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How Bethesda’s Passion Fuels Its Eclectic Portfolio

Looking across Bethesda Softwork’s recently unveiled portfolio of games – from old-school shooter and RPG to VR experiences and AAA mobile game – it might be hard to connect the dots between those titles.

How can one devine how Bethesda picks what to spend time on creating and when to do so?

That’s simple said Pete Hines, Berthesda’s senior vice president of marketing, and it really hasn’t changed much in the company’s more than 30 year history.

“The basic idea is still that we work on the kind of things that our devs are excited about making on the platforms that make sense,” Hines said. “If that’s console great. If that’s PC great. If it includes VR great. If not OK.”

Take, for instance, “Elder Scrolls: Blades.”

Revealed during the company’s E3 showcase earlier this week, “Blades” will be Bethesda’s latest entry in its popular Elder Scrolls role-playing game franchise. But instead of launching on a console or PC, it will hit this fall as a free-to-play iPhone, iPad and Android game.

Despite its launch on mobile, the game is meant to be a massive first-person role-playing game. The title has high-end graphics, rich environments and a robust line-up of magic, gear and skills.

You can also customize your city or take on other players in an arena.

Finally, the game has the Abyss – an infinitely replayable mode in which daring heroes push their limits floor after floor in a never-ending dungeon, where enemies become deadlier and deadlier as you progress.

During my time with the work-in-progress game, the controls felt like they could use a bit of work to tighten the responsiveness, but it was a fun way to play and worked equally well whether playing in horizontal or vertical mode.

The ultimate goal is to bring the same game to other platforms too, from PC to console. And, Bethesda tells me it plans to make sure those games will all support cross-play.

How the game came about is typical of how Bethesda decides what to work on.

Hines said that Todd Howard just said he wanted try to do something different with the Elder Scrolls franchise.

“This is Todd saying, ‘I want to do a thing, a mobile Elder Scrolls that feel like a console experience but on your phone and then bring it to every other platform,” Hines said. “That seemed awesome so OK, do it.”

In some ways, Bethesda’s decision to revive “Rage” and develop a sequel nearly eight years after the first hit followed the same path. It was about pairing the right person or studio with the right game and idea.

“We didn’t have anyone who had that ability that could bring what we thought would be exciting to ‘Rage,’” Hines said. “Until we talked to Avalanche and saw they could take it to the originally place id (Software) wanted to go. “

Hines noted that while the game had driving and vehicular combat, the original game wasn’t the sort of open-world title that was intended.

“I had a lot of fun playing it, it needed an ending, but it was fun,” Hines said. “But it felt like it never delivered on the promise of being able to go all over the place and do stuff everywhere.”

Developers Avalanche, especially after their work on the “Mad Max” game seemed like a good match.

“They did great stuff with ‘Mad Max’ and know vehicles and combat,” he said. “There needs to be a lot of quests to do, but also there needs to be some ‘What if I took that and take it over there to see what it will do?’”

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