The Elder Scrolls Online Drops Subscription Fees

When a new MMORPG launches, one question nowadays is: how long until it ditches subscriptions or goes free-to-play? For The Elder Scrolls Online [official site], it’s been eleven months.

Zenimax’s unremarkable MMO take on the sprawling fantasy series stopped charging subscription fees yesterday, as planned. You’ll still need to own a copy to play, you simply won’t need to pay extra, like Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World. This comes shortly after a hefty update brought stealing and justice systems (you can hardly have an Elder Scrolls game without swiping everything not nailed down or murdering NPCs), new progression systems, a big old rebalancing, and more.

So yes, no more subscription fees. If you own it or buy it, you can play it wherever, whenever. This brings a new subtitle for the game too, turning it into The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited.

Replacing subs, though, is an optional new ‘ESO Plus’ membership which includes all DLC, boosts to XP and gold and whatnot, and a big chunk of virtual coins to spend on jazz in the microtransaction store. The store sells cosmetic stuff like pets, mounts, and outfits, as well as more boosters. Previous subscribers will get a few of those coins as a one-time gift too. Check the FAQ for deets on ESO Plus and lingering subscriptions and whatnot.

That big update earlier this month was version 1.6.5, which has some pretty lengthy patch notes. I’m a little surprised ESO launched without burglary as that’s pretty much all I do in TES games other than mod them into lovely huge tranquil forests.

Here’s a trailer celebrating the change which shows off some of those new things:


  1. Kreeth says:

    Is there any point to trying this again? I didn’t bother playing it past beta as really I just wanted a new Elder Scrolls game and the MMO stuff did nothing but add a layer of shitness to the whole thing.

    Are they ever going to release a proper TES 6?

    • reyla says:

      I jumped in again after the latest content patch and it is still a generic MMO with the Elder Scrolls name taped on.

      The Queen wants you (and me and Joe and Susan) to go into a tomb because her people would be shocked if she went to kill 10 skeletons herself. It’s depressing.

    • montorsi says:

      You say ‘ever’ like the MMO was developed by the TES team and we aren’t well into that team’s next development cycle. They’ll release Fallout 4 next and then TES6 some years after that.

      • LexW1 says:

        Morrowind to Oblivion was about 4 years, Oblivion to Skyrim was about 5, so yeah, we’re realistically still looking at another 1-2 years before the actual release of whatever the next TES game is (literally all we know is “think snakes”, which one of the devs said recently and then immediately seemed to know he’d said too much even with that – raises the possibility of Akavir, but could be a lot of things).

        Given the truly massive success of Skyrim, I imagine Bethesda has more resources to work with than with Oblivion, so I expect more like 1 year than 2. Skyrim was also only officially announced at all a year before release, so I agree that we can’t start going “WHERE IS THE NEXT TES!?” until, hmm, E3 (in June) at the earliest. We might even have to wait longer if they decide that marketing Fallout 4 takes precedence.

        (Be very interesting if to see if they can market Fallout 4 well enough get sales anywhere near Skyrim. If they’ve chosen Boston as the location and are using a bloody green filter again, I’m guessing not, but if it’s more daring and colourful – more like an ’80s vision of a ’50s retro-future-apocalypse, and the very very very ’90s-via-the-’50s vision of FO3, then they might have something)

        • Werthead says:

          I think there’s a lot of people out there who are fans of Bethesda and their open-world game style than necessarily the franchise itself. If you look at the sales escalation from the first month on sale, it was:

          Oblivion – 1.7 million
          Fallout 3 – 3 million
          New Vegas – 5 million
          Skyrim – 7 million

          So the next game, probably FALLOUT 4, would likely do similar numbers to SKYRIM on release, unless it’s next-gen only in which case the smaller user base of those consoles might drop the figures somewhat.

          THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE, on the other hand, seemed to take 3 months to get 700,000 subscribers, which is pretty poor going in comparison. I think we can safely assume there will be another single-player ELDER SCROLLS game. In fact, I think the whole point of setting ESO in the distant past was to not interfere with any “present-day” stuff they have planned in the SP games.

