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Starfield player count drops below Skyrim, is the game doomed?

starfield skyrim

Recent player counts for Starfield lag behind the combined active player count of both The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and its special edition, something that could be worrying for Microsoft and the Xbox brand as a whole.

Following Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda Softworks’ parent company in 2021, expectations were high for Starfield. Though the deal bore fruits with the critically acclaimed Hi-Fi Rush in early 2023, the May release of co-op shooter Redfall was met with criticism and many negative reviews on Steam. This heightened the expectations and the stakes surrounding Starfield, with the game needing to be a game-changer for both Xbox and Bethesda.

Microsoft has previously emphasized that the acquisition of Bethesda was specifically intended to prevent titles like Starfield from skipping the Xbox platform, which happened with Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo. But when examining the statistics, it appears that Starfield may not be the transformative force that Microsoft hoped it would be.

Starfield reviews

How many people are playing Starfield?

Starfield currently averages 18,000 active players on Steam. In comparison, the regular and special editions of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on Steam have around 21,000 active players combined.

Despite a strong initial reception with a peak of 330,000 players on Steam at launch in September, Starfield’s player count has sharply declined after its release. A steep decline in the months after launch isn’t unusual for single-player games, but Starfield’s dropping below its older sibling so quickly is surprising. 

skyrim vs starfield player counts
Head-to-head player counts for Starfield and Skyrim Special Edition

Starfield incorporates procedurally generated elements including random planets and biomes to extend play time and, ideally, keep gamers returning for years. These aspects of the game have been criticized by fans and critics as one of its weakest points, with some stating that they actively avoid engaging with them. On the other hand, the 10-year-old Skyrim maintained a steady number of 20,000 to 30,000 active players even after years of its release and despite not having any procedural content.

These numbers do not include Starfield’s Xbox player count. Regardless, seeing the game decline this sharply is likely jarring for those behind the game.

What is the current count for Starfield on Xbox Series X/S?

The current player count for Starfield on Xbox Series X/S is unknown.

Starfield made a notable sales debut by securing the top position on the US charts in September 2023. It also held the seventh spot in the list of top-selling games of 2023 despite being available on Xbox Game Pass. 

These rankings suggest a considerable ownership base who might still be actively engaged with the game on the Xbox platform. Bethesda has disclosed that Starfield has reached a milestone of 10 million players two weeks after the game’s launch.

Is Starfield Game of the Year?

Starfield is not positioned to win any major Game of the Year awards, as of this writing.

Starfield was supposed to be a sure thing for Microsoft but the game has either fallen short of 2023 Game of the Year honors or not been nominated at all. The title was among 20 nominees for the Golden Joysticks’ Ultimate Game of the Year Award, but fell short to Baldur’s Gate 3. For The Game Awards, Starfield wasn’t even given a nomination for 2023 Game of the Year.

The game has been nominated for some awards, including winning Xbox Game of the Year in the Golden Joysticks.

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Written by Mohamed Hassan

Mohamed still treasures his time playing games on the original PlayStation, speedrunning through the Megaman X games and replaying acclaimed role-playing game Chrono Cross countless times. Since then, his love for JRPGs and platformers has only grown and is among the driving forces behind his passion for writing about video games.

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