The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) is an MMORPG based on The Elder Scrolls franchise developed by ZeniMax Online Studios. Though the game faced a rocky reception upon its initial release in 2014, it has since attracted millions of players thanks to consistent expansion releases, with the 2017 Morrowind expansion being a notable turning point.
Lately, the video game industry hasn't had the best reputation when it comes to plagiarism and proper credit. Major companies like Activision have faced controversies for allegedly stealing art and turning it into new skins. Fortunately, public outcry and support often prevent the original concept art from making it into the final product.
Now, ZeniMax Online, the developers of ESO, find themselves under fire for allegedly stealing concept art without the original artist's knowledge and implementing it in-game for players to purchase with Crowns, the in-game premium currency. Like other MMORPGs, ESO offers a variety of cosmetic items for players to display in-game, which can be earned through gameplay or purchased with Crowns.
Artist Relan Daevath shared their Elder Scrolls fan art on Tumblr in July 2020, featuring Sotha Sil, Vivec, and Almalexia, members of The Tribunal, the three ruling gods of Morrowind. ESO is selling a skin called Mercymother's Body Art in their store, which bears a striking resemblance to Daevath's 2020 art.
The store page describes the skin as depicting Almalexia, but Daevanth asserts that it represents Sotha Sil of The Tribunal. Understandably shocked, Relan Daevath shared his concerns on Twitter and Tumblr, eventually gaining traction on ESO's official subreddit.
19 jule 2020 i posted this #tesonline fanart on Tumblr. Now in 2023 I see my art… in ESO crown skin called MERCYMOTHER'S BODY ART (why Almalexia? It's Sotha Sil here)
— Relan Daevath (@daevath) April 9, 2023
Thankfully, Relan followed up with a tweet stating that the ESO team has contacted him and is looking into the situation.
Oh thank you all for your support. It means a lot for a little artist. Elder Scrolls has a brilliant community 🙂
TESO team wrote to me saying they are "currently looking into this and hope to have an update for you as quickly as possible". OK, let's wait )
— Relan Daevath (@daevath) April 10, 2023
Later that evening, TESOnline also posted a tweet acknowledging the situation and confirming their contact with the artist to ensure a "proper resolution."
We are aware of the situation with the ESO Fan Artist. It was never our intention to include any community fan art without proper credit. We are in contact with the artist and will work with them to make sure that there is a proper resolution.
— The Elder Scrolls Online (@TESOnline) April 10, 2023
While the situation is undoubtedly messy, it seems both parties are addressing it civilly and respectfully, as Daevanth has indicated in an update post on his Tumblr.
It's our hope that ZeniMax Online has learned from this experience and will avoid such incidents in the future, especially as it works on its new triple-A MMO title for Xbox, which might also be available on PC. As for The Elder Scrolls Online, the game remains available to play and continues to receive regular support from the developers. The next expansion, Necrom: Shadow Over Morrowind, is scheduled for release in June 2023.