FromSoftware recently received a gong for Elden Ring at the Japanese PlayStation Partners awards, as part of which producer Yasuhiro Kitao picked up the trophy and said a select few words to the press. The conference was reported on by the publication Game Watch and, as Kitao was speaking in Japanese, this is a lightly edited machine translation of his remarks.
Kitao begins on familiar turf, saying the studio was surprised by “so many people” picking up the game (publisher Bandai Namco’s most recent milestone was an announcement Elden Ring has sold over 20 million copies). Kitao said FromSoftware didn’t expect such wild numbers and “there are no words other than gratitude”.
Kitao says this success hasn’t changed anything about how FromSoftware works, saying the studio remains committed to working “diligently to create something interesting and valuable.” The success has meant, however, that FromSoftware has moved to a new and larger studio thanks to its increasing numbers of staff. “The aim was to create an environment where they could concentrate more,” says Kitao, which is rather ominous in the context of the studio that created Byrgenwerth et al. “The development environment itself is still in its infancy, but it is improving.”
Then the question about Elden Ring’s DLC, Shadow of the Erdtree, which doesn’t even have a release date yet. Kitao doesn’t really say anything of substance, but the exciting point is that he uses the ‘B’ word. “I’ll talk about the DLC another time,” says Kitao. “It’s still a little ways off, but progress is going well. Like Bloodborne’s expansion, it has new battles and new characters: So please look forward to new things.”
FromSoftware generally does excellent expansions, the kind that really add to the base game and make it feel somehow more complete: they’re anything but an afterthought. Even in this company, however, Bloodborne’s The Old Hunters is probably the single best expansion to a game I’ve ever played, flipping everything players thought they knew about that world and adding a host of iconic characters, environments, and situations. The Old Hunters is as good as videogames get and, yes, I’m still waiting on the PC version.
Kitao didn’t say anything else about Shadow of the Erdtree, though did end with some speculative thoughts on why FromSoftware has over time been able to build such a mass audience for its unique style of games. “I think the high degree of freedom in strategy [is the appeal],” says Kitao. “I think it’s because each user has a different experience in the way they play the game, and can continue to play for a long time. I think this has given rise to a lot of interesting conversations.”
He’s probably on to something there. You can play Elden Ring like me, in the uncreative but effective loin-cloth-with-massive-sword combo, or you can be a crafty little rat, a Malenia-killing machine devoted to the greater good, or—as with one of my builds—a sort of pacifist death-monk thing (OK, not that pacifist). There are so many ways to play you could just go through this thing endlessly. Players respond to this lack of hand-holding and buried secrets, too: one of the Elden Ring stats that really jumped out at me post-launch was that more players had seen the ‘secret’ ending that requires plenty of hoop-jumping than the ‘normal’ one. My hopes were already high for Shadow of the Erdtree: but comparing it to Bloodborne’s The Old Hunters? I cannot wait to make contact.