Before Fallout, Dishonored, and the genre-defining Elder Scrolls series, Bethesda Softworks was making sports sims. While there could be endless reasons behind the dramatic shift in focus, a recent interview with Bethesda’s Christopher Weaver provides a more simple explanation.
Weaver, who apparently has almost no direct involvement with Bethesda nowadays, emphasises that his company was never about aping trends, but rather, innovation: “We created new technologies where none previously existed.”
Gridiron was an attempt to blend real-world physics into a game. The Elder Scrolls took the risk of applying paper and pencil RPGs to a digital environment. Bethesda was a trailblazer. But thirty years after its birth, the gaming industry is a very different kettle of fish, and Weaver doesn’t seem keen on some of the systems that have been rolled out—particularly freemium models and loot boxes:
“I’m not a big fan of people believing that you get something for nothing…If you want to try something like a single chapter first or subscribe, I’m ok with that.”
He also cautions against the over-implementation of pay to win elements, which may be more profitable in the short run, but ultimately have a negative impact on player immersion:
“This nickel and dime approach to payment may well backfire as it interferes with the flow of a game and disallows for players to lose themselves in its play-world…Players may have to absorb the increasing costs of creating AAA games to allow publishers to remain profitable.”
Loot boxes reportedly originated in 2007, and are now firmly entrenched in the AAA scene. From Overwatch to Middle Earth: Shadow of War to Star Wars Battlefront II, there’s no denying their effect on the industry as a whole. In one way, they’ve reinforced game loops, keeping players invested for longer periods of time with the promise of virtual prizes in exchange for a time (and financial) investment. However, there’s also a more worrying aspect of variable rewards and positive reinforcement—the potential for addiction.