Tamriel Gets Real: The Elder Scrolls Online Ditches Subs

this man is happy about the news. You can tell by his toothsome smile

“I told you so” is an ugly attitude, but it did seem unlikely that even a name as big as The Elder Scrolls could get away with a big-budget monthly subscription MMO in this day and age. Long-established games are still getting away with it, but this is Generation Free and it’s much harder to lure people away from the many and various online entertainments they can have without necessarily reaching deeper into their wallets. So, Bethesda’s 2014 MMO The Elder Scrolls Online is, as of March 2015, The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited. It’s switching to a Guild Wars-style one-off payment model for the main game, with a steady stream of paid DLC planned after that.

A subscription of sorts will remain for those who prefer to know they’re getting everything, however. ‘ESO Plus’ entails “a single monthly charge for a premium membership service, providing exclusive in-game bonuses, a monthly allotment of crowns to use in the store and access to all DLC game packs while a member”, and everyone currently subscribing will be automatically moved to that in March. However, they can instead cancel their sub and get ‘unlimited’ access to the updated base game without spending anything else.

Anyone with an inactive account will also get access. Basically, if you bought the box at any point, you’re into Tamriel Unlimited. I don’t yet have prices for what brand new players will have to pay after the switch, I’m afraid.

This all happens on March 17, and a console version follows in June.

Here’s the final part of the CGI mini-series Bethesda have been running to promote TESO too:

More details on this whole switch-up are here.


  1. Tom De Roeck says:

    Oh my, thats actually smart as opposed to yet another F2P MMO.

    • Colonel J says:

      Yes it’s pretty much the same ‘Buy to Play’ model The Secret World went to, with no fundamental restrictions on you if you don’t spend any more than the price of the game, other than not having access to new content drops or cosmetic stuff in the cash shop.

      I far prefer this to the way SWTOR went..there the F2P is really just a glorified trial of the game and they make you feel like a 3rd class citizen, anyone staying with the game long term will end up subbing because of all the quality of life restrictions that being F2P puts in your way.

  2. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Huh. Okay then. Will probably jump back in at some point, I ended my subscription because I wasn’t playing enough to justify it (and was fed up with that thought at the back of my mind of feeling obliged to play it whenever I wasn’t) rather than because the game wasn’t any fun, so good news for me I suppose.

  3. Ham Solo says:

    I give it 6 months to become F2P.
    Same story as with that Star Wars MMO – Unbelievable hype, and source material far better than the actual game. WoW-clones with different skins and colors, the lot of them. I for one am hoping for TES6 meanwhile.

    • Chuckleluck says:

      That new Star Wars MMO, H1Z1?

    • Sonntam says:

      No game that switched to B2P model switched over to F2P.

      B2P is pretty profitable, allows a healthy playerbase and if Secret World and Guild Wars 2 didn’t turn F2P, then I don’t see why TESO would.

  4. damien says:

    reading the forum reactions to the “news” has actually made me chuckle.

    the tonne of talk there of “betrayal” and “deception” on the devs part would have surprised me a decade ago. i think.

    now it just makes me ask – “HOW did you NOT see this coming?”

    • simontifik says:

      Yeah gotta love the tone of the Internet these days.

      If I was paying a monthly fee to play a game and the devs decide to let me continue playing that game without the fee I’d be quite chuffed. Glass half full and all that.

  5. Razumen says:

    Not interested, give me Skyrim co-op or GTFO. Sick of these mediocre MMO cash-grabs.

    • mvar says:

      This. Add some LAN-type multiplayer option to play along with friends or keep doing what you know best: making awesome single player games. When this game came out i decided to buy it after the subscription was removed, now i don’t even care anymore. Just give us TES6

    • silentdan says:

      Seconded. Some games begin with a vision of a grand experience, and are tempered to varying degrees by business & technical restrictions. Others begin with a vision of salaciously-beckoning currency symbols, and are propped up by poorly-understood conventional wisdom & trend observation. We’ve been tolerating too much of the latter, and I’m glad to see it’s failing more often. The harder TESO crashes, the more notice will be taken by risk-averse managers. “We made a lot more money, goodwill, and reputation from single-player Skyrim than we did from TESO. More Skyrim, less TESO from now on.” That’s what I hope they’re saying, or at least considering.

    • Deviija says:

      I would love a TES game with drop-in/drop-out co-op capabilities. Just running around together with a friend/significant other, enjoying the open-world sandbox and lore. Sure isn’t the story, plot, writing, and character interaction in-game that make modern TES games good, imo, so it’d definitely help with the distraction.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        Was about ro rant about how I’d much rather just have more singleplayer TES, thankyouverymuch. Dislike the way multiplayer is so often shoehorned into games just because it’s “what’s done”, and any game that doesn’t have it tends to lead to the devs being yelled at until they add it. (Still sore about them adding multiplayer in Galciv 3, I cannot see them managing to preserve the not-even-remotely-balanced-but-incredible-fun elements of 2 if they’re catering to multiplayer, let alone the fab diplomacy system)
        But then I read your comment, and remembered the amazing fun I had playing through Legend of Mana with my younger brother when we were little, and mentally applied that same approach to co-op to Skyrim, and damn, but you have converted me.

