Friday, May 4, 2012

Elder Scrolls MMO? Way to kill your brand, Bethesda

The big news in the gaming industry this week has been, of course, the unveiling that the next Elder Scrolls game will be an online MMO.

I already expressed my frustration with that idea when it was just a rumour, but given that it’s all official now I’d like to jump back up on my soapbox for a moment to make a broader argument: enough with the MMOs already.

I get why developers and publishers like the idea of an MMO, I really do. They see the popularity (and the dollars) of World of Warcraft and want a piece of the pie for themselves. They see the numbers; the raw hours people spend in a good MMO and realise that it’s the perfect branding exercise for building communities around popular game properties.

And so we have Warhammer, Conan, Final Fantasy, Dungeons & Dragons, Lord of the Rings and a host of other MMOs based on licenses. Now Elder Scrolls too.

But here’s the secret, guys: you can’t out World of Warcraft World of Warcraft. It’s silly to even try. That game has a what, 10 year head start on any new MMO? Here’s my ultimate concern with the idea of an Elder Scrolls MMO: The Elder Scrolls games have always been premium quality. The best possible games in the genre that developers can make. The Elder Scrolls MMO will not be that.

I’ve got no doubts it will be an OK game. It’s being directed by the guy behind the eternally decent Dark Age of Camelot. It’ll find a community of fans. I’ve got no doubts about that. I also don’t think it will replace World of Warcraft, League of Legends, Starcraft or any other online game as the king of owning people’s time. And in doing so it’s going to be a shadow, when it’s a series that’s used to casting the shadows.

That doesn’t help your brand, Bethesda. It dilutes it. And for what? To cave into the idea that games have to have multiplayer to be worthwhile now?

I would have been ok with the idea of a Journey/ Dark Souls style multiplayer, where there are real people about, but interaction is limited to extending the single player experience, rather than replacing it. As it stands though, I can’t help but be disappointed that yet another bastion of single player quality has been let go in a bid to chase after money that’s not really there.

Congratulations, Bethesda, you’re about to, for the first time, have real competition. Those bugs you’re so good at throwing into your games are going to kill you.

Time to open up the comments section to civil and rational debate. Do you think Elder Scrolls MMO can knock World of Warcraft off the top spot?
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