It’s no secret that The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is coming to a console near you this June. Originally slated to come out last June, the Xbox One and PS4 version of ESO was delayed to make the game better, as well as to focus on many of the systems that are currently in the PC and Mac versions.
But does the game — a year removed from its computer counterpart — really belong on console?
Console Has History
The Elder Scrolls series began as a PC game when Arena launched in 1994. Since then, all of the subsequent titles have hit the PC platform, though when The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was released, it also made its way to the newly created Xbox. It was a hit, with many fans still seeing the entry in the Dunmer homeland as one of the series best. When The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion came to Xbox 360 and PC in March 2006, with the PS3 port by 4J Studios releasing a year later, many fans, including yours truly, played the game to death on console.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has sold over 20 million copies across the 360, PS3 and PC. Twenty million fans have been able to explore the frozen wastes of northern Tamriel, and with the advent of The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited upon us, many of those console fans will be able to explore not only Skyrim, but many other areas never before seen on console. PC players have had a chance to explore those areas in Arena, but for someone who bought Oblivion on 360 and then Skyrim right after it, they’ve never experienced the sands of Daggerfall, the beauty of the Summerset Isles, or the mountains of High Rock. With ESO coming to console, they can.
Many fans of the series have always known The Elder Scrolls on console, and for some the experience has stuck with them. A lot of players get attached to the experiences they’ve had and associate it with the platform they’ve played it on. So for a lot of people looking forward to The Elder Scrolls Online, console was always the way they were going to go, especially since it was announced at E3 2012.
Exclusivity Helps No One
Exclusivity in video games is a much-maligned term, and for good reason. Many players choose the platform they play on based on the exclusives they have to offer. But cross platform exclusivity is something many fans, regardless of platform, praise. While in recent years, The Elder Scrolls series has enjoyed some timed exclusivity with Xbox 360, in that all of the Skyrim DLC launched first on Microsoft’s platform (and for Playstation fans, it took ages to get to them even after the exclusive period was up). Making The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited exclusive to PC and Mac helps no one. It doesn’t help Zenimax, and it certainly doesn’t help the legions of console players eagerly awaiting this release.
Zenimax would be leaving a lot of potential revenue on the table by making Elder Scrolls Online exclusive only to computers. By opening up the game and developing it for Xbox One and PS4, they add two more revenue streams for not only game purchases, but crown store purchases as well. Economics aside, gamers win by being able to play a game that has been awaited for quite some time.
In addition, it just continues to add to the people contributing to the Elder Scrolls Online community. Podcasts, streams, events, fan fiction — those will all be creations that will be injected into the game’s online atmosphere in addition to what is already being created by current PC/Mac users. The Elder Scrolls series has more that 28,000 wiki pages — more than The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Harry Potter combined. By continuing console gamer’s interaction with the world, this time with all of Tamriel currently available, you continue to create an influx of player-made content, which makes the world of Nirn even more rich and beautiful to those who inhabit it.
While the cost of PC gaming has significantly reduced in recent years, many fans still cling to prior gameplay experiences. For some, the world of Tamriel will be a place they only go to on their console. The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is a perfect fit for this. And for those who still play on PC but would rather have the console experience, Zenimax did confirm in a recent Reddit AUA that the team is looking into adding native gamepad support to the computer version. So you can plug your PC into your TV and relax on the couch and enjoy The Elder Scrolls Online like your console brethren. The great thing about the way the development has gone is that none of the versions will be hampered by the other. PC is able to shine in 4K, 60 frames-per-second glory for some fans, and the Xbox One and PS4 versions of The Elder Scrolls Online will showcase and take advantage of their specific hardware capabilities. In the end, that makes for better gameplay experiences for everyone involved.
I’ll never forget the first time I walked from Helgen to Riverwood in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on Xbox 360. I was blown away by the surrounding forests, rivers, and mountains, marveling at how something like this could fully immerse me. It’s an experience I’ve never forgotten and still hold the 360 version of Skyrim in my mind as one of my favorite gaming moments. Hopefully The Elder Scrolls Online can illicit similar responses from those playing on Xbox One and PS4. And thanks to Zenimax, all Elder Scrolls Online players will be given that chance.
[Images and sales stats via Zenimax Online Studios]