Update: When we reached out to Bethesda Softworks for comment, Bethesda's Pete Hines stressed to us, "This does not impact the current or future plans of Bethesda Game Studios."
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was one of the top rated and selling games of 2011, but lurking in the background all along has been the rumored Elder Scrolls MMO. With the game finally confirmed to be in development by ZeniMax Online Studios, long-time fans of the franchise are expressing concern that the MMO will alter the future of the series, and Bethesda has had to manage the community reaction carefully.
Many of the comments on the official Bethesda blog were filled with negativity. At the heart of the matter is that Skyrim and The Elder Scrolls series have shown that "massively single player" can still do quite well in this industry, and fans are worried that ZeniMax will decide that its top franchise will simply have to be online going forward.
"Way to go in completely missing the key theme of a game series," wrote commenter Darkstorne. "Yep, a series renowned for making the player feel like the solitary hero in a sprawling immersive world, DEFINITELY needs a new game where the player is one of thousands of heroes running, jumping, bunny hopping across the land, shouting 'n00bz I am teh 733t!!1!!1'
"Please say this won't indefinitely post-pone the release of the next real TES title, the way World of Warcraft has indefinitely put Warcraft 4 on hold."
A Bethesda spokesperson/moderator reassured worried fans, "The teams working on these games are separate. Todd Howard's team at BGS will keeping doing the type of games they like making, and the ZeniMax Online team will focus on MMO games like this newly-announced title."
Many of the fans do understand the distinction between the teams at ZeniMax Online and Bethesda Game Studio, led by Matt Firor (co-founder of Dark Age of Camelot developer Mythic Entertainment) and Todd Howard respectively, but at the same time, business decisions could one day impact the future of The Elder Scrolls.
"I think Todd or someone should put up some sort of message to assure fans of the Elder Scrolls series. Because even I, a massive fan of the Elder Scrolls and Bethesda Studios… am worried by this announcement," wrote commenter Zarathas.
"Zenimax have basically high jacked the Elder Scrolls name to give the MMO a kick start into the market place. If this ruins, cancels or delays the single player games, Ill be disappointed and would have lost my favourite game series."
That said, there are still a good number of fans who are giving ZeniMax the benefit of the doubt and are eager to see what kind of MMO the Online team can produce.
"I have never played a MMO before, but this might just be my first," wrote commenter Liquid_Waffle. "I still really want you guys to announce the next Fallout, I've been waiting four years for a sequel to Fallout 3."
"I can't wait to hear more about it," said commenter Noah. "The Elder Scrolls was inspired greatly by D&D, and if you really look at it, role-playing games have always been about having multiple players. The experience is greatly enhanced when you have other people to role-play with. The series comes with a lot of baggage, and it would have to feel like the series, just transformed to accommodate a large number of players."
The June issue of Game Informer will have more details on the Elder Scrolls Online. This is one the industry will want to watch.
Update: an official teaser trailer has just been made available. Check it out below.