Why AMD's Exclusive Starfield Partnership Has GeForce RTX Owners Freaking Out

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Bethesda Softworks' upcoming space exploration title Starfield is one of the most-anticipated video games of all time. It's the company's first all-new role-playing game IP since the original release of The Elder Scrolls: Arena in 1994, and it's the first time Bethesda will release a game for a different IP since Fallout 3 in 2008. It boasts a wholly-unique "NASA-punk" art style and over a thousand worlds to explore in customizable spaceships.

Given that Microsoft owns Zenimax (and thus Bethesda), it's no surprise that Starfield is exclusive to Xbox consoles and Windows PCs. Likewise, Xbox systems are powered by AMD hardware for both CPU and GPU, so it's completely understandable that AMD is helping Bethesda (and thus Microsoft) with optimization for the title. However, AMD is also apparently sponsoring the game on PCs, and that's caused some consternation with PC gamers.

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Here's the short version: AMD put out a video on its YouTube channel yesterday that promotes the partnership between the house of Ryzen and Radeon and the house that Elder Scrolls built. It strongly emphasizes that AMD is helping to optimize Starfield for its own many-core CPUs and graphics processors, and specifically mentions AMD's own FidelityFX Super Resolution 2 spatio-temporal upscaling technique.

The thing is, this comes just days after an investigation by our colleagues at WCCFTech who noted that there's a trend of AMD-sponsored video games lacking support for competitor NVIDIA's DLSS technology. Indeed, if you look at the titles that launched with AMD CPU or GPU bundles, a fair few of them had FSR support on or shortly-after launch, yet lack DLSS support to this day. This is particularly jarring given that if a title supports FSR2, implementing DLSS is a very trivial task—so much so, in fact, that modders have been able to do it themselves.

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We might simply attribute this to a focus on console development, where DLSS can't be used, but when site asked about the trend, AMD's response was evasive and didn't outright deny that it was preventing its partners from implementing DLSS. NVIDIA's response to the same query flat-out stated that it does not "block, restrict, discourage, or hinder developers" that wish to implement competitor technologies, which is a stark contrast to the public image of Team Green as a ruthless competitor and Team Red as the scrappy upstart.

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Anyway, the point is, it doesn't take a genius to put two and two together: Starfield is sponsored by AMD to the point that Todd Howard says "we have AMD engineers in our codebase." It will ship with support for AMD's FSR 2, and will almost assuredly miss NVIDIA's DLSS and Intel's XeSS technologies at least at launch, if not altogether. This is a bummer for NVIDIA GPU users, because DLSS offers better performance and arguably better image quality for folks with GeForce RTX graphics cards.

Even more than that, it's especially a bummer seeing how great DLSS 3 frame generation has become in games like Hogwarts Legacy and Cyberpunk 2077 after months of patches, driver updates, and even firmware updates. Judging by Bethesda's previous games all the way up to Fallout 76, we think Starfield is very likely to be heavily CPU-bound for a majority of users, and frame generation could work around that to some degree.


Of course, AMD has its own frame generation technology, in theory. The company announced FSR 3 with frame generation alongside the launch of the Radeon RX 7900 series graphics cards last November, but it has been conspicuously absent from any sort of corporate messaging ever since. Starfield would be a fantastic place to showcase the technology for the first time, and AMD's Jack Huynh does say that the company is working to optimize the game specifically for its Radeon RX 7000-series graphics cards.

On the other hand, Todd Howard specifically says "FSR 2" when talking about the technologies that AMD is implementing for Bethesda in Starfield. In that light, it seems unlikely to us that we'll hear anything about FSR 3 before Bethesda's new game launches in September.