Apart from being remembered as an amazing open-world RPG, Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is also known for being one of the first console games with microtransactions. Specifically, horse armor. Bethesda boss Todd Howard has now reflected on the horse armor controversy.
Speaking to IGN, Howard said, “People will buy anything.” He added: “That doesn’t mean you should do it. [But] they will buy anything. That sounds terrible.”
Howard went on to say that there is nothing wrong in practice with horse armor, but the issue with it is how pricey it was. He said someone at Microsoft–he wouldn’t say who–told the team at Bethesda to charge more, so they did.
At the time, themes–or wallpaper for your Xbox 360–were a big deal. The price point Bethesda proposed for horse armor was below the price of a theme. So Microsoft asked Bethesda to increase the price; it was sold at the time for $2.50 USD.
“Horse armor is not bad. I think horse armor is fine. The price point, at the time, was the issue. We felt, it’s probably worth this,” he said. “I won’t say who at Microsoft said, ‘Well, that’s less than we sell a theme for; a wallpaper is more than that. You should charge this; you can always lower it.’ We were like, ‘Okay!’ It’s a price-to-value proposition at the time, not do I want armor for my horse. And looking back now, it’s quite cheap.”
In the ensuring years, Bethesda sold Oblivion’s horse armor for twice the normal price as an April Fool’s joke, and it sold well because people were in on the joke and wanted to participate, Howard said.
The next mainline Elder Scrolls game is The Elder Scrolls VI, which is still a long ways off. The game will not be at E3 2019 this month, and it might not release until the next-generation of consoles.