As it turns out, Bethesda's Starfield was this close to being exclusive to the PlayStation 5.
In notes from Kotaku's Ethan Gach on the Microsoft v. FTC case, Xbox Game Studios CEO Phil Spencer revealed one of the reasons Microsoft pursued Bethesda (through its parent company ZeniMax) back in 2020 was to actively keep that from happening.
Why do it? Spencer felt that Xbox had to do whatever it could "against the market leader...[and] remain viable in the business."
He added that by that point, Sony had paid Bethesda to make Arkane's Deathloop and Tango Gameworks' Ghostwire Tokyo into PlayStation 5 exclusives (until they weren't), and was prepared to go three for three. "We can't be in a position as a third place console where we're farther behind," explained Spencer.
As noted by IGN, there were rumblings of Starfield being a timed PS5 exclusive just months months before the Microsoft acquisition in 2020, so it isn't too surprising to hear that Microsoft made that move in order to prevent three games in a row from being exclusive to Sony for a year or more a piece.
Sony and Microsoft are two sides of the same exclusive coin
Beyond Bethesda, Sony has made controversial moves in the past to keep certain games locked away from Microsoft. One of the biggest is Square Enix's Final Fantasy 7 Remake, which has released on PC, but not Xbox consoles. It's expected that 2024's Final Fantasy VII Rebirth will follow suit.
Before the release of Marvel's Avengers in 2020, it was also revealed that Spider-Man would be a DLC character exclusive solely to PlayStation consoles.
Offhandedly, Spencer confirmed during his testimony that Sony enacted a similar deal for Square Enix's Final Fantasy XVI, which released earlier this week as a heavily touted PS5 exclusive.
Exclusives are the blood of all consoles, and Microsoft has responded to Sony's business tactics in kind. Not only is Starfield not coming to PlayStation (possibly ever), Microsoft has actively killed PS5 versions of Arkane's Redfall and MachineGames' Indiana Jones game. It may also do the same for The Elder Scrolls 6 and The Outer Worlds 2.
It isn't surprising to hear that both major companies are engaging in the same anticompetitive methods, but it is something to see them both try to paint the other as being guilty of the thing they've each actively done multiple times.
Whoa!— AmericanTruckSongs9 (@ethangach) June 23, 2023
Phil Spencer says one motivation for buying Bethesda was Sony in talks to make Starfield a PS5 exclusive: pic.twitter.com/2tZEOTWJLJ