To say the Elder Scrolls Online launch hasn’t been pretty is a gigantic understatement. From the controversial purchase price to the lukewarm critical response it’s been a rough patch of weeks for ZeniMax Media, and it got rougher with the announcement that the console launch being delayed.
Such a decision led to eyebrows being raised towards the game and ZeniMax’s confidence in the product, and it leads to the consumer questioning if they bought what amounted to a system beta. People can jump to conclusions and it wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened, but unlike games such as Final Fantasy XIV remaking an entire large budget game is out of the question and is above all unreasonable.
Making a massive push for the console market is as much risky as the chances of a massive market left relatively untapped being theirs. The Final Fantasy MMOs have a console presence but it is a game that has found its roots overseas, with PC MMOs continuing to dominate the Western market. Releasing a game with a name like Elder Scrolls never goes poorly on consoles, with Skyrim selling 20 million copies with the majority of the purchases being for console owners. Roughly 59% of the game’s sales coming from the Xbox 360 according to Statistic Brain, and surprisingly the PS3 acting as 27% of the sales despite the numerous bugs for Sony’s console at launch. Even if the PC falls behind both systems in terms of sales, Steam consistently places it in the top 10 of all games played currently, ranking just above Dark Souls 2.
Bethesda games are never bug free at launch and things tend to become messy, yet their products remained love on the consoles where many problems can be left untreated for months or even years. It points to the console arena possibly being a much more forgiving place for the Elder Scrolls MMO, and perhaps its only place if things don’t go their way on the PC market. With the new World of Warcraft expansion around the corner, WildStar only days ahead and Final Fantasy XIV making up ground things can get very messy for ESO if the subscription fee isn’t justified in time, the lack of end game content being the primary concern. Craglorn is set to come out immediately which promises to add more end game content, but the questions remains if this will be enough for those currently playing the game to stay latched onto it. With ZeniMax not wanting to remove the payment model established already it makes each small decision matter, as the wrong one or a poor update could spell bad news for their game.
Not everyone owns a PC able to run a game like the Elder Scrolls Online well, in fact most people likely don’t. Consoles on the other hand remain a reliable and consistent machine that can look good and play relatively well, maybe not at the same performance as a gaming PC but still works at a fraction of the cost. Most Americans can get their hands on a 400 dollar PS4 or the recently reduced Xbox One sans Kinect, and the Elder Scrolls franchise remains a famous property that is recognized by anyone who has touched an Xbox in the past 10 years. If ZeniMax is able to add a wealth of end game content as well as fixing bugs with the game then a console launch could prove valuable for the struggling MMO.
After all of these years the MMO market for the PC remains a shark tank where unprepared games get torn to shreds with the help of the vocal playerbase with high expectations, perhaps too high. If things don’t go well for ESO in its current market then being as prepared as possible for the second launch is hardly a bad idea. Certainly a few people will be upset, feel as if this PC launch is an extended beta test more than anything, though it’s a risk worth taking if living game is something they’d like to have next year.