With E3 behind us and the hot news starting to cool down, we’re now able to absorb the information we’ve been given. The biggest and most talked about topic right now is the announcement that The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) will be releasing on both the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One in spring of 2014. I was shocked and the community was in an uproar, but should we be scared of this new information?
I didn’t feel it would hurt the PC community at all. A lot of people felt that the push to console would cause the PC version to suffer with simplified game play, controls, and even lower graphics. My reply to this statement hasn’t changed: ESO is being designed to play on a five-year-old PC, and the technology in the next-gen consoles are well above those that were the “average PC spec” five years ago. So graphics won’t have any variation from PC to console. So what about game play, surely that’ll change. The overall game play will be the same, the story, the quests, the game itself will be identical. How you interact with the game itself will be different, the user interface and how you select items will be adjust to work with a console because you do not have the freedom with a controller as you do a mouse and keyboard.
None of those are any major concern for me, my concern is population. Typically MMORPGs have been released solely on PC, with recent introduction to consoles with Dust512. Will the release to consoles lower the population within Tamriel for the PC/Mac players? Those who will be playing on PC do so because they either played Skyrim on PC and enjoyed it, or are MMO Gamers who already play on the PC. We’re going to forget about the MMO Gamer for now and focus strictly on the Elder Scrolls fan base. Prior to this announcement of the console release, anyone who enjoyed playing Skyrim on the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 would have had to purchase ESO for the PC in order to enjoy the world of Tamriel once more. This would have increased the overall population in ESO, but now with ESO being released on consoles what will happen?
Let’s look at some numbers.(source)
Skyrim sold over 6.7 million copies (retail excluding digital copies) since its release in 2011. Remember Skyrim was also released for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC and shortly after the launch the Mac version. In an ideal world that would mean ~2.2 million copies were sold for all 3 platforms. Too bad this isn’t an ideal world, eh? The Playstation 3 copy sold ~1.8 Million, the Xbox 360 sold ~4.0 million copies, that leaves us PC gamers with ~900,000 copies sold. As you can see PC copies are drastically lower than the console versions
Even still, 900,000 is a lot of people isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, MMOs do survive with less. Look at Dark Age of Camelot, a game that was released just as the MMO genre was starting to take off and it had no more than 250,000 people at its peak and people are still playing the game. A population base of 900,000 might still be a lot, but World of Warcraft had over 12 million subscribers worldwide. Yet there were times when I would log into WoW and no one would be around, the world appeared empty and alone. I know Elder Scrolls Online will have the “Megaserver” and unfortunately we do not know a lot about how they plan to set these up. They might have the ability to actively monitor the population and shuffle people around to proper “layers” and ensure the world is populated, but if it doesn’t, logging into an empty world would still be possible. There is nothing worse than playing a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game that is designed to be social and being completely alone.
As I said, I’m not against the decision to put Elder Scrolls Online on the consoles. I am concerned about the population, the social aspect that comes with playing with people. It is why we play an MMO, to play with people. Some of you might be thinking, the MMO Gamers will be playing ESO on PC so that will help the numbers. Of course it will, but also how many of those MMO gamers purchased their copy of Elder Scrolls on Xbox 360 or Playstation 3? Will they stay with the PC solely because it is familiar ground for them when it comes to MMOs, or will they switch to the console because that is where they enjoyed the Elder Scrolls in the past?
What do you think? Do you think these statistics say anything about the possible low population in comparison to the console versions? Which platform will you be playing on?
Pete Hines (VP of PR and Marketing at Bethesda) replied to my tweet about this article. I know the above numbers are not 100% current, Skyrim has sold well over 6.7 million copies thus far. What the numbers do show is that Xbox was by far the most popular version of the game to be purchased via retail outlets and could possibly trump the PC market for ESO. Perhaps this article will get Pete Hines to release some official numbers. I would love to see this article be proven incorrect and my worry of ESO (PC version) being under populated in comparison to its counter parts.