My two cents about Elder Scrolls Online

It is quite apparent to me that the making of Elder Scrolls Online is yet another of the many franchise-milking schemes done these days, borne out of the success of former titles combined with a certain confidence that even an act such as this would not be enough to harm sales of future better titles.

The obvious thing to do when a game series is exceptionally successful is to look at what it is that makes it so successful and then perpetuate and emphasize it. This is why they should have looked at Skyrim and turned it into an MMO, instead of taking a distinctly generic MMO construct and give it an Elder Scrolls paint job.

It seems that people too involved in the business side of things are under the impression that a name and theme are what is exciting, when in fact those are mere labels and shapes, and the actual content, execution and delivery are what fills those with content, with character, with depth and meaning.

When a game is offered for the price of 50 EUR, with a whopping 80 EUR for getting a game that is not reduced in certain features (more on this later) AND an additional significant monthly fee, one should expect top notch, greatness. This contributes to the disappointment. Believing something will be great does nothing if it isn’t actually great.

And believing that adding familiar places, characters, names, themes would do the job is as naive and superficial as believing that stuffing plenty of pop culture references into a game is enough to make it good.

And about the two editions of the game: In the still full-priced-level game version for 50 EUR, you cannot play the Imperial race. That feature is very desirable for many Elder Scrolls fans, and it seems Bethesda knows this. But how they deal with that knowledge draws the picture: True fans would very much want to get the special edition, out of sincere passion. But when Bethesda decides to take this away from the regular edition, they are sending a message of lack of confidence in their own product, as if they knew fans would be relatively disappointed, thus they decided to apply this form of marketing coersion. (The feature, AFAIK, is also available for purchase as an extra, which still increases the price, thus you cannot say you actually get the full product for 50 EUR.)
Fear really makes stupid, and sadly there are various examples where an outstanding success is not honored as a fortunate occurence, but instead treated from an attitude of fear, trying to squeeze every bit of profit out of it.
This much meddling from marketing spoils the experience.
Not too surprising though: When there is no incentive, there is no reason for people to change their attitude away from fear towards love.
This is maybe why indie games are so popular: Only when you don’t have the conventional business structure where accounting has priority over the creative department can true passion be fully reflected in the product and unfold itself.
It would boggle your mind how different products would be in a world where there was no ‘need’ to put business first. Of course these things are to some degree a result of increasingly difficult times economy-wise. But that is no excuse when you see how those businesses that do great in this environment are also very likely to mess things up that way; because of the corrupting effect of the money game.
If someone operates on a mindset of scarcity, lusting for more and ever more, then, without a profound event that changes that, giving them abundance will only feed their fear of scarcity.

Combine the case of ESO with the fact that a good part of the success of games like Skyrim was the fact that the community, unlike the dev in true passion, were willing to develop mods and improvements and sadly out of necessity even bugfixes – for free, spending their time and effort and in turn actually helping Bethesda’s business success. I doubt that the beancounters and deciders can actually appreciate that. They probably just consider the idea to allow mods a smart business move and pat their own shoulders for it, which dehumanizes the people without whom their business would not be a success in the first place.

You see what happens when money rules in politics. … The same effect works in many areas, including game development.
And at least as long as there is no guaranteed basic income for everybody, fear will continue to leave its mark in those areas.

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