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Dissecting the Rocky Relationship Between Bethesda and the PlayStation

July 31, 2012 Written by Alex Osborn

The PlayStation 3 has undoubtedly gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to third party games this generation. During the days of the PS2, Sony’s platform was the king of the mountain, but ever since Microsoft swooped in with their checkbook, PlayStation owners have been cast aside, forced to wait for timed-exclusive content. Worse yet has been the issue of buggy and broken games, which seemingly run much smoother on the competition’s hardware. This rings particularly true for Bethesda, the studio behind the popular The Elder Scrolls series, as well as Fallout 3.

So why make a fuss about this now? After all, we PlayStation gamers have been dealing with this ever since the platform launched. Well, it has everything to do with the recent reports from Bethesda concerning the timed-exclusive Skyrim downloadable content Dawnguard, which released on the Xbox 360 several weeks back. Seeing as how the annoying trend of timed-exclusive content is a whole separate can of worms, I’ll have to set that topic aside for now, as the real issue here stems from a recent report that the Dawnguard DLC may not even make its way to the PlayStation crowd.

As of right now, the add-on content is still up in the air for both the PC and PS3, which is a bit surprising, considering everyone was assuming it would make its way to other platforms as well. Now I understand that Bethesda never explicitly said that Dawnguard would be coming to the PS3, but come on, are they really going to exclude a huge chunk of the gaming market from this robust addition to one of last year’s greatest titles? They’d be foolish to do so. But that doesn’t take away from the reality that Bethesda has been adamant about the fact that they haven’t announced it, implying in a way that PlayStation gamers shouldn’t feel entitled to the content, which if you ask me is absolutely ridiculous.

Not only have PlayStation gamers had to put up with a bug-ridden experience when playing Skyrim, they’ve also had to remain patient for patch updates that repair these issues. The Xbox 360 version received update 1.6 several weeks ago, leaving PS3 gamers waiting in the wings for any news of a fix for their experience. Fortunately, Bethesda plans to remedy this by releasing patch 1.7 in the near future, but that doesn’t change the fact that PlayStation gamers have had to settle with a less than stellar experience all this time. Bethesda, you have a loyal fan base that wants to support your game, so please try and show us that you care about your entire audience and not just those that chose to pick up the Xbox 360 version of your game.

Had this been the first instance in which it were a problem, I’d cut them some slack, but the fact of the matter is that this has been plaguing the PS3 since Oblivion was ported to the platform. Even Fallout 3, which released a few years after, was undoubtedly inferior to its Xbox 360 counterpart. Let’s also not forget that playing through Skyrim requires a massive time investment, so asking players to switch and pick up a copy of the Xbox 360 version just isn’t a suitable alternative. If Bethesda had been more open and straightforward with its audience, all of this nonsense could have been completely avoided. At this point it’s a little too late for that.

There is however, one valid argument against my complaints thus far, namely the difficultly that comes from developing for the PS3. Because the Xbox 360 and PC are much more similar from a hardware standpoint, it is much easier for developers to port between the two platforms. Unfortunately, it’s a much trickier process for the PS3, thanks to its complex architecture. But even bearing that in mind, I find it hard to use this as a valid excuse. We’ve seen so many other developers make multiplatform games that are hardly compromised in their translation to the PS3. Heck, some of them actually take advantage of the console’s power and even serve up a superior game experience.

I will use Valve as an example. Do you remember The Orange Box? The game ran great on the Xbox 360 and PC, but was a complete mess on the PS3, having been ported by EA. At the time, studio head Gabe Newell trash talked the PS3 and threw his support in Microsoft’s direction. Fast forward a few years to E3 2010, when the same man took the stage at Sony’s press conference to announce that Portal 2 would be coming to the PS3 and would serve as the superior console version, complete with Steam integration. Talk about a complete 180.

So in the end, there’s really no excuse. If for some reason PS3 gamers who bought The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are denied the opportunity to buy the highly acclaimed add-on content that was previously released on the Xbox 360, there is something very wrong. Calling Dawnguard timed-exclusive content implies that it will be coming to other platforms later, so yes Bethesda, we are expecting this content for the PS3. Don’t you want us to pay you for supporting your game? It’s not like we’re asking to get it for free.

What are your thoughts on the uncertainty of Dawnguard’s release on the PS3? Does Bethesda owe it to Skyrim fans who bought the game for PlayStation? Let us know in the comments below.