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Starfield will have the fewest bugs of any Bethesda game, Xbox exec says

Xbox apparently gave Bethesda plenty of room for a long QA check

A space ship with six engines flies toward a star and brushes next to a big blue planet Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Mark this one down: Starfield will have “the fewest bugs of any game from Bethesda has ever shipped with.” That’s according to Matt Booty, the head of Xbox Game Studios.

Longtime players of Bethesda role-playing games, recalling past launches in the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series, are practically licking their chops at this claim. But he laid it on the bar, speaking to Giant Bomb’s Tamoor Hussain and Jeff Grubb, with his boss, Phil Spencer, alongside no less.

Here’s Booty’s full quote:

Working with Todd [Howard, Bethesda Game Studios’ creative director] and the team, I see bug counts, and I’ll just say that, by the numbers, if it shipped today, this would be the, you know, have the fewest bugs of any game from Bethesda has ever shipped with.

I suppose that not rolling this one out on PlayStation, a notoriously difficult platform for Bethesda RPGs, helps a ton there. But even those who have poured hundreds of hours into Fallout 3 or 4 or The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim know what a dice-roll those games were, still, at launch on PC and Xbox. Not necessarily game-breaking bugs, but definitely immersion-breaking, in a way that punctures the kind of deep experience Bethesda Game Studios is shooting for with these epics.

Before Booty’s remark, Spencer said, “The team has definitely matured. They’ve got Fallouts and Skyrims and Elder Scrolls under their belt.”

But then, in an even more inculpatory statement, Spencer said, “Truth be told, when the acquisition closed, this game had a significantly earlier ship date than where we’re actually launching it.”

Well, that’s interesting. So then why was it delayed twice?

“Sitting down with Todd and the team, and explaining that we want to give this team the time — I think Matt says that we have every QA person in our entire company playing Starfield right now, looking at bug counts, looking at quality where we are,” Spencer said.

So, apparently there really is some method and some math to this. But it still sounds like one hell of a Pepsi Challenge to take, considering that most of the bugs folks encounter in a Bethesda game necessarily develop in an expansive game world that no quality assurance team of any size could possibly cover entirely.

Consider that at this time last year, EA Orlando, the developers of Madden NFL 23, were promising that the latest version of the most chaotic and unpredictable sport was “the most polished ever,” and then how that turned out at launch. It’s not the kind of claim I’d be engraving on a belt buckle, is all I am saying.

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