Few, if any role-playing games released over the last year have received as much attention as Oblivion, the fourth installment to be released by publisher/developer Bethesda as part of the company's long-running The Elder Scrolls franchise. Released in March 2006 for Xbox 360 and Windows, Oblivion sold more than three million copies in 2006, while versions of the game have also been announced for the PlayStation 3 and even the PSP handheld.
Earlier this month, Bethesda announced The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles an official expansion to Oblivion to debut both for PC and for Xbox 360 this Spring, and Gamasutra spoke with Bethesda's vice president of PR and marketing Pete Hines on the add-on and other major topics.
Shivering Isles' Download-Only X360 Future
One of the most interesting facets of the recently announced Shivering Isles expansion is that the Xbox 360 version of the game would only be offered as downloadable content over Xbox Live. When questioned on the reasoning behind this decision, Hines responded that the choice was not entirely Bethesda's to make.
"To be honest, we didn't have any other options with how to distribute Shivering Isles, at least not at present," commented Hines. "The 360 does not allow stand-alone expansions to work with another existing product, making the only option to be to download."
He then added: "We wanted to do a version for the retail market, but the fact of the matter is that the console simply can't do that yet. If that becomes an option in the future, we will certainly explore it, but as of right now we've been told that it would take a lot of extra work by the folks at Microsoft to get that option available."
Price Point, Further Oblivion Add-Ons?
He further noted that as of yet nothing has been cemented concerning the price point at which Shivering Isles will be offered over Xbox Live. "We are still working with Microsoft in this respect," stated Hines. "We are concerned about hitting a reasonable price, while at the same time we're concerned about potential barriers for our customers as well. It's difficult in pinning down the perfect price for a package such as this, and more than anything were are interested in hitting a spot that doesn't cause problems."
Bethesda has become a steadfast proponent of downloadable content over Xbox Live since the release of Oblivion, with a number of add-ons and optional quests being released for purchase over the popular online service. However, when asked as to the possibility of releasing smaller add-on content specifically on top of Shivering Isles, the Bethesda representative noted that this was not planned.
"I don't know that we would ever release downloadable content specific to Shivering Isles," he responded. "However, we do have one or two new pieces of content planned for the future for the main game, though these are obviously not of the scope of Shivering Isles."
Examining Star Trek, Fallout 3
Turning away from The Elder Scrolls and instead looking at Bethesda's recently released games from within the popular Star Trek license, Hines commented that Star Trek: Tactical Assault for the Nintendo DS and PSP, Star Trek: Legacy for the Xbox 360 and PC, and Star Trek: Encounters for the PlayStation 2 have all done "pretty good" at retail since being released in late 2006.
He conceded that while he does not see the titles as 'game of the year award' candidates, Bethesda is generally pleased with how both titles have thus far performed. "We can't control what people expect a game to be, and yes, there are some things we wouldn't mind doing differently," commented Hines. "That said, the PS2 game, Encounters, was a fun shoot 'em up, and it did well. In addition, Legacy, despite being delayed a couple times and eventually coming out late in holiday buying season, did remarkably well."
Finally, when asked about Bethesda's highly anticipated resurrection of the classic Fallout post-apocalyptic role-playing franchise, Hines was obviously coy: "We are a fairly good ways into the process. The team has ramped up, and it will be a little while longer. As is the case with all of our games, especially those of this scope, we don't really want to talk about them until they are in a state where we can show you, rather than having you simply picturing it in your minds eye."
He added, simply: "Fallout is not a quick two year process, and we are already several years into the project."