The Elder Scrolls Online 2021 Retrospective

Matt Firor, the studio director on The Elder Scrolls Online brings us this letter where he briefly goes over some of the challenges Bethesda’s MMORPG was able to overcome in 2021, and then looks towards the future that seems to hold more political intrigue and fewer end of the world invasions. Check it out:

It is the end of 2021, so it’s time to look back and take stock of the year that was and look forward to 2022. We do this every year, but this year seems different than the others—even 2020, which was by every measure a difficult year in itself.


To jump to the conclusion first, we are approaching the end of a very successful, but difficult year. As the pandemic grinds on, we are doing everything we can to keep ESO on the rails, give you new content, and keep all of us safe and healthy. But this has not been easy. Most of us have families, and for obvious reasons we have prioritized the health and safety of our families and ourselves above everything else. The constant stress and anxiety caused by the realities of life during 2021 have taken a noticeable toll on us all.

We are doing well, ESO is doing well, and we will move forward into 2022, but we are tired and anxious, and I believe everyone will join me in the sentiment that the thing we wish for the most in 2022 is for the world to return to normal.

Here are some updates to items we talked about during 2020:

  • The ESO EU and NA Datacenter hardware refresh is ongoing, but our timelines have been greatly extended by the global shortage of computer hardware. To give you all an idea of the impact, some key hardware devices are delayed by one year, most are delayed by 3-5 months. We had intended to have this process complete this year, but it has taken us far longer than we thought it would. This is as frustrating for us as it is for you, trust me – but progress is being made and we will get there.
  • One of our goals for 2021 was to right the ship a bit when it came to major update launches, and with our focus on stability and better launches, we succeeded. The launches in 2020 (especially Greymoor) were rough and resulted in far too much unexpected downtime, so—even though there is always room for improvement—we are in a much better place now, since 2021’s updates have launched far more smoothly.

The thing we are most proud of over the course of 2021—and 2020—is that we have given you all a safe virtual place to get away from the realities of the outside world, even if only for an hour or two. So many of you have played ESO (including many millions for the first time over the last two years) and have found solace and peace in Tamriel when events on Earth became overwhelming. The ultimate goal of any game like ESO is to make the virtual environment an alternative to daily life in the real world, even if only for a little while. In this, ESO excels, and we are very proud of what we have achieved.

Even with all of the challenges, it was a good year for ESO. Millions of new players joined the game in 2021, and the game is as healthy and robust as ever. We introduced the world to Fargrave, a new Elder Scrolls Universe Daedric plane, and of course to Arox the Mutilator, our newly most-beloved NPC since the game’s original cast. Overall, our story of a Daedric invasion of Nirn was well done and well received by you. We had a lot of fun putting together a story with hints of TES IV: Oblivion, including part of its original game map.

We also debuted companion NPCs in ESO, which have proven to be a remarkably popular feature, and sit proudly in the group of solid systems we’ve added to the game over the years (Justice System, Assassinations, Arenas, Antiquities—just to name a few).


Looking ahead to 2022, we will continue to do what we do best: tell great stories and keep the ESO train running. Our content plans will be to back off major plots with “end of the world invasion” themes for a bit to tell a traditional “Elder Scrolls” story of political intrigue and factional infighting, concentrating on one of ESO’s playable races that has not yet had a full cultural and historical deep dive. For more info, you’ll have to wait for our traditional January reveal show.

We will also—with the understanding that some of these things are out of our control—keep working on refreshing datacenter hardware as quickly as we can. This will result in a more stable platform experience for you all. And of course, we will continue to work on performance and stability fixes and tweaks in every update.

As I said above, we are prioritizing the wellness of our developers above everything else right now, so we will be flexible when needed. We have been operating at a very high level of efficiency and productivity these last seven years since launch, but the overall health of the ZOS team is of paramount importance to us, and we will proceed with our plans accordingly. We’re still going to have our usual high-quality quarterly content and will continue telling amazing stories, but we just may need to be a bit more selective with how we focus our efforts this coming year.


Obviously, simply thanking you, the community, is severely understating your impact on ESO and on ZOS. You are part of us, in every sense of the word. Without you, there is no Elder Scrolls Online, and we start each and every day at work with this in mind. We are amazed at the success we’ve had—and understand that you are the reason for it. Please stay healthy in 2022, enjoy the new content, and continue to find solace in our wonderful virtual world as needed.

Happy Holidays—and I think I speak for everyone—here’s to a happier and healthier 2022.

Matt and the ESO Development team

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Val Hull
Val Hull

Resident role-playing RPG game expert. Knows where trolls and paladins come from. You must fight for your right to gather your party before venturing forth.

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