Elden Ring’s success has nothing to do with the pandemic

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The New York Times published a column on Wednesday attributing the success of “Elden Ring,” this year’s hottest video game, to the pandemic. Unfortunately, this analysis ignores a host of historical factors that have all but guaranteed the game’s success – regardless of the year.

The New York Times story draws a thoughtful parallel between wrestling through gaming and our current reality in which the pandemic has only become longer and more difficult to navigate. There’s a nice line about how inclusive and enjoyable the game’s freedom of choice is, especially for a society that doesn’t seem to agree on anything. But it is important to emphasize that the game and its success are not products of our global crisis.

Many factors contributed to “Elden Ring” selling 12 million copies worldwide in the first three weeks of its release, a staggering sales figure usually achieved only by industry titans like the series. Call of Duty or Pokemon.

“Elden Ring” is essentially a sequel to From Software’s Dark Souls series, which actually began with “Demon’s Souls,” a 2009 PlayStation 3 exclusive. The New York Times article described the Dark Souls series as a ” modest success”, which is a fair analysis given its sales history alone. By comparison, within three weeks, “Elden Ring” had already sold roughly half of the lifetime sales of the entire Dark Souls trilogy of games.

But this line of thinking ignores the fact that “Demon’s Souls” and the Dark Souls games have left an indelible mark on the games industry. From Software’s titles have become monuments to a style of game design focused on overcoming challenges with intense focus, an understanding of the game’s underlying esoteric rules and systems, and at times, invoking help. friends through a cooperative online game.

“Dark Souls” may have been a modest commercial success, but it is undoubtedly one of the most influential games of the current century. He crystallized an entire subgenre of games, now dubbed “Souls-like”, and some of the industry’s most popular intellectual properties have followed in his footsteps. Its control schemes have been emulated in hit hits like Sony’s “God of War” (2018) and the last three games in the Assassin’s Creed series.

Further still, last year, “Dark Souls” won the Golden Joystick award for “Ultimate Game of All Time.” Respected European gaming publication Edge also called it the greatest game of all time. All this success, apart from the sales figures, can hardly be called “modest”.

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All of this was achieved despite the fact that Dark Souls games – and, now, “Elden Ring” – are notoriously difficult. Without compromising its original vision, From Software has focused on tweaking its formula in each successive game to find more ways to empower the player.

Game design during the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 console generation began to move towards high definition graphics, which meant a greater focus on presentation. This emphasis on larger budgets and presentation also resulted in games that made the player feel more like an audience in the proceedings, not a participant. “Demon’s Souls” and the Dark Souls Trilogy, on the other hand, kept the player engaged by increasing challenges and building worlds and stories that often had to be deciphered rather than simply passively consumed.

From Software has maintained a consistency of quality over the past decade that has catapulted the once fledgling Japanese studio into the highest weight class of video game developers in the world. When he announced “Elden Ring”, a new IP, in 2019, fans had little doubt that it would be a very high quality game.

Word of mouth was also an important factor. The games are designed from the start to be mysterious; they offer extremely varied experiences for different types of players. From Software’s games include an online feature, where players see “ghosts” of other struggling players, which reinforces the feeling that players are suffering together, part of a growing (and groaning) community. As YouTube video essayist Noah Caldwell-Gervais put it in his recent five-hour analysis of the Dark Souls trilogy, he “drove his wife up against the wall” because he couldn’t stop talking. of the game. That’s because Dark Souls games are intensely personal experiences that are thrilling and triumphant, and it’s hard not to share that excitement with the people you love.

The rise of video game influencers on YouTube, Twitch, and other social media platforms has only added more fuel to the series’ fame. As more of these popular gamers discovered the series, their excitement was palpable.

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This cycle continued with “Elden Ring”. Comedy and entertainment troupe RDCWorld decided to try out the series for the first time when the latest game was released. Now they can’t stop streaming and playing. Longtime YouTube gaming critic “Angry” Joe Vargas recently scored the game a perfect 10, despite its history of avoiding the Dark Souls Trilogy.

“Elden Ring” has repeatedly topped lists of “most anticipated games” in 2021 – and after being delayed, in 2022. Since its announcement, it’s been a popular meme to harangue Game host Geoff Keighley. Awards, asking him to reveal even a bit of information about “Elden Ring” before its release. When he finally revealed the first gameplay trailer at last year’s Summer Games Fest event, he said, “I’m free!”

So no, the success of “Elden Ring” didn’t come out of nowhere, and it certainly has nothing to do with quarantine, lockdown, or the existential malaise inspired by the global pandemic.

The success of “Elden Ring” had everything to do, instead, with how its developers crafted and iterated on a successful formula over the past 11 years. And once that formula clicks, its resonance with gamers is undeniable. “Elden Ring” is a triumph, a milestone for the video game industry. For that, you can thank the people who made the game and the people who play it – not the circumstances.