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The Elder Scrolls Online launched on PC in 2014, but the release wasn’t as smooth or as successful as developer ZeniMax Online Studios might have wanted. Just a year after release, ZeniMax announced that the game would drop its mandatory subscription requirement and launch a console version to help turn things around.
It worked. The game is in a much better place today, with a reported 13.5 million people signing up to play the game to date. Creative director Rich Lambert, who has worked on the game for 12 years, said in an appearance in the GameSpot Theatre today at PAX Aus that ZeniMax is planning to continue supporting ESO for a long time.
Speaking during a panel regarding the games-as-a-service model, Lambert said change is “core” to the experience of a games-as-a-service title. “With single-player games, you release a game and essentially you’re done,” Lambert said. But with an MMO like ESO, continuing to support and update the game and support and embrace the community is paramount to finding success.
Lambert did not offer any specifics on ESO’s content plans for 2020 and beyond, however.
Also during the panel, Lambert spoke about the importance–and the challenges related to–being transparent and communicative with fans in the development process. Lambert said one challenge is that fans can sometimes take a developer’s comments as “gospel” and expect that big changes will be released quickly. But game development can be a lengthy process with numerous behind-the-scenes challenges.
“We f**k up, we make mistakes, we get it wrong sometimes,” Lambert said. “It’s hard to admit you get it wrong. The community will always tell you when you get it wrong.”
ESO is considered a comeback story not unlike Warframe in that it launched to a middling reception before growing to become more successful over time. Lambert recalled that ESO “wasn’t the game people wanted” at release in 2014. The studio worked hard as a group to turn things around with the Tamriel Unlimited update and the console release, he said. “It was hard,” Lambert recalled.
Another important milestone for ESO was the release of the One Tamriel update in 2016. Lambert pointed out that this major update helped improve the accessibility of ESO and draw in new players. The update drops a number of gates that restricted access to some content for some players. This changed with the One Tamriel update, and it helped further fulfil the Elder Scrolls fantasy of being able to go anywhere and do anything, Lambert said.
PAX Aus runs October 11-13 in Melbourne, and GameSpot is on hand at the show all weekend to bring you news and further coverage. For more, check out a rundown of all the panels in the GameSpot Theatre.