Skyrim‘s director has a lot of love for core gamers, even if he isn’t exactly sure why his game has such broad appeal.
Skyrim is the best-selling game Bethesda has ever made. Most commentators have a personal pet theory or two on hand to explain why this is (mine is the landscape, especially that valley near Dragon Bridge. I mean damn). Not so Todd Howard, the game’s director, however. When asked why Skyrim has done so well, he responded, “The short answer is, I don’t know.”
Speaking to GameInformer, Howard continued, “I can give you my guess, which is people underestimate how many core gamers there are; people who want a lot of depth and will play a game for a long time. There are a lot of them. If you give them something unique and good, you don’t have to dumb it down.”
“There are things we changed to make the game better, but not to appeal to a wider audience. I think we always benefited in Elder Scrolls early on, the fact that it is first-person and kind of walks this action line sometimes. We’ve always benefited from that. Even our own lofty expectations for how the game would be received or sell, it’s way, way beyond that,” Howard added.
Howard also took a moment to touch on the myriad issues some PlayStation 3 Skyrim players have faced with save-breaking bugs, framerate lag and failed patching. “When you put all this time into something and someone can’t play it, you feel terrible,” said Howard. “[PS3 users] have every right to be pissed off. We already have more updates out for this than Fallout 3 and Oblivion in their lifetime. So we’re really committed to fixing everything.”
As Jim Sterling noted a while ago, it’s pleasing for many that a game like Skyrim can perform so well in an industry which can feel hemmed in by “blockbuster” copycat releases and various strains of publisher-based “this will sell, this won’t” false knowledge. So why is Skyrim so popular? It is just that in a game of this size you can find enough different activies to satisfy enough different people? Does this broad-based approach dangerously dilute the experience for the hardcore market? Todd Howard isn’t sure and nor am I. If you are, do let us know in the comments.