Starfield's 6 million players compared to other Xbox game launches, and problem with Microsoft's reporting approach
Starfield has become Bethesda’s largest game launch of all time. Let’s compare its numbers to other Xbox first-party games and see Microsoft’s love for vague stats.
Is Starfield the biggest launch in Bethesda history?
According to Bethesda, Starfield has already been played by more than 6 million players since its global launch on September 6 (this likely includes those who purchased the Premium edition to gain early access to the game on September 1).
It is worth noting that this doesn’t mean the game sold 6 million copies, since a portion of players tried it on Game Pass. The share of each platform remains undisclosed, as well as data on launch sales.
— Starfield (@StarfieldGame) September 7, 2023
While Starfield might be Bethesda’s biggest launch in terms of player numbers, it is difficult to directly compare it to previous games. Prior to Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax, Bethesda always reported sales, or at least shipments (physical copies shipped to retailers).
For example, Fallout 4 shipped 12 million units in its first 24 hours, although pure sales were not officially disclosed. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim shipped 7 million copies in its first week. The latter remains Bethesda’s best-selling title to date, with lifetime sales of 60 million units globally.
The number of Starfield players compared to other Xbox game launches
Microsoft doesn’t always release launch data for its first-party games, but here are officially disclosed numbers for some of the company’s current-gen titles:
- Halo Infinite — over 20 million players in less than two months (it is unclear how many users purchased the game or how many of them tried the free-to-play multiplayer mode);
- Forza Horizon 5 — over 4.5 million players in less than 24 hours, the largest launch day for an Xbox Game Studios title at the time (over 10 million players in its first week);
- Grounded — over 5 million players in six months (Early Access version);
- Minecraft Legends — over 3 million players in the first two weeks;
- Hi-Fi Rush — 2 million players in just over one month;
- Microsoft Flight Simulator — over 1 million players on PC in just over two weeks;
- Redfall — no clear data other than Arkane’s claim that “millions” of players have explored the game a month after its launch.
Starfield has a chance to surpass Forza Horizon 5 in terms of first-week player count. However, the biggest issue with Microsoft’s stats is that they always include both people who purchased a copy of a particular title and those who tried it as part of the Game Pass subscription.
So it is hard to get the full picture, making it impossible to compare Xbox first-party projects to other major releases in the market. It is one thing when a company says a game sold 1 million units in its first week, but another thing when you only get vague data like Redfall attracting “millions” of players.
This can be explained by Microsoft’s content strategy and its push for Game Pass, but it is hard to gauge the impact of Starfield or any other of its first-party titles on the number of subscribers. On top of that, the last time the company officially disclosed Game Pass stats was in January 2022, when the service surpassed 25 million subscribers (according to last year’s documents released by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, Game Pass had 29 million users).