The Elder Scrolls Online Developer Has a 5-Year Plan
There’s a fine line between planning ahead and getting so wrapped up in prep work that you lose sight of the present – just ask any one-hit wonder that fancied itself a franchise, before falling at the first hurdle. Yet, such is the pressure in the modern entertainment industry to churn out sequels and expansions at an ever-increasing rate, that even unreleased properties can sometimes find themselves prepping for the future.
Speaking at this year’s Gamescom event in Germany, Zenimax Online Studio‘s General Manager Matt Frior explained the reasoning behind his team’s forward thinking. Unlike conventional titles that make the vast majority of their profits at retail – with additional DLC incentives luring gamers back in later on – an MMORPG has to keep people playing consistently in order to achieve success. Part of this unusual equation involves planning ahead, to ensure that top-level gamers have enough content to keep them occupied well after the game’s main quest has been completed.
Frior believes social functionality plays an important part in maintaining gamer’s interest like this, creating an engaging sense of community that people will want to remain a part of:
“I’m going to this virtual world because I have friends there, and there’s some social pressure to log-in, I like it, I want to meet my friends there’. That’s one way to look at it, and so we have social systems built around that, all these big multiplayer games have them.”
With The Elder Scrolls Online recently being announced as a subscription-based title, the onus now falls on Zenimax to keep gamers placated over long stretches of time. The studio aims to gain control of our attention spans (and purse-strings) by dedicating itself to high quality content throughout the life of the product – a lifetime the studio believes will last for at least 5 years.
“You need to make sure there’s something for those players to do that’s new and refreshing on an ongoing basis. So […] we’re planning regular content updates and pretty substantial ones like every month to six weeks – we’re working on the actual cadence just now – but we’re already working on post-launch content.”
Zenimax certainly isn’t the only studio guilty of moving resources away from a vanilla title, and on to its eventual expansion pack. What is unusual about this case, however, is the sheer length of time the studio is taking away from main game development in order to prep post-launch DLC. While there are still many designers hard at work on the core TESO experience, some fans will feel a little short-changed by the move. With the game not expected to appear for at least another eight months, it could be that Zenimax is dabbling in dreaded day one DLC.