The Elder Scrolls Online released as a subscription-based MMO last year to middling reviews. Bethesda said before the game's launch that the business model was the right decision for the long-term health of the game. The game did manage to hold more than 750,000 subscribers during its first few months on the market, but things quickly went downhill as negative word-of-mouth about the game spread and subscribers grew bored and jumped ship.
Bethesda announced the game would drop subscription fees prior to its long delayed release on consoles this summer. Now, developer Zenimax Online Studios has announced what is no doubt the first salvo in its new monetization strategy for the game. TESO will soon add health, stamina, magic and XP potions that can be purchased with real money, along with a variety of vanity items through an in-game shop.
"Potions can be purchased with crowns, but they're functionally very similar to the potions you can purchase from in-game vendors, and they're somewhat weaker and less effective than player-crafted potions."
While that's seemingly good news, it's not stopping some gamers from shouting the dreaded words of "pay-to-win" in some comment threads about the announcement. Looking at it objectively though, an in-game cash shop was an inevitable and expected move once Bethesda dropped the subscription requirement. Players will still be able to obtain similar potions using in-game money, just like they have since the game's launch. All the cash shop appears to do is save time for those that don't want to grind for the gold.
Vanity items in the Crown Store include the usual mix of pets, mounts and costumes seen in other MMO cash shops.
Bethesda and Zenimax will continue to push a subscription option even after the requirement is removed. Becoming an "ESO Plus" member will give players 1500 Crowns to spend in the store each month. Additional bonuses include faster in-game leveling and access to all DLC game packs for the length of the subscription. Existing PC subscribers will automatically become ESO Plus members when the change happens.
The Elder Scrolls Online is out now for PC and will drop its subscription requirement on March 17, 2015. The game will release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on June 9, 2015. The console versions will require either PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live membership to play.