Subscription-based gaming: in many ways it already feels like an anachronism, an old-timey way of doing thing more suited to the feudal fantasies of the MMORPG genre than the modern, businesslike games industry. Sure, there’s still plenty of platform-specific fees to be paid, from PS Plus to Xbox Live, but these are the Netflix all-in-ones to World of Warcraft’s Blockbuster video.
Like shooters? Great – pay one fee. Play racers, brawlers, puzzlers, platformers, strategy or sports and you’re still covered by that same single cost. Choose an online RPG however, and you’re more than likely to encounter an additional, high-priced pay wall. It’s an inequality of genre that developers often chalk up to the sheer mammoth scale of online role-playing titles – one example of which is the upcoming sword and sorcery epic The Elder Scrolls Online.
Having announced back in August of last year that TESO would carry a monthly subscription fee, publisher Bethesda has been scrambling to justify its decision ever since. The latest, and perhaps most clear-cut explanation yet comes from Bethesda’s vice president of PR Pete Hines. In discussing the move with CVG earlier this week, Hines commented on the rationale behind the decision, as well as the wisdom of adopting a system that many analysts consider prone to failure.
“I don’t know whether or not previous games that have done subscriptions haven’t succeeded because they were subscription-based, or because of the game that they were and the value that the customer got, and that’s ultimately what we’re talking about. If you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth for whatever you’re paying – whether it be $15 for a month or $2 for a DLC – then you’re going to be happy. [...]
“We felt like the subscription model fit best what we wanted to do, not because we want you to pay per month to play the game, but because we want to provide real and meaningful content support on a regular basis. That’s not just a few items or a thing here and there, that’s real significant stuff that adds to the game in a whole host of ways, and doing so needs a good sized group of people who are working on and creating new stuff.
You can’t set aside a bunch of people to work on a cool quest line unless you’ve figured out a way that you’re going to pay those bodies to spend that time. Otherwise you’d just put them onto something else. We feel like this approach is going to give people who want to play the best value, and reason to look forward to the next new thing that’s coming out. The Elder Scrolls is […] a big triple-A title that demands huge, ongoing triple-A support.”
When asked for his thoughts on Microsoft requiring players to purchase an Xbox Live account prior to enjoying the game, Hines responded:
“…ultimately that is really only applicable to the subset of people who don’t already have a Gold subscription to play anything online, because that’s the point: if you want to play anything online on an Xbox One you have to have a Gold subscription. We simply fall into that category as well. It’s really only [a problem] to people who would only want to play TESO but no other multiplayer games. Having said that, it is what it is. I can’t change it or really have any say in it, so hopefully the folks that feel like TESO is a game they want to play are folks that are playing multiplayer stuff online anyway and it won’t be a big deal.”
While some fans are likely to be annoyed at Bethesda for the Xbox One’s double subbing it’s important to remember that Microsoft also hides many other features behind this ‘Gold’ pay wall. Indeed, for as long as The Elder Scrolls Online demands an individual fee, there’s very little that can be done about the situation. As Hines states, the issue only affects those gamers who want to play TESO but have no interest in picking up an additional Live subscription. If Bethesda were to somehow subsidize their rate in order to accommodate the cost of the Xbox service then the company would be seen to be prejudicing both PC and PlayStation owners instead.
As a side note, the VP also hinted at some of the title’s early cycle DLC, a Dark Brotherhood quest line strangely omitted from the game’s vanilla edition. It remains to be seen whether this content will be offered for free (read: at no additional cost to the monthly subscription).
Is it fair to require an Xbox Live account in order to play subscription-based MMOs? Is there really a market for fans wishing to play TESO, but without access to other online titles? Can players expect a smooth or shaky start to life in Tamriel come April 4? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to check in with all of the latest Elder Scrolls news, right here on Game Rant.
The Elder Scrolls Online arrives April 4, 2014 for PC and Mac platforms, with
Xbox One and PlayStation 4 ports set to debut in June.
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