During E3 2013 in June, ZeniMax Online Studios and Bethesda announced that their ambitious MMO The Elder Scrolls Online would not just release for PC, but for the PS4 and Xbox One as well. Since then, we’ve learned that ZeniMax will attempt to launch the game with a questionable subscribtion fee requirement, something that Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons & Dragons and countless other high profile brands have failed to maintain.
With World of Warcraft subscriptions on the steep decline, perhaps the timing is right to capture that audience, but what about the console games who already have to pay to play games online with PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold memberships?
“What’s cool about having a subscription model for us, is that firstly we don’t have any gates on the content – Elder Scrolls is very much a game about going wherever you want to, and if you’re randomly running into artificial [obstacles] where you have to pay, it just doesn’t feel right.
“The other thing is to do with maintaining a team, that can offer super service and put out content at a very high clip. If you want to do that, you really need to plan for it in advance and also maintain a really large team of people.”
“We can do that stuff plus a lot more, stuff that’s more ‘Elder Scrollsy’, not trivial. We could do it daily if we just wanted to throw a dagger out the door, we could just say ‘here’s today’s update’, but that’s not what Elder Scrolls is about.”
As for doubling up on subscriptions for the console gamers – what if they wish to just play The Elder Scrolls Online on their Xbox One but don’t have Live Gold? Bethesda Softworks marketing boss Peter Hines reveals that they’re trying to “push” Microsoft to alter their policy.
“… we have been in talks with Microsoft about that very thing, and seeing whether or not there’s any room to change their minds about that, for folks who are only paying The Elder Scrolls Online and don’t want to pay for an Xbox Live Gold subscription, just to pay the Elder Scrolls Online.
“The answer right now is that’s the way it works, but it’s something that we’re aware of and we keep pushing on, to see if there’s something that can be done. We’ll let you know if there’s movement there.”
It’s that mentality that prevented Champions Online and Final Fantasy XIV from releasing on Xbox 360. As for the PlayStation 4, we already know that PS Plus is not required to play free-to-play games such as Warframe and War Thunder, so TESO would be exempt too, right? Not so. A Bethesda spokesperson tells USgamer that they’re facing a “similar situation” regarding double-subscriptions on PS4.
With the increased popularity and market dominance of free-to-play games and in this case, subscription games, not just casual ones, but core franchises like Command & Conquer, etc., on the PC – both Sony and Microsoft need form a plan when it comes to supporting these franchises. Some of them may very well be future killer apps (see: League of Legends) and it all comes down to how much of a cut from the pricing models they deserve.
As for TESO, ZeniMax has a five-year plan for content, but whether or not they can survive with a subscription model for that long remains to be seen. Read our hands-on preview of The Elder Scrolls Online for more.
The Elder Scrolls Online releases Spring 2014 for PC, Mac, PS4 and Xbox One.
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