Zenimax Online’s New Game Has Been in Development for 4.5 Years, Now with 200 Devs

Alessio Palumbo
Zenimax Online

It's no secret that Zenimax Online Studios, developer of MMORPG The Elder Scrolls Online, is working on a new game. The news was first shared by Studio Head Matt Firor around three and a half years ago when he also confirmed the project would be a new IP powered by a new engine.

However, a recent interview featuring Zenimax Online Creative Director Ben Jones shines some additional light on this upcoming project. Speaking to the Product Builder podcast, Jones said he has worked on the game for roughly four and a half years now. The high-level lore and story overview beats were actually there before he even joined the team, though.

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Zenimax Online currently has nearly 200 developers working on what Jones described as a very large scope project.

We're primarily known for Elder Scrolls Online, which is an extension of the very well established Elder Scrolls universe that we also publish here at Bethesda, but I am driving an independent team working on a new intellectual property, and I've been doing that for about four and a half years.

In terms of my responsibilities, as I hinted before, I'm responsible for a design team of about 50 people. We've got to a development team of nearly 200 at this point spread all over the globe, so myself as well as my development management Partners manage the entirety of the project at this point. This is a considerable investment and a very large scope project.

We're creating a new IP, so a lot of that started with a background for a world, a vision for a high-level world that we were going to create, and to a degree, a story that we wanted to tell.

The biggest beats of that existed before my time here. My job was to take those components and to really put flesh on the bone, to create a core team that understood what my bosses were seeking to create.

The first two hires that we had on the team were a Lead Writer and what we call a Loremaster, someone who is responsible for the core tenants of the IP and all of the mythology that goes into the game. We work together along with our core creative team to establish what those core tenants are. We iterated on that. Our main story has changed 10 times in the last four and a half years as we evolve what the product is.

Ben Jones also talked about COVID's impact on Zenimax Online, which was relatively mild given that the studio already had a headstart on remote development. According to Jones, the team has been largely distributed since late 2018/early 2019, creating five satellite offices. Out of about 200 employees, half don't really work or live in Maryland, which remains the main office.

There's a chance the new Zenimax Online game will come with some connected mobile app experience, as Jones highlighted the importance of such a feature and pointed to Bungie's Destiny as an appropriate way to do it.

It may be a while yet before the developer is ready to unveil its big next game, but we'll certainly be looking forward to it after the success of Elder Scrolls Online (over 20 million players announced in early 2022, now over 21 million).

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