There's a reason we don't know more about The Elder Scrolls: Legends, Bethesda and Direwolf's upcoming collectible card game — the next time we hear about it, we'll probably be playing it.
The collectible card game, which is set in Bethesda Game Studios' fantasy-RPG universe, was announced during Bethesda's inaugural E3 press conference with a teaser trailer and few details about the content of the game. Since that event, we haven't learned more about how the game will function, how it will incorporate the Elder Scrolls universe or how it will compete with Hearthstone, the current ruler of the virtual card game realm.
Bethesda VP of PR and Marketing Pete Hines — who, as it just so happens, is a collectible card game die-hard and competitive player — told us during QuakeCon 2015 that we probably won't hear much more about The Elder Scrolls: Legends until it arrives on PCs and iPad like a thief in the night, an approach Bethesda took for its successful mobile title Fallout Shelter.
"I have a specific idea in mind for this," Hines said, "which is — I want it to be something where as soon as we start talking about specifics, there's an immediacy there of when people are getting in and playing it. We could start talking about it today, we could have started talking about it at E3, but I'd much rather let the game — because it's a free-to-play game — to let it get to the point where we're talking about specifics, and then people are getting in right now.
"I want to announce it, and then by 5 o' clock, people are getting in playing it," Hines said.
Though there are similarities between all CCGs, it would be oversimplifying to say their mechanics are all the same. The genre is "a big spectrum," Hines said. Though Bethesda's not ready to share where The Elder Scrolls: Legends will fit on that spectrum, Hines explained that players of other games on that spectrum will feel right at home.
"What I will say is that it will feel familiar enough if you've ever played any [CCGs], but I also think we're doing some things that — they're not revolutionary, per se, but they're interesting new takes and twists on something that feels familiar," Hines said.
"What I will say is that it will feel familiar enough if you've ever played any [CCGs]..."
"You don't have to make something that's earth-shatteringly different for it to be really cool and fun — it just has to do the things it tries to do well, and blend those things in a way that feels natural," Hines added.
The Elder Scrolls: Legends has been in the works for a while — well before Hearthstone entered beta in late 2013. The digital card game space has grown as a result of Blizzard's entry into the genre, and Bethesda isn't ignoring the stiff competition Hearthstone is going to bring to the table.
"Let's be honest: Any time Blizzard enters a space, you can expect that they're moving the bar for everybody else," Hines said. "They don't wade into MMOs, and everyone else goes, 'Oh, yeah, Blizzard's here, whatever.' Or real-time strategy, or MOBA, or whatever they do. If they're gonna do it, they're going to have some amount of impact. The Hearthstone stuff they've done has clearly had a huge, huge impact. They have really brought a lot of people into it who had no interest in strategy card games at all."
Blizzard also has a habit of dominating the genres they enter into. Take Hearthstone, for example — its most die-hard players have probably spent hundreds of dollars, hours or both on building out their collections and refining their decks. Will Hearthstone players be willing to start over with a new card game?
For Bethesda, the calculation of competition is made slightly easier by the sheer growth of the genre in recent years.
"Before Hearthstone, I'm not sure I would get that person anyway," Hines said. "And, again, part of the intent is, if I'm just doing a clone of something else, if I don't have any distinguishing characteristics or features, I don't know why you would switch either.
"Part of that is on us anyway, to say, why would someone play this that's playing Hearthstone already, or Magic, or Hex, or — there's a lot of card games out there, and you want people from any of those to play," Hines said. "If you don't have a compelling reason for them to want to leave or move over, then you probably have a problem with your product in the first place."