Fans of Bethesda are no doubt waiting excitedly for the studio’s upcoming E3 presentation. With news of Fallout 76 sure to dominate the event, most peoples’ attention is currently on that particular franchise. However, fans of the Elder Scrolls Online may not be happy with Bethesda at the moment; players recently unearthed the presence of a hidden piece of tracking software which was added to the MMO’s core files in a recent update.
Called “Red Shell”, this software is a service which, according to its own website, lets; “Steam games uncover where their players come from through reliable attribution”. What that means in practice is that Red Shell tracks a game’s users and compiles data on them. The most likely use for this data is for targeted advertising. Given that Bethesda made no mention of the software’s inclusion, many fans are understandably angry with the studio.
Why Was Red Shell Added to Elder Scrolls Online?
However, the inclusion of Red Shell may have been a mistake on Bethesda’s part. After fans harshly criticized Bethesda for the inclusion of the software, Matt Firor, the game’s producer, published a statement apologizing. In his statement, Firor explained that they had been experimenting with; “a better way to link which advertisements and web content new players see to the eventual account that is created in the game.” He made clear that the only reason for this was to determine where players had originated from, so that Bethesda could better construct their advertising and other marketing content.
Firor stated the inclusion of Red Shell in Elder Scrolls Online’s Update 18 was an error; “Several factors came together in Update 18 and Red Shell was erroneously added to the live build when we were still testing and evaluating it.” He stated, “It has never been active in ESO. So, we will remove it from Update 18, which will take place in the PC/Mac incremental build scheduled for this coming Monday. We never should have done this without giving everyone a heads up it was coming, and we will learn from this mistake.”
All in all, it seems that the inclusion of Red Shell was an honest mistake. Fans who are angry at Bethesda should be reassured that the software was never activated. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that Bethesda was at least considering the possibility of using the service. Hopefully, this response from fans will dissuade the studio from attempting to gather data this way in the future.