ESO is dying… Why?

Yesterday, The Sentinel posted an article about ZeniMax letting go about 300 people in the past few months, in Galway, Ireland. This is normal news to read in the video games industry, but what saddens me extremely is that ZeniMax Online Studios are the guys who developed The Elder Scrolls Online, and the customer support for this MMO is located in Galway. Hence my sad prediction. You don’t fire a few hundreds of people from your customer support if they are busy busy working for a growing, thriving persistent online game.

Is The Elder Scrolls Online dying?

ESO_LogoThere are no official numbers I could find for the current ESO subscriptions. According to VG Charts, the retail version sold about half a million copies (0,40m), and the estimations are usually a 4:1 ratio in favor of digital. So we can assume that about 1 million and  a half bought ESO digitally. 1,6m plus 0.40m is 2 million estimated players which is a number I find easy to accept because the ESO Facebook page has 1.8 million likes.

That is not a bad number to start with, but Bethesda reported they had 5 million people beta testing the game. It seems that considerably less than half of them were convinced to buy it,  and from those, I wonder how many are still paying a monthly subscription to continue their adventures in Tamriel. ZeniMax and Bethesda are awfully quiet about that. They are always quiet, when the numbers aren’t big enough to show off. That’s pretty worrisome when you think that their target group are the Elder Scrolls fans! These are the 17 million people who bought Skyrim, the same Skyrim which is the second in the most important Steam driven chart of median number of hours played per owner. People loved their Skyrim! And I don’t even want to mention Morrowind, a classic and my all time favorite game, or the other TES games. Elder Scrolls is one of the biggest, most immersive game universes ever created! You’d think it could emerge in an insanely successful persistent world, no?

I wonder what didn’t work.


I remember my first ESO session in beta. I said I’d give it a try and that try lasted the entire weekend. I lived and breathed in Tamriel, so immersed that I couldn’t escape it, even when the beta ended. Days after, I’d itch to play a little when home from work, but I had to have patience. It must have been 2 more weeks until another beta session opened up. For some reason, the spell was lost by then, and I did not play throughout the weekend. I told myself, it’s OK, you probably don’t want to play because you know you will loose all your characters, so just have a bit of patience as the game will soon be out.

I remember the day my Collector’s Edition arrived. I hugged it for so long, Sebi had to strip it out of my hands. I still consider it one of the best things money can buy, as Molag Bal dutifully accompanied my Alduin and my art book took her place of honor amongst my other Collector’s editions. I played… but for some reason the character I created did not feel right. Sebi was waiting, our guild was waiting, I booked play dates with my friends, yet that magic that I lived though in the first beta did not reappear.

I blamed it on the weather, on work, on real life. Too much to do, too little time. I’ll play soon, I told myself, I will find the proper time and search that magic once again… but I didn’t. Somehow the alternatives, including my little pet projects, seemed like a better choice to invest my time. In the end I blamed it on my age. I am getting old, I said, and had that old inner talk with myself about the fact that I never really was a true gamer.

Until I got back to Minecraft. Until Lifeless Planet was released and I could not unhook myself from it till the end. I know I am very pretentious when it comes to games, and I like very few of them, but when I do, man what a sensation. Kinda like what I felt in that first ESO beta I joined. What happened?


Sebi thinks ESO does not have IT. It’s a wonderful game, immersive, that first person perspective is amazing, and the team delivered breathtaking visuals as always.  The music is Elder Scrolls style (which is beyond brilliant), the characters are pretty, the story is what I expected, so much as been invested in voice acting, which I think pays off. Your skills grow naturally as you use them you are not limited by the game, some quests do have a tad of been there done that, but are still well placed and interesting. How do you define IT? That quality that draws you in and immerses you fully, the same that makes you fall in love with people and games, how can a game have IT in beta, but lose it somewhere along the short way to launch? It must be me; it must have been me.

But I think IT is a tricky thing. IT is a passion that must be maintained and it involves a lot of work from both parties involved. IT sparks many adventures but few lifelong fellowships. ESO was a flame to me, just a crush, not a life long love like Morrowind. Or Minecraft 🙂 Perhaps I should have invested more time to see if ESO and I can become more than just a fling; perhaps I will. But by firing 300 people from its support offices in Ireland, ZeniMax does not seem to prepare for a long term commitment. Next, free to play?


I still love Elder Scrolls.



