‘The Elder Scrolls Online’ skipping free-to-play in favor of monthly subscriptions

Check out our review of The Elder Scrolls Online.

Bethesda Softworks is bucking the free-to-play trend that is currently running rampant through the massively multiplayer online gaming space in favor of a subscription-based business model for Elder Scrolls Online, ZeniMax Online Studios general manager Matt Firor revealed to GameStar. This is the first concrete confirmation concerning how the MMO take on Elder Scrolls will be delivered to fans since the game was announced at E3 2012.

“We’re building a game with the freedom to play – alone or with your friends – as much as you want. A game with meaningful and consistent content – one packed with hundreds of hours of gameplay that can be experienced right away and one that will be supported with premium customer support,” Firor said. “Charging a flat monthly (or subscription) fee means that we will offer players the game we set out to make, and the one that fans want to play. Going with any other model meant that we would have to make sacrifices and changes we weren’t willing to make.”

Firor went on to confirm that the “basic” subscription pricing amounts to $14.99 per month. He went on to suggest that fans can expect discounts for pre-paying for a larger stretch of time, and that “game time cards” will be available as well. Additional details beyond the monthly $14.99 will be revealed at a later date.

There’s no question that fans would like to play an online version of Elder Scrolls, but now we’ll see if they’re actually willing to pay a monthly tribute for that privilege. Subscription models for MMOs are increasingly unpopular as AAA-quality games like Guild Wars 2 or Hawken come along to offer alternative approaches. Just look at what happened with BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO. The subscription model failed, and the game had to be re-worked for free-to-play access. The same thing happened a couple of years ago with World of Warcraft, though to a much lesser extent.

If you’re feeling outrage over the Bethesda “daring” to charge a monthly fee for ESO then you’re doing it wrong. There’s never been any hint or suggestion from the publisher that the game might be free-to-play. Anyone who assumed that it would be just because other games are doing it was assuming too much. Bethesda clearly has a lot of big plans for ESO, and the continued support that ZeniMax intends to bring to the game is going to require a steady influx of cash and other resources. Firor offers additional details in his chat with GameStar, so give it a look.

There hasn’t been an MMO yet that’s managed to hit the heights that WoW was able to reach at its peak. If there’s any franchise out there that’s equipped to do so, it’s Elder Scrolls. Try to keep an open mind as more details about the game emerge. Firor confirms that there will be a 30-day trial, after all. If ESO can deliver something similar in style to but broader in scope than Skyrim, a monthly subscription might start to seem more attractive.

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