Why Obsidian needs to prioritize Avowed's release
The internet has exploded over the last few days with buzz about Obsidian's upcoming title, Avowed. The cinematic teaser trailer released at the end of the last week turned a lot of heads, and in case you haven't seen it yet, it's definitely worth watching.
Proclaimed as the spiritual successor to The Elder Scrolls V, Obsidian has promised a huge open world sandbox style RPG with a bigger map than Skyrim's, complete with monstrous bosses, modding capabilities, and what sounds like unlimited choice and consequence. The trailer also hints at graphics as good as or better than some of the best mods available for Skyrim, and hundreds of hours of immersive content and exploration in the beautiful world of Eora.
These are the exact qualities that made the Elder Scrolls series so appealing for many gamers, myself included. Fans of the series have been foaming at the mouth in anticipation of news about the upcoming title, and two years after the announcement that development was under way at E3 in 2018, this is still all fans have to go on:
Sealed with a kiss from Pete Hines that the game is still "a very long way off." It's a tease to almost the point of cruelty. Obsidian's trailer gives us more to go on, which suggests it could be further along in development--two years and seven months, at least. Yet we've also heard that we shouldn't expect Avowed's release until late 2022 or early 2023. But it begs the question, why so far off? That's about the earliest Elder Scrolls fans can expect the release of TES VI, rumored to be set in High Rock or Hammerfell.
With the release of these two massive RPGs looming, we can only really speculate as to what's slowing development. It can't be the release of next gen consoles, as PS5 and Xbox X are slated for Q4 of 2020. Even if there were slight delays due to supply chain issues, that would still leave a huge gap between then and late 2022/early 2023. Begging the question, what exactly could they be waiting for that these development timelines are so far out, yet they're publicizing these titles now? There's been some speculation that TES VI could rely heavily on VR, which hasn't quite taken off as many in the tech and gaming industry would have liked.
The timeline for the TES VI release has left fans lamenting the long wait as Skyrim's replayability continues to wane, even within the enthusiastic modding and building community. There are countless times I've heard people who enjoyed the sandbox world of Tamriel say, "I would give anything to play Skyrim again for the first time." If Obsidian can successfully execute and sell people on the idea that Avowed is the spiritual successor to Skyrim, I expect there will be similar sentiment from fans and the people who play the game.
Except that gamers are hungry for this type of this experience now, and have been for quite some time. The longer it takes for Avowed's release, the closer it gets to competing with TES VI for gamers' attention and dollars. While this could look like a massive clash of the titans, I expect that long-time fans of Elder Scrolls would be far more likely to purchase and play TES VI and put off playing Avowed. Some may eventually get to it, but every gamer has a list longer than their arm of titles they'd like to "eventually" play that they will never get to.
The other sad truth is that Gen X and millennial gamers that played and loved Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim when the titles were first released are starting to get older, and due to life changes and natural shifts in priorities, those gamers may not have the same sort time to spend on a massive RPG as they did when they were in their teens and twenties. As that fan base continues to age, there will be an inevitable drop off in how many are willing or able to sign on to a time commitment of that sort. As the pace of media and free to play games continues to quicken, will a younger gaming audience have the same attention span for that type of game? There will always be some segment of gamers that enjoy a larger world and longer, meandering storylines, but will the audience segment continue to be large enough to justify the investment in time and expense for the production of these large-scale AAA games in a few years' time? The sooner Avowed is released, the more certainty Obsidian has to capture the attention of a larger audience of gamers that enjoy and are committed to that type of content.
Gamers are primed and ready for Avowed now. If Obisidian truly wants to compete with Bethesda and capture the attention of consumers that want an incredibly immersive, massive sandbox RPG experience, the developer should prioritize the release of the game to get it into the hands of gamers sooner rather than later.