Why Release on Consoles?

While there was plenty of huge news at E3 last week, one of the most interesting announcements was surely Bethesda’s decision to bring The Elder Scrolls Online to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. After the announcement, we sat down with Bethesda VP of PR and marketing Pete Hines to ask how he expects the MMO to transition from PC and why he thinks it will appeal to console gamers.

“There was a time a long time ago when everybody told us that Morrowind was never going to work on the Xbox, that that audience did not get those kinds of games, that they were too complicated and too big. Then Morrowind sold like gangbusters,” Hines told IGN. “Then they told us that you can’t release a game in May, it will never sell. We released a game you’re not supposed to do on a console in a month when you’re not supposed to release it, and it killed. Then we did Oblivion, and it did really well on two platforms. Skyrim, obviously, tore it up. I’m not allowed to give the number, but there are just insane numbers of people that have played Skyrim on the current generation of those platforms.”

You’re not doing keyboard and mouse on a PS4, but otherwise the game experience should look and feel and play exactly the same.

“Obviously nobody’s played it on PS4, but there are tons of people out there who know Skyrim, who know the Elder Scrolls games and know what that’s like,” Hines continued. “The thing that we like is that when people are coming to play Elder Scrolls Online, they say, ‘I just felt like I was playing an Elder Scrolls game. The MMO part didn’t hit me in the face. The controls are the same and it feels and looks similar. I’m just going out and exploring and finding stuff to do.’”

“We think that if we make a game that hits all those same kinds of notes – if you like this about Skyrim, Elder Scrolls Online does all these things, and then there’s the chance to play with your friends and giant PvP battles and all this other stuff that we can do – that is going to find an audience on those platforms like it did with Skyrim. I can’t give an exact number, again, but I do think that there is a large number of people who really like Skyrim. They want more of that. If they can do more of that and play with their friends, that’s a win.”

Given Skyrim’s troubled history on PlayStation 3, we asked Hines if the decision to make The Elder Scrolls Online’s beta available first on PS4 was an olive branch to PlayStation gamers.

If we had to make changes to the game that these guys are envisioning to get it out on consoles, that’s not something we would be doing.

“It wasn’t intended that way,” Hines told us. “It was more just that when we were talking to the Sony guys, they were super excited about what we’re doing and what we can do together. They wanted to be big part of this. There’s been a big culture change at Sony. The folks that are there now, that we work with, are not the folks that we were working with a year or two ago. Guys like Adam Boyes and the team that he’s put together on the third-party side – which is who we interact with – I think are being super proactive at reaching out to us. They’re saying, ‘we love your games. I played Skyrim for 200 hours. I want to do more with you guys. What do you have going on?’ Honestly, Adam was like, ‘when can I come out and see everything that you’re making? I want to see everything you’re doing.’ Nobody had ever asked us that before. So just that dynamic is a little different.”

“It’s obviously a very different game,” Hines continued. “It isn’t any easier to do on a console, it’s just different. The issue is with an open world game, you can pick up every single object in a game and take cheese wheels and throw them down a hill. We have to keep track of all that. It’s very different compared to an MMO, where you have freedom, but it’s not that same insane level of freedom, where every single object in the world is modeled and physicked and movable. If you did that in an MMO, literally two seconds after you launch, it’s just insanity. Everybody starts knocking everything over, all over the world. So it’s scaled back from that standpoint, to allow the freedom of, ‘oh, there’s lots of people in the world that I can play with,’ and all that stuff.”

Hines also addressed whether or not the game will retain a full feature set on consoles. Has anything been cut compared to PC?

“If we had to make changes to the game that these guys are envisioning to get it out on consoles, that’s not something we would be doing,” Hines said. “But we feel like, as it is, right now, obviously the controls have to work differently because you’re not doing keyboard and mouse on a PS4, but otherwise the game experience should look and feel and play exactly the same. So why not put it out on those things? If we could do it on 360, we would probably be having that conversation, but it’s different. It’s not exactly the same. The ones that support it as envisioned are the ones that we’re putting it out for.”

Look out for much more from our conversation with Hines in the days to come. Until then, read our hands-on impressions of the PC version and find more in our The Elder Scrolls Online wiki.

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