Bethesda does a fair bit in the esports space. Their QuakeCon is one of the biggest esports events in the world. This year QuakeCon included lots of fantastic information about Fallout and Doom Eternal. But we wanted to know a little more about the esports scene that Bethesda has grown. In particular we wanted to know how they’ve fostered their card game, Elder Scrolls: Legends. So we caught up with Simon Alty, the ANZ Managing Director of Bethesda at PAX Aus 2018. He had lots of insights about the game and positive things to say about the community.
Firstly, we wanted to know what is so special about the turn-based card game that is Legends. Why is it important to Bethesda? How does it fit into the company culture? Alty told us there are two things in particular that make Legends very special: It’s a game that brings in players who love and know the Elder Scrolls series, and it’s also a new way to bring players into something different.
There’s actually two things about the Elder Scrolls: Legends that’s significant for us. It’s a further way for us to explore the lore and introduce more people to the Elder Scrolls canon, which we’re always trying to do… this is another opportunity for a whole different group of people. And two, it’s something that’s always there and achievable in that genre. It fits in beautifully with the world.
Elder Scrolls: Legends is a very unique style of card game. Whilst there are the usual elements of card games — deck, turns, mana, life points — Legends brings something new to the game. Bethesda developed the “arc style” and “two laneway style.” Paul Hines, the VP for Bethesda, explained in an interview how this system sets it apart from other card games. Alty echoed these words, saying that once Bethesda had developed that style, they knew they had something special. The basis of this gameplay divides the board into two parts. Players can choose to play cards on their side of the field. Each field has a unique set of rules.
After some understanding about the gameplay, we thought we’d get an understanding of how players come to the game. Alty said at the moment it’s still a very organic process on how players find Elder Scrolls. Some come into it through friends, whilst others have been playing the games for a while. Either way, there is now a difference in the way players fall into a game. Unlike the days of old, many games aren’t built to perfection before release. That’s why we see many games released as beta or even alpha versions. The same can be said of Bethesda:
Previously, games were crafted as far as they could be before they were sent out into the wild; those days are gone. Even for a franchise like Fallout for example, we need player engagement so every variable possible can be explored. We do as much as we can, but you don’t know how people are going to play. Particularly with cards. Getting out into the wild is what we’re all about.
Alty said it’s important for people to play the way they like. By releasing games before they are “fully developed,” studios like Bethesda can understand how players like to play. The developers can then tailor the game around that. As for Legends, it’s still early days for the series, and therefore the team isn’t too sure where it’s going to end up yet. But they are always listening to the community and finding out what they want:
It’s about putting it in the wild and letting the grassroots communities discover it.
Bethesda feel esports is very important to them. It sits within their company DNA. Alty believes it’s esports that takes the sense of community to a whole new level:
With esports in general, it’s a brilliant outlet. It’s a fascinating space where people can take this sense of community and it takes on this whole new dimension. That’s important to us.
Whilst they are aware that it’s a growing market, the team at Bethesda understand how esports work:
We know you can’t just say ‘we’re an esport’ so come on in. Or even million dollar prizes don’t cut it. You gotta let the market find it and let that product franchise build. How quickly or slowly it builds is up to the community.
We all know Bethesda has QuakeCon. At the heart of QuakeCon is competitive gaming. Legends has featured there before. But like Alty says, it’s up to the community to decide what is an esport and what isn’t. Alty also commented on something very ironic too. He said that when he started with gaming back in 1989, he never understood the appeal of watching people play games. Even marketing pushes called people to buy games so they could play them instead of watching others play. With a chuckle, Alty explained it:
When we first started, for a very long time we would literally say to people ‘we need you to play our game ’cause the most boring thing in the world is watching someone else play a video game.’ That’s what we used to say. And now today, more people are watching than playing sometimes.
Gaming has come a long way since the early 1990s. Now Alty believes watching games is key. One of the biggest pieces in that puzzle is streamers.
Twitch streamers and YouTubers have become part of our community, because the community has basically said they want to watch streamers. They want to watch content producers. This is something Bethesda values highly. Bethesda often work with streamers to promote new games and products. Streamers have become the ambassadors of the fans, almost part of the Bethesda family. Alty said that it’s all about the importance of the narrative and how it’s woven through the community:
[Streamers] are almost everything. We have very active social channels ourselves… and we have our team streaming regularly. But at the end of the day that’s only us telling our version, our story. But that story has to be picked up and retold. We need people streaming and sharing their experiences… games like that can’t survive today otherwise.
Streamers seem to be partly important with card games. The games then become more about the people who are playing and presenting. Streamers and influencers become the informers and entertainers that form part of the video game industry:
In 20 years, we’ve gone from ‘it’s boring to watch video games’ to people tuning in, making appointments to see someone playing a game. It’s so exciting.
For years, the only way people could play games was to play, die, learn, and then play again. After that, player guides would come out. People would read over them for hours learning the ins and outs of the game. Then wikis replaced those player guides. Now, in 2018, we have streamers and pro players. They have become the guides to which we learn how to play games. To be better at games.
Many exciting things are definitely on the horizon. Not just for Bethesda, but for esports in general.
As for Elder Scrolls: Legends, there’s a new development crew supporting the game. Bethesda believe they are at a point where they think they know what people want from the game. They are also starting to look more into the business side of games with microtransactions. Collaboration with new streamers and talent is in the cards as well. There’s marketing being put behind the game as Alty said now they “want to build it beyond the current audience.” He finished by saying that now they’ll just wait and see what happens! “We brought the world Quake and we’ll continue to live, work, and grow!”
Catch up on some of my other articles from PAX Aus 2018. There’s Fnatic’s win over Nora-Rengo in the Six Masters, an exclusive interview with k1ng, and Hyper X‘s thoughts on their new brand partnership with Post Malone.
Michelle is a Content Producer in the realms of innovation and technology. Known as the “Hackathon Queen” you’ll often find her on stage MC’ing or speaking on a range of topics from artificial intelligence, to business, community engagement, the future of work, and esports. With a background in both science and arts, Michelle writes extensively on a range of topics including innovation, startups, corporate culture, esports, business development, and more. She has a passion for gaming and combines this with her experience in a range of industries. Michelle brings a unique insight into esports innovation and draws many parallels between the physical world of sport, and the digital world of esports.