ESO To Feature Subscription Model

Big news from Gamescom

Which downstream revenue model The Elder Scrolls Online would adopt has been one of the big lingering questions surrounding development of the game (apart, of course, from “will there be dragons?”). Until now, ZOS has kept their financial plans a closely guarded secret. However; yesterday evening at Gamescom, Game Director Matt Firor unveiled the big announcement during an interview with German gaming magazine GameStar:

We’re thrilled that gamers are looking forward to diving into The Elder Scrolls Online and we’ve been working hard to deliver the game that fans want – one that’s worthy of the Elder Scrolls name. Choosing the right business model is part of that. We are going with the subscription model for ESO.

We’re building a game with the freedom to play – alone or with your friends – as much as you want. A game with meaningful and consistent content – one packed with hundreds of hours of gameplay that can be experienced right away and one that will be supported with premium customer support. 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. Going with any other model meant that we would have to make sacrifices and changes we weren’t willing to make.

We have seen some mixed reactions to this announcement throughout the community, where some industry followers have even expressed outright surprise at this decision. I personally believe the subscription model is far from obsolete, and given the ambitious scope of The Elder Scrolls Online and it’s post launch plans am not shocked to see that ZOS has opted for a traditional pay-to-play business model. The Knowledge Base on the official ESO website has more concrete details:

We will be announcing exact payment methods at a later date, but globally we will be supporting multiple payment options. Players must purchase The Elder Scrolls Online in order to play it. They will have unlimited access for the first 30 days following activation and can continue beyond that with a subscription of $14.99/month (€12.99 / £8.99).

We knew this was coming...

We knew this was coming…

This is a very conventional setup for the MMO industry, and one that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise despite the arguable success of recent buy-to-play titles. As far back as September of last year, we had a strong indication that ESO would leverage a subscription model. We saw in a briefly-posted job listing that ZOS was recruiting a Finance Manager with specific experience managing subscription-based revenue streams.

While this decision has not been universally popular (we’ve already seen some outrageous petitions begging for B2P), I think it makes a lot of sense if ZeniMax can deliver on the potential of the game. We know of ZOS’ plans to release frequent content updates in the form of the mysteriously titled “adventure zones”, and a subscription based revenue model holds them to this commitment by providing an approximately contractual mechanism between ZOS and the player community. The assurance of subscription revenue means that ZeniMax can fund downstream development while not having to live “paycheck-to-paycheck” on micro-transactions or one-time purchases. This gives ZOS some leeway, affording developers the time required to make sure these patches are polished and balanced before releasing them. On the other hand, the abundance of affordable alternatives in the MMO space keeps ZOS under pressure to make sure the quality of experience they deliver meets the $15 monthly price tag.

One of the reasons I support a subscription revenue model in the MMO space is it enters developers and players into a symbiotic relationship, where both rely on each other for the success of the game. In a world with so many options for our gaming entertainment the subscription model is a brave move, and one that means developers won’t be able to take players for a ride without delivering new content that is both timely and polished. In fact, when pressed on this very topic, Firor explained:

We are already working on content that will roll out to players after ESO’s launch. New quest lines, skills, zones, dungeons -are already in the pipeline. These things, in addition to our end-game content, PvP, and extraordinary customer service, are all part of making sure we’re delivering on that premium service – and that the player feels like they are getting their money’s worth. We won’t know the exact schedule until after ESO launches, but our target right now is to have new content available every four to six weeks.

While the marketing of ESO hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory thusfar, I am encouraged to see that they recognize their MMO as a premium service which must deliver enough value to retain their customer base.

fungal-grotto

It’s clearly an issue where players have divided opinions, we’ve seen over 1,200 posts on this topic alone here on Tamriel Foundry. Additionally, a survey we conducted several months ago revealed that out of over 1,000 ESO fans, over half preferred a traditional subscription model. It’s clearly a heated issue, but either way I’m glad that we have direct confirmation of ZOS’ plans in this regard. What do you think about the announcement? Is there still room in the MMO genre for a subscription game to be successful? Do you buy the argument that a monthly sub can act as an enforcement mechanism for the relationship between developers and players? Would you rather have seen a different route taken with ESO?

321 responses to “ESO To Feature Subscription Model”

  1. Profile Photo
    Klaten

    Expert

    Total Posts: 342

    Nord Templar

    Discover Eventide

    YES. It should use a subscription model. My dreams are coming true.

    http://media.tumblr.com/137ec3f3aa57fcc4e19b664f05895421/tumblr_inline_mkow9lWAmz1qz4rgp.gif
  2. Profile Photo
    Iormungandr

    Adept

    Total Posts: 218

    Altmer Templar

    Emberguard Protectorate

    Arrgghh! Damnit ZOS, I had faith in you! This will probably turn away what TES fans you still had with you! (Besides me)

    I suppose I’ll still play it, as long as they have a yearly payment option. I’m not paying month-by-month, that’s way too often for me. Where, between a new PC and more singleplayer TES content (Dawnguard, Dragonborn, Hearthfire, Oblivion, etc..) I’ll fit a X-dollar original purchase and then subsequently 165$ for a year’s worth of content, and I will definitely be playing past that into 2015, maybe even 2016. My gaming budget is going to probably be thrown into Blackreach at this rate.

