mobile title Elder Scrolls: Blades. The presenters were chided on Twitter for insinuating that we all love mobile games—a great deal of us don’t—and the whole thing culminated with the announcement that Blades would be making its way to the Nintendo Switch sometime this fall, which still isn’t reason enough to check it out.

Bethesda’s subsidiary developers were arguably the only redeeming factor of the conference; we got a glimpse at updates coming to last May’s Rage 2 and an extended look at Doom Eternal courtesy of Id, and we saw a few snippets of gameplay from Machine Games’ two upcoming Wolfenstein spin-offs, one of which will be a VR title.

We were also treated to the announcement of new IPs from Tango Softworks, the developers behind The Evil Within and its sequel, as well as Arkane Studios, the people behind the acclaimed Dishonored games. We also saw Commander Keen’s once-cherished name raked through the mud with the announcement of a totally controversial mobile-only title with a Saturday morning cartoon vibe. We’re not quite sure who that’s supposed to be targeting, as it’s sure to bore those unfamiliar with the property and offend those who grew up with it.

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Starfield And Elder Scrolls VI Mentions

Most crucially, however, we saw absolutely nothing of Bethesda’s most anticipated, nebulous properties, those being Starfield and yet-to-be-subtitled Elder Scrolls VI. Aside from extremely brief glimpses of these titles shown at E3 (glimpses which, in both cases, showcased quite literally nothing aside from the titles of the games), we have yet to see anything substantial to prove that these games are even progressing in their development.

Fans, though slightly disappointed by Bethesda’s presentation as a whole, don’t seem to be quite as upset about the lack of TES 6, instead showing more concern for Starfield. While we have yet to see any concrete gameplay, we all have a general idea of what the new Elder Scrolls title will be about. That isn’t the case for Starfield; aside from a very vague space-faring sci-fi concept, we know virtually nothing about this game.

When Is Starfield's Release Date

The most likely reason for this is because, like The Elder Scrolls VI, Starfield is still a long, long way from being ready for release. Most fans knew that there was zero chance that the game would see the light of day in 2019, and most are estimating that Q4 of 2020 will be the absolute earliest we could see this game release. However, it could go beyond that, and it’s not unthinkable to assume that Bethesda will wait until the next console generation begins to officially debut their new IP.

Yet, some are speculating that Starfield’s development could be further slowed by Bethesda’s refusal to move on from the dated Creation Engine. The system, which was used to develop The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in 2011 and was based on the incredibly old Gamebryo engine, is really beginning to show its age, and it could very well be that even a heavily modified Creation Engine will struggle to support such an ambitious project. We know that Fallout 76 could hardly handle the demands of online play, let alone Todd Howard’s infamous “sixteen times the detail” lark, and it’s hard to imagine that something fantastically larger in scope and scale could possibly keep up on an outdated framework.

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It’s unfortunate, but Bethesda really seems to be headed down a troubling path. While they’ve still got their name attached to the tremendous resurgence of both Doom and Wolfenstein, they’ve totally besmirched their two most iconic franchises. Nobody wants to play a broken, buggy, live-service version of Fallout 4, and absolutely nobody wants to see Skyrim squeezed down to a mobile form factor and packed full of heinous microtransactions.

At this point, it’s hard to know exactly how Bethesda plans to monetize Starfield, but, given their recent track record, it may be time to start worrying. Fallout 76, as well as its predecessor's post-launch implementation of the Creation Club, unabashedly pushed the sale of in-game currencies and micro-DLC, and it’s unlikely that the publisher will be willing to forego these unfavorable monetization practices for the sake of their new property. This could also cause a bit of a delay should designers choose to push back against certain development mandates regarding recurrent spending options in Starfield.

The longer we go without hearing from those directly working on Starfield, the more it will begin to feel like vaporware. Sure, the game will almost certainly release at some point in the future, but could there be more internal strife at Bethesda than we know? Could this end up being something like The Last Guardian or Duke Nukem Forever—games that were hinted at many years before they actually released? It’s hard to say for sure, but, if Bethesda continues to keep Starfield under wraps at next year’s E3, we may be in for some trouble.

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