2023 was a yr of fantastic video games, however Starfield was not one among them. The spacefaring role-playing sport from Bethesda was purported to be the following Skyrim, however larger. Garnering blended critiques and participant reactions, it rapidly grew to become clear that Starfield wouldn’t attain the heights of Bethesda’s finest work. Now, lower than six months after the sport’s launch in September, the participant base has shrunk by 97 %, in line with SteamDB. Some retailers are reporting on this as if it’s dire information, and certain, in case you simply see that quantity and don’t take into consideration the bigger context, you would possibly suppose it appears fairly unhealthy. However right here’s the factor: why ought to we care?
Effectively, we shouldn’t. In an age of live-service titles with infinite seasons that are supposed to make each sport the one sport you ever have to play for the remainder of your life, we ceaselessly hear tales of video games being closed down as a result of they couldn’t retain a participant base. That’s what occurred with Sq. Enix’s Babylon’s Fall. However there’s a key distinction between video games like that one and video games like Starfield. Starfield isn’t a live-service sport. Like previous Bethesda RPGs, it’s a single-player sport with the principle aim of delivering an expansive and immersive world and narrative to the participant. You play it, you will have a good time with it (or not), and you progress on together with your life. That is what hundreds and hundreds of video games have been designed for, since time immemorial. Or at the very least because the mid-80s.
I by no means thought I might be the particular person defending Starfield. I don’t like Starfield. I discover its world empty and missing in attention-grabbing tales, and bounced off of it fairly fast. However different gamers discovered rather a lot to like in Starfield’s sci-fi journey. These gamers went on a sci-fi exploration story that happy them for dozens of hours. After they completed the sport they in all probability put it away, pleased with the time they’d had, and moved on to one thing new. As must be anticipated of a single-player sport with a self-contained narrative.
Based on Howlongtobeat.com, it sometimes takes gamers about 66 hours to beat Starfield. In case you are a completionist, it is going to take you nearer to 150 hours. Six months has an exponential quantity extra hours in it than 150. Most individuals may have reached the top of their journey with Starfield by now, therefore the drop-off in participant numbers. That doesn’t make Starfield a failed sport. For context, Elden Ring had lower than 5 % of its peak participant base six months after launch. It nonetheless went on to win virtually each sport of the yr award underneath the solar and continues to be lauded as top-of-the-line video games in current reminiscence. This pattern is typical of almost each single-player sport. We have to cease judging single-player experiences by a metric that’s not meant for them.