There is no shortage of variety when it comes to subscription models for massively multiplayer online games. MMOs like The Secret World and Guild Wars 2 are still staying above water with free-to-play models and the use of microtransactions; Star Wars: The Old Republic gives players the choice to play for free or gain perks by sticking with the monthly fee; and World of Warcraft is still raking in monthly subscription fees from millions of players almost nine years after its release. For The Elder Scrolls Online the question of whether or not it will require a paid subscription has been answered.
According to ZeniMax game director Matt Firor, the TESO will ask users to drop $15 a month to play the upcoming role-playing game. In an interview with GameStar, Firor explained that, “Charging a flat monthly (or subscription) fee means that we will offer players the game we set out to make and the one that fans want to play.”
Despite the failure of powerful brand-name MMOs including Age of Conan, DC Universe Online, Lord of The Rings Online, The Old Republic, etc. to succeed with strict subscriptions and all adopting free-to-play models (among many other MMOs), Firor is confident that the quality and depth of the game will justify the monthly subscription fee and that The Elder Scrolls Online has no need to jump onto the free-to-play train.
“The Elder Scrolls Online was designed and developed to be a premium experience: hundreds of hours of gameplay, tons of depth and features, professional customer support – and a commitment to have ongoing content at regular intervals after launch.”
Did we mention that Rift is also going free-to-play and that rumors have Warhammer Online also possibly making the jump?
While some hardcore players enjoy the idea of a paid-only premium service (and resulting dedicated playerbase), others will inevitably be disappointed to hear they’ll need to shell out a recurring payment – especially with the other added monthly fees required to play games online on the PS4 and Xbox One – but Firor’s statements suggest that a project of this size just won’t be able to support itself on microtransactions. In order to help win over gamers who are still on the fence, TESO will offer 30 days of free play along with the client. After that first month, the recurring $15 fee will kick in. Firor did hint that the studio will announce some kind of pricing discounts in the future.
Standing by the subscription model in a market where practically all MMOs offer at least some level of free-to-play definitely comes off as a bold move, and perhaps a risky one. As more details about the game emerge later this year, fans will have to decide how much money The Elder Scrolls-with-friends experience is worth. Our hands-on TESO experience at E3 2013 left us unsure whether or not the the project had simply succeeded in adapting the franchise to the realm of generic fantasy MMOs, or if it had something new and unique to offer.
If Star Wars: The Old Republic couldn’t sustain full-on subscriptions, can The Elder Scrolls Online with its initial mixed reactions?
In the meantime, interested MMO players may want to check out the trailer for World of Warcraft’s final content patch for Mists of Pandaria and the recently released free-to-play Dungeons and Dragons title, Neverwinter.
The Elder Scrolls Online will be available on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in early 2014.
Follow Denny on Twitter @The_DFC.