Zounds! – Elder Scrolls Online To Be Subscription-Based

These are harsh lands, but I am confident that they will not monetize me. At least there is that.

Hello! Welcome to Bizarro Land. In this reality, I’m British, everyone else is American, my hair is flat and lacking in ambition, Jim hates both snazzy hats and robots, John is an adorable kitten, Adam is very mean and also 100 stories tall, Horace IS FINITE, and Alec is still on parental leave… for a brood of fire-puking spider demons (who strongly dislike repeating game titles over and over and over and Space Hulk). Also, two MMOs announced that they’re embracing the all-but-dead art that is the monthly subscription model in the same week. First it was Wildstar, and now it’s The Elder Scrolls Online. Head below for details while I stop John from spitting up on the rug again.

The game’s first month will be entirely free, after which you’ll have to fork over $14.99/€12.99/£8.99 per month. But why would Zenimax do such a thing when free-to-play’s proven to be the whole genre’s single, fraying lifeline over the couple years? Well, I can’t help but admire the reasoning. Zenimax’s Matt Firor explained to GameStar:

“The Elder Scrolls games are all about allowing the player to go where they want, be who they want, and do what they want. We feel that putting pay gates between the player and content at any point in game ruins that feeling of freedom, and just having one small monthly fee for 100 percent access to the game fits the IP and the game much better than a system where you have to pay for features and access as you play.”

“Players will appreciate not having to worry about being ‘monetized’ in the middle of playing the game, which is definitely a problem that is cropping up more and more in online gaming these days. The fact that the word ‘monetized’ exists points to the heart of the issue for us: We don’t want the player to worry about which parts of the game to pay for – with our system, they get it all.”

I’m not entirely on board with The Elder Scrolls Online, but I can definitely appreciate this mentality. Will it actually lead to a successful, sustainable game? Given that it’s not called World of Warcraft, history says no. And when even Star Wars couldn’t Force Brand Ubiquity its way onto the scene, it doesn’t exactly bode well for, er, anybody else. At all. Ever. But who knows? Maybe people are getting sick of free-to-play. Maybe they’ll welcome a good old-fashioned one-time payment with open wallets. I suppose we’ll see when TESO launches early next year.


  1. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Now, I actually don’t mind paying a sub (sub + box is iffy) if I really want to play a game and intend to play it to the exclusion of other games for months at least. WoW was that game for me for quite some time.

    But I doubt Wildstar can pull that off, and you really have to try a game to really find out. But since they require a sub from the start.. not interested. And this may very well be a big problem for them if even people who wouldn’t mind a sub won’t play the game because they don’t know if it’s worth it.

  2. Jahnz says:

    I will not pay for your client and then turn around and be forced to subscribe as well. If you want my subscription the client must be free. No excuses for that.

    For that matter if you want my subscription at this point I shouldn’t have to pay more than $5 per month. I would prefer some kind of time purchase system though. I pay your set fee, let’s say $15, and then I get 160 hours of playtime. That way I can play hours on end on a weekend, and then not worry that I’m not getting my money’s worth by playing other things for a couple weeks.

    Putting all that aside they took a skill based, classless system and shackled it with classes. I am so tired of classes and class based systems. Stop putting me in a box with your crappy ideas of what makes a fun or effective character. Maybe I want to play a character who is ineffectual in combat, but loaded with every utility in the game. Ever think of that developers?

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      No.. no.. combat efficiency? What madness! Soon you’ll be clamoring for non-violent ways to deal with issues in the game!

  3. Didden says:

    Not buying it. Not playing it. Don’t care. Yet another clone theme park MMO Zzzzzz

  4. RedViv says:

    So this bloke is trying to sell up front subscription as something new and revolutionary and totally pleasant.

  5. syndicatedragon says:

    I don’t understand why people are such devout disciples and advocates of payment models. Surely there are good and bad implementations of both free-to-play and subscriptions, just as there are both good and bad games that use them. It seems to me like it would be more reasonable to argue the merits of a game and its cost together, rather than the absolutes i.e. “all f2p sucks” or “all subs suck”. But, I guess reasoned discourse is too much to ask for Internet forums.