          • LexW1 says:

            If we’re talking JUST first-month sales, well, probably, yes, FO4 might well break 7m, if it wasn’t next-gen only. Pretty sure it will be next-gen only, though. Also, I am just saying but if it is either as visually unappealing as FO3 (GREEN4EVER) or is set in Boston, it will not be a success to even that level. It’s going to have to be more colourful and broad in appeal than FO3 to reach Skyrim levels of success.

            I don’t believe any Fallout game will ever reach Skyrim levels of total sales, though, because Fallout games aren’t evergreen the way Oblivion/Skyrim have been – Skyrim is still selling well now – I often see it in the top 20 and sometimes top 10 on Steam (even when it’s not discounted). Fallout games sell well at release then largely vanish.

            I also know tons of er… “civilians” who play Skyrim. “Casuals”, a jerk might call them. Non-gamers. Very few, if any, picked it up in the first month. Certainly none of them bought or are likely to buy Fallout. But they did buy it, likely full price, too.

    • Wendelius says:

      I tried ESO during the beta and my interest quickly fizzled out. I think it was pretty unremarkable at launch.

      However, I decided to give it another chance after a year worth of development and in prevision of Tamriel Unlimited. I got a boxed copy last week (£11 delivered from Tesco. Can’t complain about the box price!) And find it to be a much more entertaining game.

      The streamlining of the intro might have helped, but that was a minor difference. What really felt much better is the combat. It feels impactful, responsive and is plain fun for me. I also enjoy the fact that the world feels like it’s waiting to be explored. It feels wide open, it’s quite pretty and there are Skyshards to discover to earn skull points.

      The new Justice system and the ability to steal also reinforces the feeling of being in an ES game.

      All in all, I’d say it’s very much worth revisiting. But it is still a MMO. If you don’t enjoy that type of game at all, I’m not sure ESO is the game that will change your mind. Personally, I’m having a blast. Something I didn’t expect jumping in.


      • Premium User Badge

        Qazinsky says:

        and there are Skyshards to discover to earn skull points.

        I am sorry, but this sentence right here just made me laugh, it just sounds so random gameish.

        • Wendelius says:

          Stupid phone autocorrect. That was meant to say skill points. :/

          Skyshards are crystals you can spot from a short distance away which, once touched, give you 1/3 of a skill point. Explore away, find 3 of them and you have and additional point to spend on your character. It’s optional, of course.

      • paddymaxson says:

        Agree with this! I dismissed it completely during the beta but picked it up in the runuyp to it going subscription free and I actually kind of love it. I don’t think it’s fair to criticise it for having the occasional “10 bear arses” quest, considering Skyrim also had a LOT of those and generally those make up a small part of an overarching area storyline.

        When you get into the character building system it’s actually reasonably complex compared to most MMOs.

        I like this game a LOT more than Skyrim

    • davemaster says:

      Totally disagree.

  2. Mordaedil says:

    Yeah, you don’t have to worry about that, it wasn’t even Bethesda’s core team working on the MMO, so TES6 is on schedule, right after they finish Fallout 4.

    • vlonk says:

      And that is sadly the best part about TESO. It only burned money, not time of the creative teams we love and adore for making Fallout + Elder Scrolls games. Lets just hope TESO did not put too big a dent in their financials.

      • fish99 says:

        Honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of BGS employees got pulled over to help finish TESO, explaining why Skyrim DLC suddently dried up and why we’ve heard nothing from BGS for quite a while.

    • davemaster says:

      There is no “core team”, it was a different team for each single player title. Numpty.

  3. OmNomNom says:

    RPS your feature text bbbvvzzhh is breaking page width on mobile

  4. Hunchback says:

    Aaaaaand, correct me if am a wrong but probably – not a single fuck was given. Amiright?

    • Berzee says:

      Not really — I’m going to give it another go (I subbed for January when it was on sale, then heard about the F2P in March and cancelled after one month, biding my time until now).

