Elder Scrolls Online and a Shifting Market
Stephen Vinson / Nov 1st, 2012 5 Comments
With the success of the Elder Scrolls series, most notably the mega-hit Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the franchise is setting its eyes on the MMO market. Five years in the making, Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) is due for release in 2013. Occurring 1,000 years before the events in Skyrim, ESO finds itself in the familiar continent of Tamriel, only this time, three warring factions battle it out for control of the land.
Zenimax Online Studios, the developer of ESO, might have shown up a little late to the game when they announced the upcoming release of an online Elder Scrolls back in May. Despite opening to huge fanfare in December 2011, Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR), recently announced a free to play option after a mass exodus of 400,000 players. World of Warcraft (WoW), widely considered the standard of the MMO genre, also appears to be having trouble. After peaking with over 12 million players in October of 2010, WoW seems to be steadily losing subscribers. So where does this leave ESO? As the pay to play market increasingly appears to be entering its twilight years, can ESO scratch out a niche in an uncertain genre?
[adsense250itp]Luckily for Zenimax Online Studios, especially considering the record-breaking cost to develop ESO, the game has a few advantages going for it. First, the series has been around for years, allowing for the creation of a huge fan base among gamers and widespread name recognition. The Elder Scrolls’ lore, arguably one of the most extensive in the industry, is beloved by fans and serves as a perfect depository for future updates or expansions. Throughout Tamriel there exist 9 separate provinces each with its own unique race. There are the Nords in Skyrim, Imperials in Cyrodiil, Bretons and Orsimer in High Rock, Dunmer in Morrowind, Altmer in the Summerset Isles, Redguards in Hammerfell, Argonians in Black Marsh, Bosmer in Valenwood, and Khajiit in Elsweyr. If that was not enough, completely separate continents are said to exist and yes, even alternate dimensions. It is fair to say that upon its release, ESO will provide a substantial amount of area for players to discover.
Opening up the entire continent of Tamriel, ESO will let players traverse all the separate provinces instead of relegating them to one or two, such as Morrowind in Elder Scrolls III or Skyrim in Elder Scrolls V. This is good news for players, considering much of the continent has not been explored in years, if ever. Be it the island of Vvardenfell or the city of Daggerfall, all the favorites will be there. The nostalgia of revisiting beloved locations or exploring lands only previously mentioned will surely be well received by die-hard fans of the series.
It is hard to say, however, if this will be enough to entice players to commit to a pay to play system. Much of the recent success of the series has been because it was an offline MMO available on both PCs and consoles. As it attempts to make the transition to online MMO, ESO runs the risk of being perceived as just another WoW clone.
At first glance, ESO does not even look like an Elder Scrolls game. The game is in third person instead of the first person perspective that has been standard throughout the series. Why make the switch? Zenimax explained that in raid settings, players need peripheral vision when fighting large groups of enemies. Although seemingly trivial, the switch marks a significant departure from previous installments.
Many fans of the series are hesitant to embrace the online format, fearing it will indeed be another WoW knock off, just this time with Elder Scrolls stamped on the front. In a time when even WoW is struggling to retain players, it would certainly be a mistake on the part of ESO to introduce more of the same. It is hard to say whether ESO can successfully entice players to pay for monthly access. In a market that appears to be in transition, it is probably not the best time to launch yet another fantasy MMO. Yet if there is one thing Elder Scrolls has taught gamers, it is that the series has staying power. Time will tell, however, if the series can transfer its previous success to the online market.
tags: elder scrolls , Elder Scrolls Online , mmo , opinion , pc , skyrim