In a recent interview with Game Informer, Pete Hines, Bethesda’s senior VP of global marketing, discussed the upcoming console version of the Elder Scrolls Legends, a free-to-play card game set within the Elder Scrolls universe. Here’s what Hines had to say:
[The Elder Scrolls Legends] is a strategy card game that encompasses both single and multiplayer…It is both cross-platform play and cross-platform progress. It is our intention in order for the game to come out, it has to be those things on any system. We cannot have a game that works one way across everywhere else except for on this one thing. The way the game works right now on Apple, Google, Steam, and Bethesda.net, it doesn’t matter where you buy your stuff, if you play it on another platform that stuff is there. It doesn’t matter what platform you play on, you play against everyone else who is playing at that moment. There’s no ‘Oh, it’s easier to control, or it has a better framerate on this system.’ It’s a strategy card game. It doesn’t matter.
When asked if Bethesda actually intended to fight Sony on this issue, Hines replied: “We continue to talk to all of our platform partners,” Hines added. “But those [terms] are essentially non-negotiable. We can’t be talking about one version of Legends, where you take your progress with you, and another version where you stay within that ecosystem or its walled off from everything else. That is counter to what the game has been about.”
Hines then doubled down, saying he was aware of both the Sony situation and the Fortnite fight, and that Bethesda doesn’t plan to back down from its current position. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the company will avoid the fight — after all, there’s nothing like the sweet sound of dollars to cover any concerns about game access — but if Bethesda was going to pick a fight over a game, a title like Legends might be the right way to do it. It’s not a no-name, first-time franchise — having the Elder Scrolls name attached will win the card game a certain amount of recognition — but a collectible card game also doesn’t have the massive development budget and the corresponding need to recoup invested dollars that a major Elder Scrolls franchise launch would. There’s no chance that a game like the Elder Scrolls VI would take on a fight like this, not given the high cost of manufacturing titles and the difficulty of earning back that investment on anything but a mammoth hit.
The question is, will any of these tactics have an effect? I’m inclined to think they won’t. The fact is, Sony has won this console generation. Even the Switch, which has been selling ridiculously well, would be hard-pressed to annihilate Sony’s 60M+ advantage in unit shipments before the clock strikes PlayStation 5. In fact, one can imagine Sony spinning this restriction to its own advantage and reserving cross-play as a feature to announce alongside the PS5 come 2019 – 2020. In the meantime, the company’s vague comments about technical issues and incompatibilities are designed to shunt outrage aside rather than meaningfully deal with the problem or advance towards an actual solution.