A not-so-brief history of the Starfield release date

It feels like there's been a Starfield release date announcement, leak, theory, or rumor for every planet Bethesda is putting in its upcoming space RPG.

Starfield release date: An old man wearing a hooded gold and purple piece of clothing puts his hand to his chin inquisitively

One of the great enigmas of recent gaming history has got to be the Starfield release date. Of course, we now know that Bethesda’s colossal space RPG should be dropping on September 6 of this year, but fans have traveled a long and bumpy road to get here.

With what should be the definitive launch date now set in stone, I thought I’d try and answer a burning (and ridiculous) question: how many Starfield release dates have there even been?

Through a combination of official Bethesda messaging, leaks, rumors, and fan speculation, it feels as if there have been dozens of release windows and dates mentioned since the game was revealed many moons ago. Perhaps with exception to a behemoth like the GTA 6 release date, or a troubled project that has changed hands like Dead Island 2, few games have experienced such a long and turbulent discourse around when they’ll actually be in players’ hands. So, I decided to dig back through the archives to document the bizarre, roughly five-year history of the Starfield release date.

The early days

So, let’s start at the official beginning. On June 11, 2018, during that year’s E3, Starfield was officially revealed to the world. The announcement trailer was only around 90 seconds, and featured a single shot of a satellite floating in the orbit of a massive planet, scored with what has probably gone on to be one of the most distinctive-sounding main themes in recent gaming history. Jaws hit the floor as Bethesda finally confirmed that Starfield, which had been spotted in copyright filings as early as 2013, was actually real – it was going to be the company’s first new IP for a quarter of a century, and it was going to be big.

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However, at that early stage, no release window or release date was given. During E3 and a few following interviews that summer, all we really knew was that this game was being built for what was then the next-generation of console hardware, and that it was a long way off.

In an interview with Eurogamer in July 2018, Bethesda’s Todd Howard explained how Starfield was, at the time, pushing the limits in many aspects, and that the game’s launch was “very, very far in future”. Speaking to The Guardian around the same time, Howard told fans to be “very patient”. Following these interviews, a long period of Starfield silence ensued.

In August 2020, Bethesda veteran Pete Hines doubled down on what Howard had said around two years prior: Starfield was still a long way away. Hines, the company’s marketing guru at the time, said during a livestream that regardless of when Starfield would be properly revealed, fans would be “impressed”, but that it’d “be a while” before they’d get a glimpse of it.

However, a few months later, in November of that year, a Starfield-branded shirt worn by a Bethesda employee at an industry event gave validity to a leak which claimed the game would release in 2021. As well as providing information this potential release window, the leak contained the logo for Constellation, the main Starfield faction of space explorers. Constellation was something that hadn’t been officially revealed at the time, however with the logo appearing on the sleeve of the employee’s shirt, all the information in the leak was considered to be accurate.

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But surely, this mega RPG that Bethesda itself described as being far in the future couldn’t suddenly appear on our consoles in 2021? Many thought that once Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda parent company ZeniMax Media was completed, it would focus on pushing Starfield out to fans.

However, on March 9, 2021, the $7.5 billion deal closed, and no announcement on Starfield followed. Fans were met with silence yet again.

That was until April 23, when the prospect of Starfield dropping in 2021 resurfaced. Members of the community spotted that ZeniMax updated its copyright notice for Starfield to feature the date 2021, and this is usually an indicator that something is gearing up for release. Those hopes were dashed around a month later, though.

On May 20, 2021, journalist Jason Schreier said that the release date for Starfield will be announced during E3 2021, and that the date would be some time in late 2022. He told fans to “keep your expectations in check and refrain from sending death threats when the other rumors [about a 2021 release] turn out to be false.” It wasn’t long before Schreier was proven correct, with Bethesda’s announcement of the first, original Starfield release date.

The 11/11/22 era

At the end of a rousing trailer posted on June 13, 2021, fans finally got the official launch date they’d been waiting for: November 11, 2022. In a supplementary interview with The Washington Post, Todd Howard said that Bethesda was “confident in the date… otherwise, we wouldn’t be announcing it.”

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11/11/22 is not only a visually attractive date (something Bethesda likes with its release dates), but it also held sentimental value to the studio, as it marked exactly 11 years since the launch of Skyrim.

With the official release date finally out in the wild, all rumor and speculation understandably simmered down for a significant period – although some leaks about the game’s content still occasionally appeared.

However, in November of that year, around five months after expressing Bethesda’s confidence in its original release date, some apprehension around Starfield’s launch began to show. Speaking to IGN in the video below, Howard appeared both confident and wary about the 11/11/22 date Bethesda had set itself.

At one stage, interviewer Ryan McCaffrey described Starfield’s release date as ‘pencilled in’, and posits that nothing can be written in ink given the global situation at the time and how it’s impacted game development. Despite this, Howard said: “Well, we wrote it pretty hard in that trailer – that felt like some ink.”

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Despite this early confidence, at times Howard seemed quite coy and unconvinced about Starfield’s release date. “We were confident about the date when we put that out there, but our main focus is making the best game we possibly can, and it’s a very ambitious game. We’ve been through this [game delays] a number of times.”

When asked again later in the interview if he “feels good” about the date, Howard replied: “I don’t know if I ever feel good – I’m usually confident, this is how things line up, but we wanna do the best job we can and there’s still so much to do. I feel good about the game and we’re confident about the date.”

Despite there being a sense of nervousness, nothing more is said or heard about the release date until May 2022 – probably the most disappointing day for Starfield fans.