  5. Arglebargle says:

    It’d be nice if their access code verification for new installations would actually send a verification code to input. It’s done this to me twice before as well. Basic functionality that doesn’t work so well.

    • Arglebargle says:

      In the interest of honesty, they just sent a code. I guess they were having a two day hang time….

      • Premium User Badge

        Qazinsky says:

        “I think I’m gonna take a break and read some RPS comments OH, DAMN i FORGOT TO SEND ARGLEBARGLE HIS ACTIVATION CODE!”

  6. brgillespie says:

    Still $59.99. I balked at that price.

    • montorsi says:

      Ya, market is too saturated with good games to spend sixty bucks on this. If it’s ever half price I’ll probably bite.

    • frightlever says:

      I picked up a boxed copy off Amazon last month for 9 quid and played it for a couple of weeks. To be honest I entirely lost interest by level 10.

  7. Cross says:

    TESO: The wrong answer to a question only a few people asked, while playing Skyrim: What if this was an MMO?

    • Bine says:

      The only thing I remember is asking why can’t we have elderscrolls co-op. I never wanted an MMO :(

      • Hunchback says:


        Skyrim is awesome, epic and all, but so lonely… And i would have had a blast playing through it with the wife, we both played it next to eachother and were always saying “bah, why can’t this be played in proper co op?” … You already get a companion to follow you around, they could have just scaled the difficulty when played with another player and let you play co op.


      • Harlander says:

        A better, yet not wholly satisfactory answer to the question is this mod for Skyrim

        • Hunchback says:

          I know of the mod, but back when i played it wasn’t really working all that well. Any idea if it’s REALLY usable now?

          • Harlander says:

            Couldn’t say, I’m afraid. I thought I remembered a proper co-op mod for some Elder Scrolls or other, but I guess I confabulated it with the GTA co-op stuff or something

      • LexW1 says:

        Exactly. All I want is to get my wife and/or best friend to come with me in Skyrim, and they want to come, too! My wife always says “How do I join your party?” when she sees me playing Skyrim, and I always feel rather down that she can’t, because it would be a riot.

        Anything up to four players, with enemy scaling and/or weaker non-main PCs could be amazing (add in a “help people up” mechanic a la every other co-op game, of course) and hysterical.

      • wyrm4701 says:

        Yes. I don’t want to play the some bland Elder Scroll-based game with one hundred strangers. I want to join forces with a high-school buddy, the min-maxing Monty Hauler, and my fantasy-genre-averse girlfriend, and watch them try to break the system with venal cunning and ambitious maths. I’d like to annoy them by repeatedly asking if my ass looks fat in this loincloth, and in the game as well.

        Come to think of it, that bit about systems-breaking is probably why many of us don’t want the ESO. Elder Scrolls games are predicated on some capacity for non-standard play and inventive exploits, both of which are often anathema to current MMO design.

    • SKapsniak says:

      Nah, they were playing Oblivion not Skyrim.

      Zenimax were staffing up their studio for this game in 2007, back when MMOs were still the inevitable future of all the RPG-shaped things, Burning Crusade was the hot WoW expansion, and Bioware were strongly rumoured to be working on a Knights of the Old Republic MMORPG that would clearly surpass the sales of even that whenever it was released.

      Core Bethesda hadn’t even released the Shivering Isles expansion pack yet, never mind Fallout 3, let alone began production on Skyrim. Zenimax knew, like everybody, they had to get the MMO train, as all single player franchises were soon to go the way of the dodo.

      Remember, we’re living in a wacky, unfathomable, alternate timeline, where the sales of Core Bethesda RPG shaped things just kept getting bigger and bigger despite all obvious agreed commercial trends, whilst most of the online crowd decided they wanted to play either variations on an obscure Warcraft 3 pvp mod, or shooters about hats, with the biggest game phenomenon in the world being 3D dig-dug made with cubes coded in Java, and RPG fans hold multi-million dollar bake sales on the internet to fund the development of the next hit isometric Baldur’s Gate clone.