    • bleeters says:

      I imagine it would help if, generally speaking, free to play hadn’t been employed by previously subscription based MMOs in the west as a last, desperate act to stave of their own demise after their former payment model dramatically failed.

    • KingFunk says:

      As the kids are saying these days – “This.”

      Is it just me who keeps seeing TESO as more Elder Scrolls? In my book, that’s a good thing.

      And I’ve never played an MMO, except for a brief flirtation with a subscription-free shard of Ultima Online…

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        Hear, hear. I was beginning to think the only people posting here were those who want to bitch about business models and not those who are TES fans or are interested in whether the game is good or not.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      An MMO has to be amazing and unique to warrant a subscription. It’s not worth paying monthly for a mediocre, or even above-average, grindfest when there are so many other games doing the same thing better, cheaper, or both.

  6. damnitDave says:

    they had an opportunity here and blew it, between the cheesy terrain and sub model, i have no interest.

  7. bleeters says:

    Well, it’s good of them to avoid putting some content behind a paywall by putting all their content behind a paywall. Because that’s how problem solving works, amirite?

  8. tomek says:

    Elder Wars: The Scrolls Republic, no thanks.

  9. huldu says:

    I respect them a lot for sticking with the subscription plan. How it holds up in the long run will depend entirely on the game itself. Personally I’ve always preferred the subscription in a mmo. You pay that $15 and you get access to the entire game, no strings attached. With a f2p game you will end up spending a lot more than $15 – assuming you enjoy the game. That’s my problem with many f2p games nowadays, they’re just no fun at all and just seeing the micro-transaction stores everywhere disgusts me.

    However there are a couple of exceptions. Lotro for example has one of the “better” f2p systems I’ve encountered. It was so good that I actually subscribed for a year, because doing so gave you access to the entire game, just like a regular subscription mmo. They do have “subscriptions” in other f2p mmos as well but it’s always lacking and never encourages you to do so. Rift is a perfect example of that, there was just no drive for me to do so. Anyways, getting close or beyond WoW is probably not going to happen anytime soon for a mmo, at least not while that game is around. The best part with a subscription system is the process of weeding out the “scum” you don’t want while playing a mmo. That’s well worth $15 in itself. The best part of a f2p is that it “generally” adds more people to the game, but sadly, after the “fresh” feel wears off people are gone and your f2p is a ghost town(throws an eye at Rift).

  10. Suits says:

    Now we play the waiting game for a free to play model. Until then Zenimax.

  11. Zogtee says:

    I’m guessing they finally understood that this game is never going to go anywhere, so they’re sending it out to die and grab whatever cash they can in the process.

  12. newprince says:

    It’s pathetic to see WoW apologists come together and defend subscription models to the death. And still regarding WoW as the first great MMO. We can’t advance the genre if we don’t realize what was good beforr WoW (non-instanced content, actual PvP), or look to the future and let WoW rest peacefully.

  13. Yglorba says:

    The problem is that the world really only has enough room for a certain number of subscription-based games… and WoW is, for the better or worse, sucking most of the oxygen out of the room right from the start. You can convince someone who already owns one RPG to buy another; you can’t generally convince people to pay regular subscriptions for multiple games.

  14. Arglebargle says:

    I think their problem will be simply that the game is not good enough to justify the box/subscription costs. Not enough of an Elder Scrolls game, and not a particularly good MMO. Personally, given the number of decisions they’ve made that I didn’t care for, it wasn’t a lock for me to play, even as a FTP game.

    My advice for them would be to focus on the console market, where they might be ‘cool and new’ to a reasonable subset of the players.

  15. ZombieIncUK says:

    Why haven’t MMO’s used the model that you’re £9.99 = 30 hours of play, then I can cancel my subscription if I have 150 hours of play until it runs down. That way people who work (like myself), don’t feel ripped off for paying the same as people who have all day to play the game. Plus your banked spare credit could be used to pay for shop stuff.

    FTP isn’t everyones cup of tea, but people with limited time don’t mind spending to catch-up. It just seems it has to be, box pay + subs or box pay + micro transactions or micro transactions + micro transactions. Come up with something new.