Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
What is the state of The Elder Scrolls Online?

Today I had a mail from IGN in my mailbox, who did a review of The Elder Scrolls Online and gave it a not really great score of 78. That is the day after reading the PC Gamer review which gave TESO a 68. A look at Metacritic reveals a familiar story: A bunch of reviews from release day giving the game high-ish scores around 90. And then reviews with lower scores trickling in over the three weeks since. Average score thus trending downwards, currently at 78, which is less than stellar.

I wonder if the actual players show a similar trend. I have no idea how many copies The Elder Scrolls Online sold, apparently Zenimax only published how many people signed up for the free beta. That is borderline misleading, because obviously not everybody interested in a free beta will then want to pay the price of a full game plus a $15 a month subscription. I would be really interested to know the actual sales up to now. The only data I have is the very imprecise Xfire score compiled by the Nosy Gamer, which shows TESO being played less than SWTOR or FFXIV, and only slightly more than Aion.

Now in the MMORPG blogosphere there is frequently talk of the "three-monther" MMORPG. Many triple-A MMORPGs post-WoW have lost the majority of their initial players in the first three months. But personally I believe that over half of that three-month loss happens at the end of the first month, because that is the first time where a player has to decide whether he actually wants to pay a subscription for the game he is playing. Now I've read some stories about accounting irregularities with TESO, where basically you couldn't play your free month if you didn't have $15 on your credit card. All game companies are trying to force you to sign up for a subscription, so usually you need to subscribe and then actively unsubscribe before the free month ends if you don't want to pay any subscription fee. But the end of the first month still remains a rather important milestone. Too bad that as we don't even know initial sales, it is unlikely that Zenimax will reveal how many players they lost after one or three months.

In the specific case of The Elder Scrolls Online there will be another important milestone after two months: The Wildstar headstart begins May 31st. It is inevitable that *some* players will decide to switch from TESO to Wildstar, but very hard to predict how many that will be. Warlords of Draenor will probably be too late in the year to really make a big dent into TESO player numbers any more.

Up to now I have no data which would suggest that The Elder Scrolls Online has better than mediocre success. But if somebody has data that suggest otherwise, I would be very happy to hear them. From what you know, how is The Elder Scrolls Online doing?

I'm not sure Xfire is a great metric anymore (but then what is).

Although I am enjoying TESO quite a bit, I can see all the wheels in motion already for the "hardcore three month MMOer burnout" in full swing. My only goal is to get my own enjoyment out of the game before it inevitably degrades to another freemium F2P catastrophe.
I feel the same - even though I still play TESO.
My biggest complaint is that multiplayer combat is too fast. It's one of those instances where I absolutely prefer a less immersive, almost static, slow classic-WoW combat.

I guess I'm just a fan of slow tab-targeting while watching the battlefield and considering my tactical options.
I would say things are going pretty well honestly. Raptr doesn't seem to be updating but as of 2 days ago I had put in 115 hours and was at level 35, pretty far from the end of content. We've had our largest video game launch in the history of my guild. When we flow into a new game we normally have 40-60 players depending on the popularity of the game. After the initial drop-off that leaves us about half of whatever we went into the game with. In Elder Scrolls Online we are currently sitting at 123 players as of an invite last night, and new folks keep firing up the game and trickling in each week. So if you figure the same 50% drop-off that would still leave us around 60 players which is a pretty good place to be with an MMO guild.

I had tested the game since Feb 2013, and I am still finding it enjoyable and engaging. There are plenty of naysayers but the view from the trenches seems to be pretty good.
I'm enjoying it a lot. The "MMO Spread" has seemed to happen so I am seeing fewer people about now, but I still see quite a few and the cave dungeons always seem to have a ton of people running around in them (I think there are fewer 'phases' of the dungeons, though, which concentrates the players in them perhaps?). I'm also splitting my time between 4 characters though, so as the people who focused on a single character are advancing, I'm bringing up the rear a bit. Or playing with other people's alts when I get into groups.

Either way, I'm having a blast with it and I've signed up for a 3 month sub for after the 30-day free period is up. Where I'll be at the end of that 3 months is anyone's guess, but for now I'm willing to "commit" for that long.
I finally settled into a character and leveling, which took me 3 weeks to decide. I appreciate ESO's wealth of new systems and mechanics as well as the beautiful world and solid quest design.

ESO's megaserver design makes judging the health of the game difficult. The world remains busy, you can find a group to do anything you want anytime. There will never be talk of deserted zones. The three guilds I joined in early access have continued to grow and are active, which tells me people are still playing the game.

The real test will be when the subscription kicks in. ESO appears to be a polarizing game: you love it or hate it. I love's an adult world with just enough reflex based combat to make me engaged and not feel too old.
Considering the timezone in which I play, I'd say it's not doing badly. There are always lots of players around, which can be both a blessing and a curse, and the dungeons are fairly busy. I haven't been alone in one yet.

Of course there are the problems. Some bugs, but mostly bots and spammers. If anything it'll be these that drive players away.
I'm thinking the sweet spot for playing the game will be immediately after they announce the upcoming F2P conversion. They'll have given it a good, hard try, so there'll be a couple content packs and some heavy patching done, but it'll hopefully be plenty of time (a few months) BEFORE the F2P launch when freemium bullshit hits and makes everything utterly unpalatable.
What is especially worrying is that Xfire data goes by hours played, not number of players. This tends to benefit recently released games, when excitement levels are highest, but TESO does not appear to be doing well.

On top of that, ZeniMax is silent at a time when developers are usually able to claim inflated figures. It seems likely the game was a pretty big flop, perhaps one of the biggest in a while.
I played since beta and i guess my enjoyment has gone like the scores. It was pretty solid and good at the start and now dwindled to merely "average" .

I do however feel they made some vital mistakes with how the game is very anti-social. They went all out with the whole phasing approach at the cost of basically never seeing any other players that are not in the EXACT same phase (of which there are clearly hundreds permutations per zone based on faction+level+quest status) . So you constantly have people dissappear out of your phase/instance when you group up etc.

They also didn't go the stock standard AH/Economy route for some bizarre reason, and replaced it with something worse. I don't think Trade Guilds works. I think i know what Zenimax WANTED to do here (player driven trading communities), but the guild setup is not really working imho. The anti-social nature is literally preventing "critical mass" from happening, so you end up in a guild of 100 players who got nothing worth trading.

And finally, the EU Megaserver situation still remains a disaster. Now all of a sudden Zenimax announced that moving the EU server from the USA (where it is now) is not happening in the near future.... So entire europe sits with their 200ms pings and maintenance times that only fits americans and then having to pay a sub in euros (which is more working out more expensive than paying in dollars for me) .

So yea, average game with some not-so-average problems.

I am still enjoying it, but i am enjoying it like i would enjoy a single player RPG with the odd multiplayer aspect to it. This also implies, 2-3 months tops and i'm done with it.
I'm actually enjoying it quite a bit, as is every person in my smallish guild of friends. It's been a long, long time since an MMORPG has sunk its hooks into me quite as deeply as ESO has.

It's entirely possible that ESO may see an upsurge in interest after the initial period as bugs are ironed out and some extra content (Craglorn) begins making its way into the game. This would, of course, break the "three-monther rule", but I can see where it might be possible.
Is it just me or are these comments mostly posted by people from Zenimax Online marketing division?
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