Despite many thinking that The Elder Scrolls Online had little chance of finding success, ZeniMax Online's subscription-based MMO somehow defied the odds. In fact, The Elder Scrolls Online is, by all accounts, a success, and trucking along with some 750,000 subscribers in tow.
But even though The Elder Scrolls Online is doing well, it's not above the familiar trends of the industry. Just this week, for example, ZeniMax Online announced a round of layoffs for its TESO team.
Obviously, layoffs are not uncommon for games post-launch, but TESO is a little different beast. Whereas a single player-focused title might need some added manpower to make it to market, the team rarely requires that many staffers after that. An MMO like The Elder Scrolls Online, however, likely needs a fair amount of developers to both keep the current experience running and to work on expansions.
Even so, that's the prevailing line that Bethesda is working with. They don't want speculation to run rampant that TESO is failing, but rather these layoffs are simply a part of the business.
"As is the norm for games of this type, we had ramped up a large workforce to develop a game of vast scale, and ramped up our customer service to handle the expected questions and community needs of The Elder Scrolls Online at launch. Now that we are nearly 6 months post launch, we have a thriving online community in a game that runs smoothly."
Bethesda VP of PR and Marketing Pete Hines also stressed that the company is focused on building new content for the MMO, and getting those delayed console ports out to gamers. There's still no ETA on those PS4 and Xbox One versions yet, but at least he mentions them.
"We remain strongly committed to The Elder Scrolls Online, and continue to invest heavily to develop new content for PC players, prepare the game for its console launch, and handle our planned expansion into important international territories. As for customer service, we continue to operate large support centers in Hunt Valley, MD and Galway, Ireland."
So make of these layoffs what you will, but chances are they are not a sign that The Elder Scrolls Online's appeal is waning. New content is on the way, and subscriber numbers are surprisingly strong for an MMO that charges a monthly fee. There's even talk of expansions circulating, which usually means that the players are working through the base content at a voracious pace.
Chances are our first indication that The Elder Scrolls Online has hit troubled waters is if the game ever goes free-to-play. However, going free to play doesn't necessarily mean an MMO is dead, but oftentimes the change in business model can help turn a game around. The story of TESO is very much still being written, and it will be interesting to see how things shake out.
Do you think The Elder Scrolls Online will still be successful a year from now? How do you interpret layoffs in the games industry?
Follow Anthony on Twitter @ANTaormina