E3 2021: Xbox and Bethesda finally unveil release date for ‘Starfield’

E3 2021 rolled into its second day Sunday with Microsoft and Bethesda making their highly anticipated joint showcase debut, nine months after their $7.5 billion acquisition deal was announced.

Bethesda, maker of the critically acclaimed “Elder Scrolls,” “Fallout” and “Doom” gaming franchises, was one of the largest privately held video game developers on the planet before merging with Microsoft’s Xbox Gaming Studios earlier this year.

The combined entities finally revealed a date for the long-awaited release of Bethesda’s “Starfield” roll playing space odyssey game, which the developer announced almost three years ago. Xbox opened its showcase with extended footage of Starfield, but the game won’t be available to play until November 2022.

Xbox also unveiled a new release date for “Halo Infinite.” The latest entry in the popular “Halo” gaming franchise was supposed to go on sale when the Xbox Series X made its debut in November, but the release was delayed back in August.

The company confirmed “Halo Infinite” will hit store shelves during the holiday season later this year and will include a free multiplayer mode.

Gamers also got a preview of “Stalker 2: Heart of Chernobyl.” The first-person shooter set in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The game is set to debut in April 2022.

Next came “Back 4 Blood,” a zombie apocalypse-themed, online co-op game, which will hit stores October 12.

“Party Animals” a unique, physics-based multiplayer game in which cute furry animals duke it out with each other, is set to go on sale some time next year.

Another standout was “Forza Horizon 5.” The open-world racing game is set to go on sale in November.

The studio previewed updates to “Fallout 76,” Bethesda’s dystopian online action RPG, which was originally released in 2018.

Xbox players on Twitter were disappointed the company didn’t release any details on “Elder Scrolls 6“, the newest installment in the “Skyrim” series, which Bethesda announced in 2018.

Many of the new titles were unveiled as Xbox exclusives. The company also emphasized the games it previewed will be available on Xbox Game Pass, the Netflix-style monthly subscription service that gives users access to a catalog of more than 100 games.

Experts praised the showcase for previewing so many games exclusively available on Xbox, saying it will make the company more competitive with Sony’s Playstation 5.

“I think it was pretty much what Xbox needed right now,” GameStop Managing Editor Tamoor Hussain said during the company’s E3 webcast following the Xbox showcase.

Square Enix, maker of the popular “Final Fantasy” franchise, is set to begin its showcase Sunday afternoon. The Tokyo-based gaming conglomerate has said it will unveil several new titles set to go on sale later this year and next including a yet-to-be named new game from developer Eidos Montreal. Updates on Platinum Games’ “Babylon’s Fall” and new footage from “Life is Strange: True Colors” and “Life is Strange: Remastered Collection” are also expected.

On day one of E3 2021 Nintendo and Ubisoft gave fans a look at “Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope,” the pair’s latest gaming collaboration. Ubisoft North America says the RPG will go on sale some time next year.

Rumors of a new Nintendo Switch gaming platform also began to swirl on Saturday after GameStop reportedly released an ad referencing a Switch promotion set to begin on Sunday, according to Forbes. GameStop and Nintendo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.