For two decades, players of The Elder Scrolls franchise could only play by themselves. Although the vast and varied open worlds of the seven Elder Scrolls game would seemingly lend themselves perfectly to multiplayer gameplay (either on a large scale or co-op) it wasn't until The Elder Scrolls Online's release in 2014 that fans actually had a chance to team up in game. But despite the hype surrounding The Elder Scrolls' very first multiplayer experience, players were let down when the game launched on PC as it was plagued with bugs and gold spammers. Poorly thought out quests (such as fire extinguishing that meant 50+ players had to queue up to put house fires out) also sullied the experience and it didn't live up to the gameplay offerings of the core series.
Spare a thought then, for those awaiting The Elder Scrolls Online on consoles. As the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game were delayed for six months due to the development team having trouble with the hardware (before being delayed again into 2015) console fans were unable to experience any of The Elder Scrolls Online's gameplay highs, lows or anything at all.
There was a faint glimmer of hope a week ago when an apparent leak on the official Microsoft Store suggested that the game would be out in February. Sadly though, console fans of the Scrolls series will have to wait a little bit longer than that as publisher Bethesda has now announced The Elder Scrolls Online console release date as June 9th, 2015.
While it's a little disappointing that The Elder Scrolls Online will have been delayed by an entire year by the time it launches on PS4 and Xbox One in a few months, Bethesda promises that the console version includes "all the great gameplay from the original PC/Mac game, plus all the updates and content additions." That includes the Justice system that allows players to attack and kill NPCs with the risk of punishment, the Champion system which improves the endgame and the Craglorn update which adds an entirely new region that has been designed for groups of four or more players to explore.
Also coming with the console version are name and pricing changes. From March 17th, The Elder Scrolls Online will be called The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (which explains why the game was removed from store shelves) with the word 'Unlimited' thrown in there to reflect the fact that The Elder Scrolls Online is getting rid of its subscription model.
Previously, if you wanted to play The Elder Scrolls Online you had to pay (approx.) $60 for the base game and then a $15 monthly subscription on top of that. To many players that dated monetization model seemed awfully expensive (even more so given that the game had received mixed reviews) and so Bethesda's decision to scrap the subscription model will be a welcome, if obvious and expected one.
"All existing PC/Mac game accounts, open or closed, will be updated to the Tamriel Unlimited edition in March and former players will be invited back to the game at that time to experience all that is new in the world. New players will make a one-time purchase of the game and play, without restrictions, for as long as they like – without game subscription fees."
From now on, The Elder Scrolls Online will be supported with "with special, optional downloadable content available for purchase and an in-game Crown Store for convenience and customization items" as well as something called 'ESO Plus'. ESO Plus is a premium monthly subscription that provides "exclusive in-game bonuses, a monthly allotment of crowns to use in the store and access to all DLC game packs while a member". Meanwhile, the game's regular content updates will remain free for all.
The decision to make The Elder Scrolls Online free to play (bar that one time fee) is something that's been expected for a while and for those who've yet to play the MMO this certainly removes the barrier to entry. However, for those who have already been paying for their monthly sub this might seem like a slap in the face as although Bethesda says that "PC/Mac players with active subscriptions on 17th March will be automatically enrolled into ESO Plus and begin enjoying its membership privileges" that hardly makes up for the money they've spent on their TESO subscription in the 11 months prior to the game going free to play.
Members of the development team will be streaming The Elder Scrolls Online and offering more info about the Tamriel Unlimited plans on the ZeniMax Online Studios Twitch channel from 5PM (GMT).