As the realm of MMOs continues to grow, the debate of free-to-play versus subscription-based models rages on. Although some of the MMOs with a long history, like World of Warcraft, are still able to keep millions of subscribers shelling out $15 per month, the majority of newer MMOs are landing closer to the free-to-play (with micro-transactions) side. That said, not all next-gen MMOs are ready to give it up for free quite yet…
After a very popular beta (that yielded noticeable changes throughout), The Elder Scrolls Online is finally ready to launch. Anxious consumers who pre-ordered the game are already a few days into the action. As gamers make the decision whether or not to purchase the game this week, they’ll have to consider whether or not they want to start paying a monthly subscription fee once the free month runs out. Despite the quick downfalls of other recent MMOs that launched with a required subscription fee, Bethesda’s leadership doesn’t seem worried.
The creators of TESO have had to address the much-debated subscription model at every turn of the game’s development and the team has stood their ground all along the way. Bethesda’s VP of Marketing and PR, Pete Hines, spoke to Games.On about why the company has so much faith in the subscription-based model.
“What’s going to determine whether or not it succeeds or fails is not really tied to what anyone else has done, it’s tied to ‘do we make a strong enough argument for the value that you get for your fifteen dollars?’. If we’re providing the kind of content people want to see where they’re like ‘This is awesome, I’m having a blast, this new stuff is totally worth it and I’m having fun’, then the subscription totally works. If we’re putting out stuff that doesn’t make a case for it then we have a problem on our hands and we have failed to meet that value proposition.”
Hines went on to explain that he believes the subscription fee is “the right decision for the right reasons.” He refers back to the popularity of Skyrim and explains that at the very least, gamers can use the free trial to get a month’s worth of time exploring the world and think of it as nothing more than the next installment in the franchise. If consumers aren’t on board for the game after the free trial runs out, then they just opt not to subscribe.
“You can buy it, play the hell out of it for four weeks and go ‘Eh! I’m done. I did everything I wanted to do, I did a bunch of single-player stuff, I did a bunch of PVP, and now I’m out.’ Then you’re out. The subscription is irrelevant. The initial purchase is exactly the same as any other PC game because you don’t have to pay for the subscription until your 30 days is up.”
Although he does present a strong argument, it seems like if the game is as solid as he claims, Bethesda could draw in a lot more users by offering the first 5 or 10 levels for free. Other games have seen success with this ‘first taste is free’ model and having played the beta, we think that’s all it would take to get many gamers over their fear of the scary sub fee.
Reviews will start making their way online within the next few days and those scores will also have an impact on whether or not MMOers decide to pony up the $60 and give the game a try. The thrifty, patient PC gamers out there may try to wait the game out and see how long it takes before ESO adopts an optional subscription fee similar to the Star Wars: The Old Republic model.
Do you think a month of free month of play is enough to make the game worth the $60 retail price? Sound off in the comments.
The Elder Scrolls Online (officially) releases for PC on April 4, 2014.
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