If you have been following The Elder Scrolls Online like I have, then you probably heard that Bethesda is finally launching the game on consoles on June 9th as The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited. Tamriel Unlimited is also an update that coming to the PC version of the game on March 17th. The significance of this update is that the subscription fee for the game is being remove entirely. That’s right, you’ll now be able to explore Tamriel with your friends without having to pay a monthly fee.
Since ESO was originally first announced, fans and other gamers (myself included) have wondered how long it would last on a subscription based model. A number of other big MMOs, such as Star Wars: The Old Republic, have ditched their subscription model to become free-to-play and many other online games are simply being released as such. So Bethesda’s decision to remove ESO’s subscription fee wasn’t much of a surprise.
I could go on and talk about why companies are choosing to do this, but that is not the purpose of this post. Today, I’m focusing on the changes that are coming to ESO’s business model. I also hope to address concerns people may have about these changes. After all, not everyone has had a good experience with free-to-play games.
Now I should make it clear that ESO isn’t actually going free-to-play, but rather buy-to-play. In other words, you simply have to buy the game in order to play it – much like Guild Wars 2. The decision to keep the price tag is understandable, as the company needs to make back the money it spends on development. But Bethesda can’t rely on the money they make from selling ESO. After all, they can only sell so many copies of the game before everyone (who wants want anyway) has it. Just how are they going to sustain themselves?
One of the ways Bethesda plans on doing this when Tamriel Unlimited launches is through the Crown Store. Using real money, players will be able to purchase a currency called crowns to spend on cosmetic and convenience items – such as costumes, potions, and mounts. For those who are worried about the consumable items from the Crown Store making the game pay-to-win, they are not as powerful as the items you can find or craft in the game. Another good thing is that the cosmetic options will be account bound; meaning that if you buy a pet for one of your characters, it will be available for all your other characters and any ones you make in the future.
Youtuber Deltia’s Gaming gives an in-depth look at how the Crown Store functions in the game. He even shows all the items that players will be able to buy, so it’s worth watching if you’re interested:
A new premium membership called ESO Plus will also be made available. This service will grant members crowns to spend in the Crown Store, access to all of ESO’s DLC (for the duration of their membership) and a 10 % bonus to experience and gold gain, crafting research, and inspiration. Now some people will be worried that the passive bonuses will make the game pay-to-win, and I understand that. However, Bethesda said this won’t change how current progression in the game plays out; members will simply get to the end game a little faster.
Finally, Bethesda’s guide to ESO Plus (linked to above) also revealed that they will be releasing game packs in the future, although they didn’t specify what they will contain. I’ll assume that these packs will include new areas to explore, new quests to take on, and new items to obtain. Based on the DLC that was made for previous Elder Scroll games (such as Dawnguard for Skyrim or Shivering Isles for Oblivion), this is safe to expect. As for the addition of new abilities or classes, Bethesda may save those type of features for expansion packs; assuming they have plans to make any that is.
Bethesda’s decision to remove ESO’s subscription fee has me excited, as I will be able to return to the game without worrying about a monthly fee. Granted, not everyone shares my enthusiasm as some are worried about the implications the upcoming changes will have. The skepticism isn’t a surprise when you look at the methods some companies have chosen to make money off of free-to-play games. But Bethesda doesn’t seem to be going down avenue that these companies have. They are just an trying to make the game more accessible and encourage previous players to return.
But now I am left with a question. When the gates to Tamriel reopen and I return, what’s going to keep me there?