        • Chuckleluck says:

          I think a lot of the singleplayer TES purists are afraid that the game will be dumbed down to make room for multiplayer. If TES went coop, I’d hope they’d make additional players akin to your followers in Skyrim. Keep one player as the hero, but the hero can always have friends.

          • derbefrier says:

            “TES purists are afraid that the game will be dumbed down to make room for multiplayer.

            I think any TES purists already know that bridge was crossed long ago. Consoles already took care of that.

        • teije says:

          The Paradox forums – for EUIV in particular – are always up in arms about changes in patches seen as catering to the multiplayer experience that negatively affect the single-player experience, which is how most people play it. And it hasn’t been helped by conflicting comments from Paradox devs that on the one hand they design with MP as their base, and on the other, with SP.

    • Anders Wrist says:

      My feelings exactly. I’ve wanted a quality co-op TES experience since Daggerfall.

    • neofit says:

      I don’t mind it being an MMO, as long as most of it is soloable. With this new model it could be like a single-player game. What I mind is them putting in some forced PvP. TES was never about that. And until they implement a no-PvP switch so I can use all the PvE content without being bothered, I will spend my money elsewhere.

  6. Kefren says:

    That kind of CGI, while fun to watch, takes away all my interest in a game, because I know the game will never live up to it in terms of interactions or fidelity.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      I stopped watching pre-rendered trailers a looong time ago. It was probably that Killzone 2 trailer that did it.

  7. Moraven says:

    Surprised they still working on the console version. They gave PC users a free copy of the game for console after they delayed it and promise to offer free character transfer.

  8. Zekiel says:

    Wow that new name really is a mouthful. The subtitle sounds a bit like it should be a football team?

  9. Cockie says:

    Has it gotten better since RPS’ rather negative WIT at launch?

    • cthulhie says:

      I picked it up 6 months in, and was frankly baffled by all the hate. I think it comes down to: it wasn’t social enough to make MMO purists happy, and it wasn’t deep and open enough to make Skyrim fans happy. The first was exacerbated by the perception that a single-player studio was “pretending” they understood the MMO space (like Bioware and The Old Republic), and the latter because–well yeah, we’ve been chasing the dream of a multiplayer Elder Scrolls since Morrowind.

      If you leave out genres and take it on its own terms, it’s got this: the world really feels like an Elder Scrolls game. They’ve deepened the lore and the world design is lovely. TES games have, by design, stuck to a single thematic environment, while the scope of ESO includes includes all of Tamriel. I’m in it for the exploration, so this really scratched the itch. I also find it quite nice-looking, though YYMV. The much-maligned skillbar system is fine, but then I’ve always found every Elder Scrolls game’s combat to be clunky and not particularly enjoyable, so I welcome any attempt to try something different. Also, while I’m not hugely into the social side of MMOs, it’s nice to be able to play with a real-world friend.

      And the point that I find to be really under-reported, frankly: the writing is the best in the series. I can see this being ignored–writing is neither a common strength for MMOs nor TES, so it’s really another case of mis-targeting the demographic. But I really appreciate actually enjoying the little stories told in the side-quests!

      The bad? Well, it’s essentially a single-player game, which arguably violates the foundation of the genre. (cf. MMO community being pissed.) I describe it as an MMO not ruined by all those strangers. The character/skill options are more streamlined than other games in the series. Because the map is based around clearly-defined character levels, you can’t just go wherever you want without getting squished, which is a significant departure from TES standards. I guess there’s no endgame or something? So if your goal is to devour the content so quickly that you’re not forced to experience it, then you’re going to be bored when you run out of content you’ve ignored.

      Basically, taken on its own terms, I really enjoyed it. But when you’re working within an established IP, you can’t say, “Stop comparing it to games past!” They struck a middle ground I quite liked, and in so doing angered both their fans and the community they were attempting to build. I can’t imagine what would happen if Bethesda tried to release any of its Elder Scrolls Adventures or Travels games today.

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        I came here after reading your comment in today’s “What are you Playing” post, and after reading this, I think I just might have to check this out when the sub model’s gone. I tend not to care about genres, and I play TES games mostly for the lore and exploration these days (heck, I treated a lot of Guild Wars that way, too), so you’ve sold me on this one pretty well.

  10. vorador says:

    Color me moderately interested.

