Starfield could release in March 2023 if the stars align

Characters from Starfield gazing up at the sky
(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Starfield could make its appearance as early as March, 2023 – the signs are all there. 

Originally set for a November 11 launch, Bethesda broke the news that the Starfield release date is getting pushed back to 2023. Specifically, the first half of next year. But internet sleuths have pegged March 3, 2023 as a likely candidate.

Talking about the delay and purported state of the game in his Bethesda-centric podcast Kingscast, host KingFanMan explains his theory. Pointing to the company's previous game delays and circumstances around each of them, he builds a pretty convincing case.   

Engines at the ready...

"In all of Bethesda's history...they've only delayed three games," KingFanMan explains. He's referring to Morrowind, Oblivion, and mobile title, Blades.

First up is Morrowind. The title was set to debut on Xbox in November, 2001 (via GameSpot)  but was pushed back to May 1, 2002. KingFanMan cites issues with the game engine, which was reportedly giving Bethesda a few troubles. While he names the Creation Engine, Morrowind actually utilised the NetImmerse engine. 

Not long after Morrowind's release, NetImmerse became Gamebryo when engine creator Numerical Design Limited merged with Emergent Game Technologies. It's fair to assume that that KingFanMan misspoke and that getting to grips with a new engine might cause a few hiccups.

After that was Oblivion. This next installment in The Elder Scrolls series was due to release on November 22, 2005. It ended up launching on March 21, 2006. As stated at the time, Bethesda needed "additional development time to ensure the title meets gamers' high expectations for this popular franchise," (via Eurogamer).

As well as changes to the engine, Oblivion also adopted the new Radiant AI which caused further (hilarious) niggles in development – and lead to some memorable counters for players. Game designer Emil Pagliarulo recalls as instance of skooma-addicted NPCs who went on a drug-fuelled rampage, to the surprise of everyone (via VentureBeat): 

"In some cases, we the developers have had to consciously tone down the types of behavior they carry out. Again, why? Because sometimes, the AI is so goddamned smart and determined it screws up our quests! Seriously, sometimes it's gotten so weird it's like dealing with a holodeck that's gone sentient....

"Funny example: In one Dark Brotherhood quest, you can meet up with this shady merchant who sells skooma. During testing, the NPC would be dead when the player got to him. Why? NPCs from the local skooma den were trying to get their fix, didn't have any skooma, and were killing the merchant to get it!"

The mobile title that's the last piece of the picture that KingFanMan is painting, is The Elder Scrolls: Blades. Also aiming for a fall window, it got shunted back from 2018 to "early 2019", after a delay. The final launch date fell on March 27, 2019.

Starfield space pilot looks out on actual space and a 2023 calendar floating by

(Image credit: Bethesda/NASA)

History repeating

"All three games were supposed to come out in the fall, all three games came out in March the next year," KingFanMan finishes, adding, "So is March looking good for Starfield? Well we have three games as precedent."

Bethesda has been using Creation Engine since Skyrim but has moved on to Creation Engine 2 for Starfield. The transition between the two is no doubt contributing to the delay, echoing the pattern of the games KingFanMan lists off in his video.

Skyrim debuted on November 11, 2011 which Howard told IGN was a date that was "unmoveable." After internal discussions around Starfield, its initial release date "landed around there."

Howard explains that "there was a weird wrinkle in it", pointing to the US and Europe's date formats that see the day and month reversed. 

"When you're doing advertising stuff, if the day and the month are the same, you don't have to change it – which is this great added benefit! I thought it looked really cool in the trailer too, so..."

With that in mind, might we see a March 23, 2023 release? While it doesn't offer the same versatility as March 3 when it comes to marketing materials, 3.23.23 or 23.3.23 doesn't look too bad. It's a bit optimistic to hope for a release date as early as the start of the month but this seems like the next best thing is a cool string of numbers is a priority.

There's still no official word on the revised release date, but speculation around March would line up nicely with Bethesda's MO.

Shabana Arif
News Editor, TechRadar Gaming

Shabana has been writing about games for almost a decade now, as well as covering tech, politics, food, and other random tidbits at Gizmodo UK. She's stepped outside of news every now and then to write game guides, and always appreciates a DM if she's helped get you out of a pickle. During her time freelancing, you may have spotted her words at VG24/7, GamesRadar, and IGN. She's also held the position of news editor at Gizmodo UK, T3, and The Sun Online.