      C’mon, every sure-fire AAA MMORPG hit being a flop after a few months as everyone who wanted an MMO quit and went back to WoW because it wasn’t WoW, and everyone who wanted a single-player RPG or Elder Scrolls shaped thing quit because it was still a freakiin’ MMO? You know that can’t possibly have happened.

      That’s not the real world. No way, no how.

      In the real world Oblivion Online came out 2012, and although never reaching the heights of The Old Republic the 30 million subscribers that gave Bioware the funds to purchase EA, it still got a solid 8 million worldwide and saved the company after their massive error of purchasing the known cursed Fallout franchise and trying to make a single-player Fallout 3.

      And somewhere in Rockville, Maryland there is a Zenimax executive who is trying to find a way home to that real world, where it will all make sense again.

      All make sense. *gibber*.

      • vlonk says:

        I like the way you describe our wacky timeline. I really really like it. It is not a good time to be an analyst for longterm predictions.
        Also do not forget the sudden and inconceivable death of creativity and progress of almost all japanese game developers and the insane financial success of Activision by way of… plastic toy sales.

      • wyrm4701 says:

        * applause *

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        This is not the darkest timeline!
        *checks chin for goatee*

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Actually, i saw a LOT of people ask that question, believe it or not, but then this simply goes to show how many don’t actually have a clue about what they really want, or what they are actually asking for.

      • Jenks says:

        I’d like a real Elder Scrolls MMORPG, but when I say MMORPG I mean virtual fantasy world to cohabitate with thousands of others. I don’t mean on rails, narrative driven co-op game, which is what the industry believes MMORPG means for the last decade.

        • Distec says:

          Indeed, this. I dig the concept of an Elder Scrolls MMO… So long as it actually plays like a TES game.

          I also realize that the game I envision probably isn’t technically feasible or practical to make yet. So it’s just a nice idea floating around in my head, waiting for the day it could be executed. That doesn’t mean I want WoW with Argonians.

    • davemaster says:

      It has almost everything Morrowind and Oblivion had, but better. I know. I played all of those games and their expansions on launch.
      The ONLY thing I miss with a vengeance is player housing.

      People who muck around rolling cheesewheels downhill and turning the game into anime torture chambers with mods can do one honestly, your kind are a disease.

  8. Mara says:

    The XP boost for ESO Plus players makes me worried…
    Does anybody know how much of a boost we’re talking about?
    Because that utterly destroyed any balance SWTOR had, with its utterly unfathomable TWELVE TIMES more experience for subscribers.

    • Janichsan says:

      That’s answered in the linked FAQs: it’s a 10% bonus.

    • Awesomeclaw says:

      I kind of enjoyed SWTOR, but it really feels like the subscription model is based around making the game basically unplayable for non subscribers – slower movement, no chat until level 15 or something, extremely slow progression, limited access to a lot of basic content, etc.

      • Wulfram says:

        SWtOR is extremely playable for non-subscribers. Aside from end game/PVP anyway. But the levelling is the best part of the game anyway.

      • Morcane says:

        SWTOR is tons of fun as a non-subscriber really.

        As far as TESO goes, bought this in a sale last year somewhere and played it for the first month, I kinda liked it but didn’t think it was worth a sub. Might check it out again now.

        • Awesomeclaw says:

          Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun with SWTOR, both as a f2p player and a subscriber, but looking at the comparison of features (link to, I really feel that the f2p experience is crippled. IMO it feels like the payment model is designed to punish free players rather than give more to subscribers.

          Anyway, I’m giving TESO a try, perhaps we should try and get some kind of RPS guild going (if there isn’t one already)?

          • Wulfram says:

            Well, in literal terms it’s true that the system is set up to “punish” F2P players. That’s the consequence of them starting out with a subscription model and switching.

            But very few of the restrictions are actually punishing, particularly the “preferred” versions

          • bleeters says:

            I don’t know if I’d say they’re punishing, but they’re pretty tedious. I’ve found various ways around most of the more significant ones, such as using a subscription paying friend as a bank to store my credits whenever I’m nearing the cap and having her buy things for me, but it’s a chore. The reduced experience gains are a chore. The higher cooldowns on quicktravel are a chore. It’s all a chore.

