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Elder Scrolls Online and a Shifting Market

/ Nov 1st, 2012 5 Comments

Elder Scroll's Online
Elder Scroll's Online

Elder Scrolls Online

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.

Elder Scroll's Online

Elder Scrolls Online

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.

Stephen Vinson

Stephen Vinson

Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Stephen is a contributor to Gaming Illustrated and part of the editorial team. He regularly reads game reviews, keeps up with gaming trends, and follow news stories about the latest game or console rumor.
Stephen Vinson
Stephen Vinson

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5 responses to “Elder Scrolls Online and a Shifting Market”

  1. John says:

    I think it will be viewed as another WoW clone and will end the way so many have: Pay/Month -> F2P -> Shutdown.

    Arguably the biggest “staying” power of TES is not the core game nor the DLCs, but is instead its moddabilty. Online games, even WoW, allow some level of modding, but not new content creation, new weapons, godlike abilities (yes, kind of breaks the game, but hey don’t we all want to squash everything in our path after a particularly heinous day at the office?).

    I fear this loss of gamers’ ability to fully customize the game will eventually lead to its downfall. Not to mention the fact that right now if a skill is overpowered and you don’t like it that way, hey don’t use it; but in online-land if a skill is OP you either use it or lose and eventually the nerf-bat incometh.

    • renigade says:

      thats right u think…

      i already know wow(mop) players looking for a game to leave for…

      the games cartoon aspect…

      dieing story line…


      never eva eva eva eva eva eva ENDING BUGS and breaking of the characters playability! IN ALL FORMS OF THE GAME! everytime they decide to change something!


      and the have to daily grinding for basic crap we all can obtain…

      the fact that most gamers have had at 1 stage a taste of an elder scrolls game… the only thing we eva wanted was to play with others…

      mape size…content, just u and a screen… no real competition!

      online players are competitive…

      we want stimulation!

      new maps and the intensive hands on game play… will do this…


      CANT WAIT…

      wow will be a memory… like altered beast


  2. Michael Pare says:

    Actually, Elder Scrolls Online looks very promising. It’s introducing a very new kind of combat. Also, the game does have first person, along with third person. You can also put your character to the side of the screen if you wish. The mobs aren’t your standard mobs that will run at you and attack. Mobs will work together to defeat you. They will analyze who is in the area and will re-act with each other.
    Here, this is an Alpha review:

  3. Mattias says:


    I wouldn’t even say the staying power is the mods, or the god like abilities. Personally I think it is the lore, the history and the quality of sound, music, sound effects and the things that inhabit the world that give TES its staying power. Nothing can beat exploration where you can decide where and when to go.

    I can see the MMO being very restrictive, especially when it comes to skills, locations and quests.

  4. Rouge77 says:

    The game will have also a first-person view at launch; whether hands will be shown is up in the air.

    The flow of F2P garbage probably means that TESO should take B2P hybrid model instead of pure P2P. Buy the box and then pay the subscription or use microtransactions instead.

    One thing going for the game is that it’s an RP-RvR game at heart and on that front there’s not much competition at the moment.

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