Skyrim is short for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. As stated by its name, it is the fifth installment of The Elder Scrolls series made by Bethesda, which consists of action RPGs set in the fantasy world of Nirn. Like its predecessors, Skyrim boasts an open world in the sense that players can explore the setting at their leisure instead of being forced to rush about from place to place in a railroaded plot, which is one of the reasons behind not just its success but also the success of The Elder Scrolls series as a whole.
For an indication of Skyrim's success, it is important to note that it has sold more than 20 million copies since it came out in 2011. This translates to more than $1.3 billion in sales revenues, which in turn, translates to more than $1.2 billion in profit for Bethesda once its development and marketing budget of $85 million has been factored in. As a result, it is no exaggeration to point out that this makes Skyrim one of the most successful games of all genres on all platforms of all time. (1)
After all, more than 20 million copies is more than enough to make it one of the best-selling games of all genres on all platforms of all time, more so than famous names such as Halo, Gears of War, and even some of the less successful installments in famous franchises such as Mario, Pokemon, and Call of Duty. This is particularly notable because Skyrim's success can be seen as a refutation to a number of common beliefs, which range from single-player games being on their way out to western fantasy RPGs having no appeal for a mainstream audience. (2)
What Is Skyrim Worth?
However, it should be noted that Bethesda's profit on Skyrim should not be seen as being the same as Skyrim's value. In part, this is because Skyrim is still being sold, meaning that its number of sales can be expected to continue rising for years and years to come. Although this is something that happens with a lot of games to some extent, this is particularly relevant for Skyrim because of its nature as an open world game as well as the stream of new content that is being pumped out by its active community of fans. As a result, Skyrim's current profit falls short of its eventual profit over the entire course of its existence, meaning that its value should be more though not much more than the numbers that have been presented so far.
Furthermore, it should be noted that Skyrim has created a fair amount of goodwill for Bethesda, which in turn, means an increased chance for players who liked Skyrim to buy other Elder Scrolls games as well as other Bethesda games in the future. Although this potential for future profits is not as good as actual profits, it is nonetheless worth something on its own. However, coming up with a value for this accumulated goodwill is pointless, both because goodwill cannot be valued until a brand has been sold and because Skyrim is not a franchise in its own right but an installment in the Elder Scrolls franchise, meaning that the goodwill generated by it cannot be separated from the goodwill generated by the rest of the games.
What Is the Elder Scrolls Franchise Worth?
In total, the Elder Scrolls franchise consists of multiple installments as well as a number of spin-offs:
1. The first Elder Scrolls game is The Elder Scrolls: Arena in 1994, which was inspired by pen and paper RPGs as well as the Ultima Underworld franchise that was popular at the time. It was never meant to be an action RPG, but over time, it picked up more and more RPG elements until it became recognizable as the earliest predecessor to Skyrim. Initially, it received a distribution of no more than 20,000 copies because of marketing concerns as well as Bethesda's low market power at the time, but its sales increased more and more as awareness spread through word-of-mouth marketing. (3)
2. In 1996, The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall was released in order to ride on the momentum of Bethesda's initial success. It boasted a number of improvements on its predecessor's RPG elements, while also drawing influence from a wider range of sources that those that had led to Arena. On the whole, Daggerfall had some success, but the franchise as a whole remained relatively low-key at this time. (3)
3. After Daggerfall, Bethesda started on Battlespire and Redguard, which were based in the same setting as the rest of the games but took a different direction in the sense that they cut down on the RPG elements while shrinking the size of the game world. As a result, they met with a poor reception from Bethesda's fans, who were interested in the franchise because of the elements that had been excised. (3)
4. In response to the failures of Battlespire and Redguard, Bethesda released The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind in 2002 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in 2006. Having learned its lesson, Bethesda focused on making these installments bigger and better than their predecessors by using the latest techniques and technologies, thus resulting in more realistic but also more expensive-to-make games. (3)
5. Since Skyrim, Bethesda has released The Elder Scrolls Online, which retain its predecessors' nature as action RPGs but adapted for an online game. Originally, players needed a subscription to play, but poor sales resulted in the cancellation of that requirement as well as a shift in focus to selling DLCs. (3)
Evaluating the Elder Scrolls Franchise
There are few numbers available on sales for the Elder Scrolls franchise, which makes it difficult to evaluate its worth on the whole. However, it is important to note that Skyrim has been responsible for the bulk of its sales, seeing as how Morrowind and Oblivion sold 4 million and 3 million copies respectively while Elder Scrolls Online managed no more than 770,000 users 3 months after its launch. (5) As a result, while the Elder Scrolls franchise still possesses plenty of potential for future profits, it is clear that there is a limit to how much the goodwill of Bethesda's fans can be stretched before they choose to play something else. Bethesda learned its lesson from its previous flops, but it remains to be seen whether it will learn its lesson from its online failure.
Written by Garrett Parker
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