Elder Scrolls Online receives backlash after allegedly stealing fan art

Artwork getting stolen by huge studios is becoming a recurrent theme.

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 official store page selling the skin for 1,000 Crowns.

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.

Thankfully, Relan followed up with a tweet stating that the ESO team has contacted him and is looking into the situation.

Later that evening, TESOnline also posted a tweet acknowledging the situation and confirming their contact with the artist to ensure a "proper resolution."

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.

Daevanth's updated 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.

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Hassan Sajid

Hassan Sajid // Articles: 694

Gaming has been a part of Hassan’s life for as long as he can remember, and he has an excellent grasp of all types of games. Hassan is best known for his the in-depth written and video guides that he produces for Xfire. He graduated with a degree in engineering from the National University Science & Technology (formerly known as Caledonian College of Engineering). The research and technical writing skills he earned throughout his time in the university have allowed him to contribute to the gaming community by creating guides. Find Hassan on LinkedIn or find him gaming on Steam.
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