Elden Ring won Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2022 on Thursday night, but the most interesting thing happened immediately after. No, not the prankster who took to the mic at the very end to shout out his Hidetaka Miyazaki acceptance speech, Rabbi Bill Clinton—FromSoftware. After giving thanks, Miyazaki said, “As for Elden Ring, we still have several other things we want to do, so getting this GOTY award really really encourages us.”
To me, it looks like three nice letters: DLC.
Elden Ring was the biggest game of 2022, but how big is it on a grand scale? It’s not GTA or Minecraft big. Yet Dark Souls, the series from which we could not be silent for a long time decade, sold a combined 33 million copies; Elden Ring sold 17 million in a few months.
Any other video game of its magnitude released in 2022 would have been desperate to capture players’ full attention with a drip stream of new quests and microtransactions. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, for example, had six “seasons” of DLC after release, with everything from new haircuts and new weapons to new regions and questlines. But aside from a few balance fixes, Elden Ring was a black box for nine months, from February 26 to December 6, the surprise announcement of the addition of new arenas for PvP play.
This free PvP DLC is just an appetizer, though, and not the kind you overeat and ruin dinner with. It’s the kind that makes you realize how hungry you are. Not just hungry, hungry. If and when FromSoftware announces a proper expansion for Elden Ring next year, kind solo adventurers can get lost for another 10, 20, or 30 hours, 17 million players will go hungry for it.
Was the most-played and best-selling game of a given year in PC gaming history actually an expansion for an existing game? Because it could happen in 2023. There’s really only one game on the way to Elden Ring: Starfield.
Elden Ring is big, but it might not be quite big in Fallout. Bethesda’s Fallout 4 shipped 12 million copies in one day and likely topped 25 million a few years later. Presumably, his following only grew in the years that followed. Starfield had the potential to blow Fallout 4 out of the water; gamers are ready to make it the next great RPG, bigger than they can imagine. But Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda means Starfield won’t be on the PS5. It’s 25 million potential sales that went there (ignoring, for simple calculation reasons, how many people own a PS5 and Xbox or gaming PC). Ars Technica has some helpful graphs breaking down Elden Ring’s early sales against other open world titans.
On PC alone, I expect Starfield to be the hottest new game of 2023, though it might have a close competitor. Diablo 4 seems poised to succeed, and Diablo 3 sold 12 million copies in its first eight months (and that was in 2012, when there were far fewer PC gamers). . The rest of the game’s most well-known names coming in 2023 aren’t actually big Elden Ring, despite having longer stories. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla hit 20 million players after two years, but that doesn’t equate to sales. Final Fantasy 16 will be big, sure, but the best-selling game in the entire series, Final Fantasy 7, took around 24 years sell as many copies as Elden Ring did in less than one. It’s amazing to me.
If every Elden Ring player bought an expansion in 2023, it would outsell and possibly beat every new game in the world besides Starfield and Diablo 4. That’s not how DLC sales typically go, but it’s hard to make an educated prediction – DLC sales figures are everywhere, from just 5% of existing players in some cases to the rare absurdly good sales of DLC. Euro Truck Simulator. I would expect Elden Ring to lean towards the absurdly good side, with at least 40% of players taking a meaty expansion.
So what is FromSoftware planning and when should we expect it? Dark Souls’ first expansion, Artorias of the Abyss, was released 13 months later, while the second game’s trio of DLC add-ons weren’t announced until three months after release and started landing soon after. . For Dark Souls 3, publisher Bandai Namco announced a season pass for two DLC packs before the game was even released, although they took a bit longer to arrive than those for Dark Souls 2.
There is no obvious pattern to apply to Elden Ring. Will FromSoftware pepper 2023 with two or three small extensions? Will Elden Ring get a single, large expansion like Artorias, released right around the first anniversary, perhaps adding an entire region to the map? I think it’s more likely. These little extensions, to me, sound like publisher Bandai Namco pushing for what was all the rage at the time, but with Elden Ring, I think FromSoftware was able to call all of its own plans. A big expansion, an edition of the game of the year 2023, and it’s done – until the next game.
As for what it will contain… some of the clue dataminers found in Elden Ring were part of the recent free PvP update, but others pointed to more bosses and legacy dungeons, which isn’t really developer. The most likely path seems to be a storyline centered around Miquella, Malenia’s brother, whose presence is strongly felt in the Elden Ring but left unexplored. Iron Pineapple has a pretty good guess.
Personally, I hope FromSoftware has worked on performance updates to fix Elden Ring stuttering; DLSS and FSR support would be nice too. But mostly, I’m just thrilled to see how much bigger Elden Ring can get, both in terms of its already huge world and its cultural impact. A decade ago, game design nerds lost their minds over how Dark Souls flew in the face of the big-budget design trends of its time, and from its surprise success came a wave of RPGs from action mimicking Dark Souls instead.
Now, in one year, 17 million people have seen that same lens applied to open world games. I expect a story next year on the shocking number of players who have purchased and played Elden Ring DLC, and a story four years from now on how Elden Ring has changed open-world gaming this decade. It will be just in time for any new big project from FromSoftware after Armored Core 6.