Following swift and significant outcry by gamers, Bethesda has now removed the Red Shell tracking software from an upcoming update to Elder Scrolls Online. The removal follows a trend of studios dumping the software following outcry by gamers, who object to their data being tracked and scrutinized by the software.
What is Red Shell?
Red Shell is a data collection service which uses software in games to track user data. While that might sound shady, Red Shell isn’t actually that terrible. However, several studios have seemingly implemented it into their games without notifying users about it, or explaining exactly what data is being tracked, which has gamers understandably upset. Red Shell’s actual purpose is to track the effectiveness of a studio’s marketing.
The software’s own FAQ explains that; “Our service basically says ‘this computer clicked on a link from this YouTube video and the same computer played your game’.”
The information which the software collects includes; “operating system, browser version number, IP address (anonymized through one-way hashing), screen resolution, in-game user id, and font profiles”. The software is quick to clarify that no personally identifiable data is collected. Although individuals can opt out of Red Shell; most gamers probably had no idea that the software was included in games which they were playing.
Red Shell in Elder Scrolls Online?
After fans spotted Red Shell in Elder Scrolls Online, Bethesda quickly responded. The game’s producer, Matt Firor, explained that the studio had considered Red Shell. However, that they had decided not to go with it, and its installation into Elder Scrolls Online was erroneous. Apparently, the software was never active in the game. Thus, no user data was collected. Firor was very apologetic, stating; “We never should have done this without giving everyone a heads up it was coming, and we will learn from this mistake”. The software was subsequently removed from Update 18, which released for Elder Scrolls Online last week.
Bethesda is just the latest studio which has pledged to remove Red Shell. The developers of Conan Exiles recently chose to do the same thing. Other developers who have also removed the software include the makers of Dead by Daylight, The Hunt: Showdown, Total War, and Vermintide. However, the software remains in use in plenty of other games; Civilisation VI, Kerbal Space Program, and Injustice 2 were all named by community reporting as using the software. Their respective developers have yet to comment on the outcry against the tracking software.