We're still 15 weeks away from Starfield, but conversations about how its review scores will fit into the wider landscape have already kicked off.
Speaking on the XboxEra podcast over the weekend, leaker Nick Baker suggested that "it doesn't matter if Starfield is great - I'm already convinced that no-one wants to give Starfield high review scores." Baker's thesis is that 'low' scores ranging from 7-8.5 out of 10 would be handed down to spin up a news cycle about Xbox's continued difficulties over recent years.
XboxEra co-founder Nick Baket says he's convinced that no gaming outlets want to give Starfield high scores. He argues other sites have already decided to give Starfield 7.0-8.5 reviews in order to generate traffic and drag the Xbox brand down. pic.twitter.com/GmDYH87QYQMay 21, 2023
Ignoring the fact that a 7/10 game is still good, and anything that nets 85% is one of the best games of a given year, that thesis is flawed in many ways. Not least among them is the fact that the only people who benefit from the struggles of one of the big three first-party publishers are the shareholders of the other two. But Baker isn't the only one already focusing on Starfield and its eventual review scores. A recent Forbes article suggests that the Metacritic scores attached to the rest of Bethesda's catalogue (skirting awkwardly around Fallout 76's 55%) are more than enough evidence that Starfield is on track for a similar appraisal.
Once again, the logic is far from perfect - plenty of studios have but what's strange is that so much attention is already being paid to what the Starfield review scores might be. We're still weeks out from its big Starfield Direct, and months out from release. No member of the press has had their hands on Starfield yet, and before they do we'll have reviews for several other major games to contend with - Diablo 4, Final Fantasy 16, and Baldur's Gate 3 just to name a few.
Perhaps a significant factor in the amount of attention being paid to this particular set of reviews, however, is the amount of pressure to perform that Starfield is under after Redfall. As Heather put it earlier this month, Xbox needs a win after the difficult launch of its co-op vampire shooter, and Starfield is firmly in the community's sight-lines; "there's no ignoring the fact that expectations have only skyrocketed with the launch of Redfall, and it feels like Starfield needs to do well to see out the latter half of Xbox's lineup this year."
I'm keen to know what the Starfield reviews will look like, not least because Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are all pushing their own GOTY candidates this year. That said, I'm more than happy to wait the three months until the game is actually nearing launch to start even thinking about what its average score might look like.
Before Starfield, we've got the Xbox Games Showcase 2023 to get through.