            And, well, as much as I actually really liked swtor, when a game is purposefully designed in such a way as to be boring, whilst quietly whispering into my ear constant reminders that if I just paid them fifteen bucks I wouldn’t have to deal with any of this for a month, I’d rather just play something else. It’s b2p as designed by people who view it as a means of hooking people in just enough to wrangle a subscription out of them, rather than as a legitimate business model in its own right. I’d rather just go play Guild Wars and not have to deal with any of it.

      • davemaster says:

        ESO:TU is a lot kinder to people who aren’t subscribed to plus service than that shameless moneysink SWTOR. SWTOR without a sub feels like a trial, ESO without sub is a full game.

    • malkav11 says:

      The 12x more experience thing was a time limited thing designed to speed progress towards accessing the new expansion, as far as I know. But it should totally be an ongoing thing because what it meant is that you could just play the class story, which is the good bit of SWTOR, and skip all the bland cookie-cutter WoW-circa-2004 general quests.

    • bleeters says:

      To be fair, the 12x experience thing only related to that given by completing class story quests, and was (as far as I understand it) a limited time thing designed to encourage pre-orders of their newest expansion.

      Not that I’ve found swtor’s actual f2p restrictions particularly enjoyable, but still.

  9. big boy barry says:

    I got as far as that skelebob playing a Banjo and telling gags, switched it off after that

    • Wendelius says:

      Then you probably missed out.(unless you didn’t mean the character voiced by John Cleese). That’s such a small part of the game. Keep going for a few levels until you can experience some combat having acquired a few skills and start exploring the open world outside of the intro.

      That’s the equivalent of quitting Oblivion while you have no skills, no equipment and are still busy escaping from the jail in the tutorial.

      • big boy barry says:

        nah that kind of set the tone for me, stupid quests and a silly story, i only wanted to explore the old morrowind locations really,

  10. Freud says:

    It’s starting to feel like there is a MMO bubble where companies sink a lot of money into these games hoping to be the next big thing but they’re hasn’t been a lot of big things in the 15 years the genre has existed. Add that gamers these days are more reluctant to pay subscription fees.

    If removing subscription fees is a method to ensure a healthy player base, why have subscription fees in the first place?

  11. Voqar says:

    I have no problems with a sub for an MMORPG if it’s worth it, but so few are worth it.

    In the case of ESO, a mostly single player game isn’t worth a sub. Not to mention it’s a game nobody really wanted. Many love Skyrim and would’ve loved an ES VI with more story, better performance (load times suck due to console ties and are far worse with many mods), and perhaps hosted/limited co-op. Everything that makes ES great isn’t suited for MMORPGs.

    The other big MMORPG that came out around the same time is WildStar which IMO also isn’t worth a sub since it has built in cheating (CREDD, cash for game gold). Well, it’s not worth playing at all since no game with built in cheating is worth playing at all.

    I really hate F2P for MMORPGs – it’s done for the benefit of the greedy host company, not for the benefit of players or quality of game, but, since so few developers are capable of developing MMORPGs worthy of a sub, that’s what happens.

  12. Sin Vega says:

    EYE Divine Stupidname is a steal at that price. Even if you wind up hating it (which would be understandable, as it has a lot of big problems), it’s totally worth taking a punt on, as if you don’t hate it, you’re not likely to play a more memorably bonkers game for a long time.

  13. April March says:

    Eleven months! That’s about five more than I would expect! This game must have been really succesful!

  14. teabelly says:

    I’ve played ESO since Beta, although i did lower my activity for jan & feb due to the lagfest that was happening in PvP.

    The new patch has improved things & given it a nice new lease of life, so i’m back to being online 2-3 nights a week.

    No its NOT skyrim, Morrowind or Oblivion, but it still is bloody good fun & even more so with a good group of people.

    Anyway, I’m off to go & fight alongside male orcs in wedding frocks, because some of us still remember that gaming is fun for all!