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MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 04/04/14)  | Pub:Bethesda Softworks
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Elder Scrolls Online Column: Bringing In The Non-MMO Gamer

By William Murphy on September 24, 2013

Elder Scrolls Online has a lot riding on its success. There's no denying that much. They're definitely aiming at the MMO gamer, but chances are they're hoping a fair few of their existing Skyrim-based audience hopes into ESO as well. This week, we're taking a quick look at a few reasons why Elder Scrolls Online might be targeting the non-MMO gamer as well as the traditional DKP-learned types. Read on and then be sure to offer your input in the comments!

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The Skyrim Design

One of the biggest hints towards ESO's broader targeted appeal is in how closely it's positioning itself to be the successor to Skyrim: the Elder Scrolls game that broke the series into the gamer mainstream culture with "arrow to the knee". Perhaps if Skyrim had never happened, there wouldn't be as much angst and speculation surrounding ESO's release. But the fact is, Skyrim catapulted this series into the mainstream gaming consciousness and there's no denying that a lot of Elder Scrolls fans will pick up the title based purely on the namesake alone.  

It makes sense then that ZOS would be trying hard to get ESO as close to the Elder Scrolls V experience as they can without sacrificing the MMO experience and core three-faction PVP design the team began with years ago.  They need to make an MMO that at once has all the features MMO gamers have come to expect, but also all the features an Elder Scrolls fan wants: exploration based questing, tightly scripted encounters, lootable everything, deep crafting, very flexible character development, and on and on. 

So far, it seems like Zenimax is hitting all the right notes here.

The Console Versions

A large part of Oblivion and Skyrim's massive audiences came from the Playstation and Xbox 360 crowds. Let's be honest, though the modded versions on the PC were clearly the all-around better editions, the install-base of the home consoles were enough to tip Skyrim's sales over 10 million (with more than 50% of the sales being for the Xbox 360).  So you have 10 mln people, with over 5 mln Xbox gamers, waiting and hoping for a new adventure in the Elder Scrolls world.  

Enter: Elder Scrolls Online.  The development delay of ESO until next year might not be because of the console versions (I believe ZOS when they say they just want more time to get more content into the game and polished before launch).  But what launching ESO on the next gen consoles(probably in Spring as well) does mean is that Zenimax is getting their MMO in front of a very big built in user-base hungry for a new adventure.  Their only real hurdle beyond selling a ton of boxes (because they will sell millions within days of launch) will be getting these console gamers to sign up for a subscription of $15 a month. Categorically, only FFXI has done that with success. But if there's another IP riding high enough to do so, it's probably Elder Scrolls.

Freedom

Yep, you're going to need healers and tanks and the like to participate in group content for ESO, but every class and every player can fill any role merely by swapping out their gear. I personally believe that this freedom of character development, along with the simplified "shooter-esque" controls that rely less on UI and more on reflexes will entice a lot of non-MMO gamers to dig deep into ESO if they take the leap and buy the game based on their Skyrim experiences.

What about you? Do you think I'm riding the crazy train with this notion, or is ESO perfectly poised to target quite a few atypical MMO gamers?  Let us know in the comments!

Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He really thinks the Skyrim fans will like ESO, even if they don't know it yet. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy

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