Skip to main content

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

the elder scrolls online skipping free to play in favor of monthly subscriptions elderscrollsonline
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Adam Rosenberg
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Previously, Adam worked in the games press as a freelance writer and critic for a range of outlets, including Digital Trends…
The best armor sets in The Elder Scrolls Online
ESO Necromancer casting a spell.

The Elder Scrolls Online gives you hundreds of different armor sets to research, collect, and -- if they fit your build -- equip. Whether you're a spell-slinging Sorcerer, greatsword-wielding Dragonknight, or cloaked Nightblade, there's an armor set that's ideal for your playstyle. Figuring out what that is, however, is no easy task.

Not only are there three different classes of armor -- Light, Medium, and Heavy -- but different armor sets in each class confer a variety of bonuses. That means there isn't a linear hierarchy for gear. Instead, you'll need to carefully consider your needs and choose between a few top-tier armor sets.

Read more
ESO jewelry crafting guide: How to craft jewelry in the Elder Scrolls Online
ESO player using a jewelry crafting station.

Jewelry crafting is a fairly new addition to The Elder Scrolls Online. Released alongside the Summerset Chapter in 2019 -- five years after the game's initial launch -- jewelry crafting has quickly become one of the best ways to earn gold and improve your character. It follows many of the same rules as other crafting professions, although there are a few quirks you'll need to learn if you're hoping to become a master jeweler.

From finding crafting components to leveling up your current gear, here's everything you need to know about ESO jewelry crafting.

Read more
ESO beginner’s guide: How to get started in The Elder Scrolls Online
ESO Companion preparing for combat.

Despite offering hundreds of hours of content to explore, The Elder Scrolls Online is surprisingly easy to jump into. Skyrim fans, in particular, will have an accelerated learning curve to conquer, with many similarities between its single-player world and that of the MMORPG.

However, just because it's newcomer-friendly doesn't mean The Elder Scrolls Online is a simplistic game -- in fact, that couldn't be further from the truth. Between a unique combat system, deep crafting mechanics, multiple PvP and PvE options, and hundreds of quests, there's a lot to wrap your head around.

Read more