Starfield planets: An astronaut walks on a planet that looks like Mars

The delay

In a statement on May 12, Bethesda announced that both Starfield and co-op shooter Redfall would be delayed until “the first half of 2023”.

“The teams at Arkane Austin (Redfall) and Bethesda Game Studios (Starfield) have incredible ambitions for their games, and we want to ensure that you receive the best, most polished versions of them,” the statement explained.

This was a momentous occasion in the history of Starfield’s release date – and not just because of the obvious reason of it being delayed. Aside from Starfield’s big summer showcase that delved deep into its gameplay, and a few developer insight videos, the conversation around Starfield would, from this point onwards, become largely dominated by leaks, rumors, and speculation around when it’ll actually be released, thanks to its new, vague release window.

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And here’s where things get interesting. Brace yourselves – there’s a barrage incoming.

The speculation storm

On June 9, 2022 , a Redditor spotted that Starfield’s disclaimer text on the Game Pass sign up screen read “early” 2023 – a change in wording from the official line of “first half”. Many believed this was an intentional change of messaging, and that Starfield would arrive at some point within the first three months of 2023.

Later that summer, on July 12, a fan theory suggested that the release date would be March 23, 2023. As reported by PC Gamer, this was based on an easter egg discovered in the Starfield gameplay showcase that pays homage to the Wright brothers’ patent for the first flying machine. That patent was filed on the same date in 1903.

While always likely to be a placeholder, panic ensued among some fans on October 4 when Steam listed Starfield’s release date as December 29, 2023. Some feared a second (and fairly long) delay announcement was approaching. However, this never materialised.

Starfield showcase 2023: A female character in a white space helmet and brown space suit

Moving along to November 6, the head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty confirmed that Starfield is going to arrive after Redfall, the other major release delayed by Bethesda. At this point, the new Redfall release date was still not confirmed, but it emboldened theories that Starfield would release more towards the end of that ‘first half of 2023’ window.

Just after the turn of the year on January 2, 2023, Twitter account ‘Klobrille’ spotted that Bethesda had pushed its official support page for Starfield live. This support page at the time reinstated the ‘first half of 2023’ messaging. However, its creation made fans believe it may not be too far away. A fan theory that Starfield will release on April 12 gained traction off the back of this, as this would see it release on the International Day for Human Spaceflight, which commemorates the day Yuri Gagarin became the first person to go to space. Bethesda’s recognition and appreciation of real world space travel gave some credence to the theory at the time – many of the Starfield planets even share names with famous astronauts. However, the theory was shot down a few weeks later.

On January 25, the first ever Xbox Developer Direct gave Redfall a new release date of May 2, so it was clear that Starfield would launch at some point after this date. However, we also learned that The Elder Scrolls Online’s Necrom expansion is set for June 20. This made the end of that ‘first half of 2023’ window a busy old time for Bethesda, so finding a place to squeeze in the release of a massive new RPG was looking like an impossible task.

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A couple of days after the Developer Direct, a Windows Central report claimed that while Starfield is playable from start to finish, an internal release date still wasn’t agreed upon at Bethesda, as it continued to polish the game.

Journalist Jez Corden, who wrote the piece, said: “I am personally of the belief that we could see the game slip beyond the summer, with quality efforts ongoing. It’s paramount that Starfield launches with a high-quality bar, as Xbox looks to once and for all put to bed accusations that it can’t deliver ‘game of the year’ contenders.”

Starfield biomes multiple planets: an image of a space ship looking fown on a blue planet in RPG Starfield

In early February, a potential new Starfield release date of June 29 was spotted on games marketplace GoG. However, the entire Starfield GoG page was removed soon after it was spotted and, as of the time of writing, still hasn’t returned. As always, marketplace dates are often just placeholders, but this one felt a bit too obscure to be a placeholder and also just about fitted in Bethesda’s ‘first half of 2023’ release window for Starfield.

While he had shared concerns a few weeks prior that Starfield could “slip beyond the summer”, on February 10, Jez Corden potentially gave further credence to that June 29 date on the Xbox Two Podcast. “I think Starfiled’s gonna drop in June,” he said. “Even though I’ve got a bet that it gets delayed beyond June, the latest information I’ve got suggests June to me.”

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Aside from a few other light fan theories, Corden’s predictions were the last piece of solid speculation we really got before Bethesda, in a fairly out-of-the-blue manner, came out with a brand new Starfield trailer and news of a second official release date.

Go for launch

On March 8, Bethesda ditched its ‘first half of 2023’ release window and committed to a brand new release date that should now be completely set in stone: September 6, 2023.

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In a message to fans, Todd Howard acknowledged the rollercoaster ride that fans had been subject to.

“We know you’ve waited a long time to play something new from us – believe it or not, we’re kinda the same. We miss it. And we really just can’t wait for you all to play it.”

And with that, here we are, Starfield fans – you’re on the home stretch now. September 6 will certainly be a day of massive excitement, as we see if after all this time, Starfield will be able to call itself one of the best Xbox Series X games, and potentially even one of the best RPGs of all time.

So, that’s the complete history of the Starfield release date, but now it’s time to answer that question I posed right at the start of all this – how many release dates has Starfield had? Well, if you’ve read up to this point, you’ll realise that’s not a totally simple thing to answer. While we’ve had several specific dates mentioned, both official ones and debunked ones, there have been a lot of release windows banded about too, so it’s hard to put a number on it. One thing we can definitely conclude is that Starfield’s pre-flight checks have not been simple, but at least now, it is finally go for launch.