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Forget 'Game of Thrones' -- 'Elder Scrolls' is the true fantasy hit

"The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim," released in 2011, has sold more than 20 million copies.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Elder Scrolls," the fantasy gaming series, rivals books, movies in popularity
  • One game sold nearly as many copies as all five novels "Game of Thrones" comes from
  • Fans have named children, planned a wedding based on the game
  • "Elder Scrolls" celebrates its 20th anniversary this year

(CNN) -- Fans of fantasy franchises like "Game of Thrones" are famously devoted -- some might say fanatical.

Whether making an appointment with their television, staking out a bookstore, or lining up hours before a movie release, people who love diving into worlds of wonder go to great lengths get the goods.

But it may not be "Game of Thrones" that has the most rabid fans.

"The Elder Scrolls," and its newest release, "The Elder Scrolls Online," boasts one of the most dedicated fan bases in all of entertainment.

Celebrating 20 years of adventures on the continent of Tamriel, the six releases in "The Elder Scrolls" series have given millions of players the opportunity to explore, create, and battle their way to glory.

Pete Hines, vice president of public relations and marketing for Bethesda Softworks, told CNN it is that willingness to give the player freedom that endears the game to its fans.

"You get to make your own story versus everybody else presenting you something where you are playing their story," Hines said. "I think that has continued to resonate with folks as gaming has gotten more popular."

Those "folks" add up. There were more than 20 million copies sold for just one game in the franchise -- "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim."

Compare that to one of the most talked about fantasy book franchises, "Game of Thrones." Random House's Bantam Books said it has sold more than 24 million copies of all five books in the series ... combined.

If sales don't impress you, how about sheer size? Tamriel is roughly 7.54 million square miles of land for players to explore, while Westeros (home to much of "Game of Thrones") is thought to be about 800,000 square miles and J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth is 3 million square miles.

Wiki pages created by fans to showcase elements of "The Elder Scrolls" also dwarf the number of similar pages created for other fantasy stories. There are nearly 22,000 pages created for "The Elder Scrolls" -- more than "Lord of the Rings" (4,944), "Twilight" (984), and the Harry Potter books (11,511) combined.

When Bethesda asked for people to sign up to beta test their new multiplayer game, "The Elder Scrolls Online," 5 million people (the equivalent of the population of Norway) responded to the call. Hines said there were even attempts at bribery to get in, with one person offering their newborn child and their left arm.

"We determined that was a bit too high a price to pay for a beta key," Hines said with a laugh. "We have very loyal, enthusiastic, rabid fans that are really into what we are doing and want to be a part of it."

While body parts and trading children may be a bit extreme, Hines said there was another family who were so dedicated and loved the franchise so much that they made a life-long commitment after the release of "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim."

"I made an off-hand joke that if anybody names their kid Dovahkin (the title given to the main character in the game) you will get free Bethesda games for life," Hines said. "And then somebody actually did."

Dovahkin Tom Kellermeyer was born on November 11, 2011.

Sure, other babies have been named for fantasy characters. People have also held weddings in the style of their favorite fantasy land (although a wedding in the style of "Game of Thrones" might be problematic). But how many people can actually say they got married in Middle Earth or Hogwarts?

Hines said one couple has approached Bethesda with the request to get married inside "The Elder Scrolls Online" game.

"They are actually getting married, but they want to do the ceremony in 'The Elder Scrolls Online.' We're still figuring out how exactly that works and what the ramifications are," he said.

And of course, the players want to talk about the game as well. "The Elder Scrolls" lead the way in that category as well.

The series has more than 300,000 subscribers to Subreddit accounts across its various games. "Game of Thrones" has 298,196 and Harry Potter has 142,389. And that doesn't even take into account all the fan fiction pages spread out across the Internet.

"It's just all over the place everywhere else," Hines said. "There are blogs and forums and all kinds of places where people are writing their own story, their own fiction."

Lest you think Hines to be a braggart, he did admit he has a great fondness for the "Game of Thrones" books and television series. He said many fans of "The Elder Scrolls" also follow the adventures in Westeros and Middle Earth.

"There are Harry Potter fans who are Elder Scrolls fans. There are Elder Scrolls fans who are Harry Potter or 'Game of Thrones' fans," Hines said. "It never has to be an either-or."

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