    But i’d rather get a TES6. Thankyouverymuch.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Yep, exactly my sentiment, minimally stated. If I had loads of time, I’d really be looking forward to giving it a go, but I’m just moderately interested for now. Time will be made for TES VI, however — assuming it’s a proper TES game.

  11. Chuckleluck says:

    So when’s TESVI coop?

  12. iZen says:

    Still a crappy game lol

  13. aliksy says:

    How sensible of them. Not terribly interested in an MMO like I think this is, but I might pick it up if it goes on sale for < $10.

    • Colonel J says:

      It’s already £10/$12 from key sites and £14 in a box in UK from Amazon, which for anyone minded to start playing it in next few months might be worth doing as you then get another month of the new subscriber benefits if you have any active sub remaining on the day Unlimited launches.

      And I guess it’s possible that those retail keys for the old version might disappear while they try to jack the price up for the Unlimited relaunch. But no rush, no doubt it’ll be very cheap again everywhere by the summer.

  14. Turkey says:

    It’s like a trainwreck filmed in slow motion.

  15. sinister agent says:

    Alternative headline: “An Elder Scrolls MMO? What kind of idiot… oh god yeah, they did, didn’t they?”

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Hey, it’s a great idea if you don’t assume that MMO = WoW clone. Which unfortunately is what it turned out to be.

      There’s a thousand interesting sandboxy things that *could* have been done (eg, take Daggerfall as a starting point), but these possibilities will apparently never be explored by big-budget MMOs. It’s sad.

      • malkav11 says:

        Because despite the amount of text that gets posted about how incredible sandbox MMOs could theoretically be by a small but very vocal minority on sites like this, that is not what most potential players want now or have ever wanted from MMOs. I mean, one of the very first MMOs ever was Ultima Online, which was (to my understanding), very much a sandbox affair and very much a AAA production, as AAA went at that time. It never even equalled EQ’s numbers, as far as I know, and EQ’s playerbase at the very height of its dominion over the genre was in the 400-500k range (again, far as I know). EvE has a dedicated fanbase that’s gradually grown over the years, but last I heard that was still well under a million. WoW’s had over 12 million concurrent subscribers and still pulls over half that at 10 years old. No other themepark MMO has ever done nearly that well, of course, but even so, they still run in the millions for a while. Meanwhile, things like Wurm Online and Mortal Online? Barely even footnotes.

        I know I sure as hell don’t want a sandbox design myself, not least because that nearly invariably comes hand in hand with minimal to no PvP restrictions and an accompanying carte blanche for the worst dregs of the internet to get their kicks ruining my play experience.

  16. mezron says:

    I’m glad to hear this, and not in a schadenfreude type of way. I enjoyed the game, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pay $15 a month for it. TES games for me are a binge for a week or two, then shelve it for a couple months and binge again sort of thing.

    Also, there are just too many F2P options today. Some are good, some aren’t. But there are so many now that I don’t think a normal person has the time to try them all. When you have that many free options, it’s got to be tough to sell a subscription. Especially with a $60 up front just to try for the first 30 days.

    I think Blizzard really should enjoy it’s position with WoW as long as it can. I really doubt even they’ll be able to sell another subscription model game like they did with WoW.

  17. Berzee says:

    Haha — I subscribed to this game at the beginning of this year and am enjoying it quite a bit so far, but I was already having a difficult time deciding whether I should stay subbed (with so many other non-subscription games I still want to put more time into) and this news I think has only complicated that decision further.


  18. ffordesoon says:

    At least the new business model isn’t F2P. I may end up getting Sunk Cost Fallacy: The Game at some point now. Though I’ll still be mean and call it Sunk Cost Fallacy: The Game. :)

    I do pity the poor bastards working on this, I have to say. They seem like good folks, and I’m sure this project seemed to make a great deal of financial sense when they started working on it. It’s not their fault that the earth beneath their feet was rent asunder during development. Alas, it was, and it’s been a slow-motion car crash ever since.

  19. aircool says:

    I might give it a stab. Back in the days of subs only, there were so few MMO’s that you could sub to one and not miss out on much. These days, there’s plenty to choose from, but non really worth subbing. Ok, I have one of those SOE sub things, but I do play several of their games, so the bonus of a sub is spread over all their games.

  20. LutherBlissett says:

    Well now maybe I will be able to play it again. I ended my subscription after 2 months due to not having enough time to get into it. When I tried to get back on I could my subscription payments kept getting rejected with paypal or Visa and their support basically told me to jog on…

  21. frightlever says:

    So, the base game is still about 13 quid on Amazon (vs about 50 quid on the official website).

    The cheap tenner keys on the CDkeys site appear to be out of stock since the news broke yesterday. Presumably Zenimax won’t be continuing to ship boxed copies and will be able to control the buy in price.

    So, MAYBE look at those cheapish boxed copies on Amazon is what I’m suggesting.