  1. Radu Mihaiu

    Laura, I think both of you are a bit subjective from the perspective of huge TES fans. The single player games were good. I do not consider them phenomenal, I always preferred games like Planescape Torment or Baldur’s Gate or Icewind Dale or Wizardy or Might and Magic, which were something else, retaining the true “nerdish” essence of RPG’s, rather than Morrowind and Skyrim which tried to be crowd-pleasers. Bethesda made commercial games which they dressed up and marketed as true elitist games. Then again here is all about perspective, and as an old hardcore fan of true RPG’s I still think of TES games in the line of Gothic. Objectively speaking though TESO is mediocre, because the producers did not understand fully the online games and made a weird mutation, combining some elements from their single player experiences, the ones they thought would work in an online environment. The game is plain boring except if you are a hardcore die-for TES fan. The character development, the story, the mechanics, the quests, the carfting system – everything is as unsalted as a dish made in a hospital, The game is mediocre at it’s best and boring at its worse, I tested it to write a review about it and had some hopes, not high, but still some. The game failed each and every one of them feeling right from the really idiotic account creation a money grab. I had deja vu feelings all the way, and not the pleasant kind. The world is huge, the content is enormous and the only thing that surpasses them is how badly they implemented it. I think as a huge TES fan it hurts really much to see how big they have failed and first you search for an explanation within, but the truth is TESO is a mediocre game and a really faulty MMORPG which in the medium run can’t even hold on to the hardcore fan base. Look in the mirror, it couldn’t even keep your attention long enough.

  2. sarienn

    Thank you for your comment!

    But I am less skeptical about TES and Bethesda and ESO, probably because I am a big, big fan of the universe and especially of Morrowind.

    I think they tried something different and they failed. I think it’s very hard not to fail, and the hardest part is letting go of all the prejudices and built in assumptions of how a MMO should be. They tried, but the mixture did not captivate. I can see the duality of “ohh let’s DO this” and “hmm, we gotta do this because everyone else does”. Nonetheless, I loved that game for two days, and I will try it again and maybe I will love it again. I hoped ESO will be the medieval EVE I always dreamed of, and there is still hope it will be.

    I love them for trying, even if it won’t turn out good for them. It’s courageous to try this now. I do not love them for firing people in a crucial moment when they should focus on breathing life in ESO. This is a sad story for me.

  3. Radu Mihaiu

    Hey, thanks for the reply!

    Coming down to a personal level, where taste is king, it doesn’t really matter anymore how good a game is. If you like it, enjoy it. It’s the same with games scoring 5 or 6, there is an audience which enjoys it, more or less.
    Letting people go is always a sad thing to see, but that is how the business model was created. In western countries people learned some time ago that buying a game is also a vote cast with your wallet. This is the most important feedback for publishers: sales are good, more games are encouraged to go that way. Bad sales lead to lay offs and closing of studios. It’s the nature of business and not just in the gaming industry. But you know that as well as I do.
    I also don’t think it’s about prejudices. After several years and tons of MMO’s we have clearly seen what works and what does not – we have some ideas about the directions. Remember Tabula Rasa? Sir British tried to innovate, but than again the game did not came out as it was supposed to be. It is welcomed to try to innovate and try something new, but there is a difference between this and the lack of experience which leads into stuffing an online game with mechanics strictly based on single player. TESo in my opinion is at the same level or Tabula Rasa, with only major difference: the TES universe has some die hard fans, having a hard time accepting that something so dear ca fail so big.
    And I know how much of a fan of TES you are that is why I said you might be subjective. It happened to me with SW:TOR which in the beta was awesome, I moved every stone to get my hands on a Collector’s Edition for which I payed a lot, around 1000 lei which is the most I ever payed for a CE. But the final version just did not have it. I went trough the same inner searching process, before I just realized that the game and I will not bond. I payed subscription fees all the way until it became free, though after a month or so i did not play it anymore.

  4. nekitu

    Its a buggy outdated game with respect to graphics, of course it should die. About gameplay, nothing to say, I haven’t spent too much time in it. They either fix the bugs and ramp up the graphics, or they let it die slowly.

    • sarienn

      You and your graphics <3

      You have to understand, not everyone is a sucker for graphics. Personally, I absolutely love the art of ESO. That is why I wanted Collector's Edition. It wasn't cheap. I DO NOT regret the money. The game is breathtakingly beautiful in my opinion. You are an artist, so you should know how subjective beauty is 🙂

      And every game session I have is paused by Minecraft. I play some ESO, then a bit of Minecraft. Some Lifeless Planet, then some Minecraft. Some Gone Home, then some Minecraft. Why? Can you compare Bethesda graphics with the Minecraft ones? As an artist, do you think I am broken?

      ESO has problems, but it's not the graphics. At least that is what I think...

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