Tamriel Infinium: Unpacking the Elder Scrolls Online presentation at E3
During his presentation, Firor mentioned a lot of things worth considering. He had a very short time to not only tell existing fans what was happening in the game this year, but he also had to remind people of how great ESO is right now. Of course, he was hoping to get new players interested in the game. He knew that ESO wasn’t always well-received, but he had to show how far the game has come. Here’s how he did it.
Best MMO of the year
When Firor first took the stage he mentioned that ESO was awarded Best MMO of the Year three years in a row. Given how many gaming publications there are in the world, it’s not impossible at all, but ESO was hardly a new MMO even three years ago. It’d be an odd thing for a game that age to actually be awarded Best MMO for one year let alone three years in a row well after its initial release. So statement is actually true, but you have to look at multiple different sources to make it so.
For example, at the end of 2017, the staff here awarded Elder Scrolls Online the MMORPG of the Year based on our impressions of the game. “ZeniMax isn’t just doing the minimum to get by; it feels as if the game is on an upward trajectory with plenty of substance being added,” our article said. Overwhelmingly, our readers agreed with us. Prior to that, however, ESO was in the running for MMO of the Year, but it was ultimately granted to Black Desert Online by the staff. And the Massively OP readers disagreed. In fact, our readers agreed that Elder Scrolls Online was the MMO of the Year in in 2016 and 2015, too.
In other words, even if all you did was read Massively OP, you could legitimately assert that the game had been called MMO of the year three years in a row – and obviously, Massively OP is not the only site that dishes out MMO awards every December.
How many players does ESO actually have?
Firor said that ESO counts 11 million players, and if you’ve been playing games for any length of time, you know that can be a bit misleading. So what would be the less misleading way to present that number? And how many people actually play ESO? I guess that depends a lot on how you break down that information.
We know that new people are buying the game all the time. With multiple releases of the game, it’s difficult to track. Summerset and Morrowind both count as independent sales because they aren’t just an expansion. They include the base game. Then One Tamriel and the launch version of ESO have different external sales numbers, too. Not everyone who bought the expansion created a different account. We have to assume that Firor’s number of 11 million is correct. But as we know, that didn’t happen in a single year.
As of February 2017, we know that ESO boasted 8.5 million players, which can be assumed to be boxes sold or accounts made since they coincide so closely. That is a million and a half more players than was reported the year before that. Then at E3 last year (only a couple of months after the February announcement), ZeniMax released a Morrowind trailer reaction video that said it had “10 million heroes,” which likely meant “accounts made,” each one of which constituted at least one box sale. That means over the last year we did see a bit of a slow down in new people buying the game, but does that mean that fewer people are playing it?
There is no real source for the number of concurrent players that will give us an accurate measure of the number of players across all platforms, but there is one source that gives us data on the number of players on its platform: Steam.
Steam Charts gives us the number of peak players per month since the launch of ESO on Steam in July of 2014. There is a shocking spike of Steam players, from 6,653 peak players in October 2016 to 29,305 peak players in November 2016. This coincides with the launch of One Tamriel. From there, we see peaks and valleys, but it’s never been as low as it was before One Tamriel and it’s only been higher once. The average peak players on Steam has been 18,000 over the last 19 months.
Of course, that’s just Steam – it doesn’t count PC players off Steam, and it doesn’t count players on console at all. If the other platforms have experienced similar results, then ESO is surely one of the most healthy MMORPGs on the market.
Many times, when people hop up on the stage of a giant game convention — especially when they know their words are going to be forever broadcast over the internet — they will fudge the numbers they give so that they look good for the press, their shareholders, and over course, their boss. I wouldn’t exactly blame anyone for wanting to make the game look better than it is, but based on the numbers I found, it doesn’t look like look as if Firor was exaggerating.
Of course, Firor had to give the biggest number he could so that everything looks gigantic, and we know that MMO numbers are never going to look as impressive as single-player numbers unless they account for the long-haul – which is what MMOs should be made for.
I admit that I jumped into this research assuming I’d find ZeniMax exaggerating its numbers or giving us numbers that had little practical meaning, but I am glad to find out that I was wrong. What are your thoughts? Do you think that ZeniMax is still fudging the numbers? What evidence have you found that supports or discredits Firor’s statements? Let me know in the comments.