    I’m hoping for a TES:VI announcement in at least 2015. That means it would probably be released late 2016.

    EDIT – Okay, at least there is more content they are already working on. I want to be able to fully explore Tamriel eventually, and that seems like, (If WoW’s years of success indicates anything) that will almost definitely be a possibility. I mainly want to see every square inch of the Summerset Isle, Skyrim, and High Rock. Skyrim actually only features Eastmarch and the Rift at launch. I really wanted to see Whiterun… Sigh, such is the life of a slightly disappointed TES fan.

    Transcendant Wizard of the Emberguard Protectorate. I advise the group on all political, military, and magical matters. Looking for Aldmeri Dominion Roleplayers to join..

    [

     ”Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.”

  3. Profile Photo
    Euvaea Mirpal-Ammusa

    Apprentice

    Total Posts: 45

    Dunmer Sorcerer

    Great article, and yes, I’m of the persuasion that a monthly subscription will serve as an effective means for quality control and decent output from developers at ZOS. This business model, in theory, should assure the gamers (a.k.a. customers), great customer support with regards to exciting, compelling and timely content that will last for an extensive period of time. The fact that ZOS have been so professional, prompt to respond to inquiries when contacted, and eager to share new developments on a weekly basis with the Elder Scrolls and MMO communities, only reinforces my vote of confidence in the expected success of this monthly subscription as a pillar for quality maintenance.

    ”May I shrink to dust

    In your cold, wild Wastes,

    And may my tongue speak

    Its last hymn to your winds.”

     

     

  4. Profile Photo
    Marsh-Shadow

    Master

    Total Posts: 571

    Argonian Sorcerer

    An-Xileel

    I’m very happy that ZOS is going with a pay-to-play business model. Although I wish it was in the $5-$10 price range.

  5. Profile Photo
    krystak14

    Expert

    Total Posts: 297

    Imperial Dragonknight

    YAY!!! this is what I hoped for.

  6. Member Avatar
    kkoma

    Journeyman

    Total Posts: 54

    If im reading Firors comments correctly then this means ZOS will not charge extra for the upcoming content, ie we wont see an expansion early 2015 called “Return of the Akaviri” that will cost us another 39.99$ for the box.

    This gives ZOS a great deal of freedom when it comes to gearprogression which is great.

     

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    Denathor

    Apprentice

    Total Posts: 39

    Altmer Templar

    Nefarious

    Time to break open my piggy bank!

  8. Profile Photo
    Yevon

    Grandmaster

    Total Posts: 1771

    Breton Nightblade

    I’m glad they finally made this announcement. It will weed out many of the folks who were wanting this to be a single player experience and allow ZOS to develop and advertise the game as a quality MMO set in TES universe instead of the other non sense folks have been claiming TESO to be.

  9. Profile Photo
    Khaja

    Scamp

    Total Posts: 7

    Khajiit Nightblade

    Though I much prefer the Buy to Play model, (Saves us a lot of money, and might draw in even more people) I think the subscription model could turn out well. The quality of the game is often a deciding factor when it comes to how much money to spend on it, but I am disappointed that they went with the rather hefty $15 a month fee that Blizzard has put in place as the standard of MMO subscription fees.

    With the economy as it is, do many have the money to throw $180 a year at Zenimax? If it were $10, it would be a reasonable price. (I’d save $60) The free month upon buying is understandable in the P2P model, as you are already paying the monthly amount, if not more. The company just desires to balance it out.

    $15 is a lot for a subscription during these hard times, and was a lot back in the day, too. But the quality of the game might make it worth every penny. (It had better)

    Khajiit have had to survive the howling winds of the scorching desert and navigate the tangled jungles of Elsweyr. Surviving bandits and rogues as we traverse our lands requires we be tough. And as we enter lands far more alien than our homeland, what makes you think we will not fare any better?

  10. Profile Photo
    Umaril the Unfeathered

    Hero

    Total Posts: 3414

    Altmer Sorcerer

    Wise choice, Zenimax Online!

    Although I’m pretty sure they’ve already decided on the payment model weeks ago (if not months).

    P2P ought to ensure TESO’s continued ‘survivability’.

    *Formerly known by the username ”GarlasMalatar”*

    ”What is better? To be born good, or to overcome your evil nature through great effort?”Paarthurnax

    ”Shanta, ehlno.  Tyavoy balangua!” ~ Umaril the Unfeathered

    ”Welcome, Nerevar. Together we shall speak for the Law and the Land and shall drive the mongrel dogs of the Empire from Morrowind.” ~ Dagoth Ur

  11. Profile Photo
    NerevarDunmer

    Expert

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    Imperial Templar

    The Great House Iron Wolf

    See you later ESO. You had promise. You had the potential to be a great game. Just not enough to warrant $15 a month. Assholes.

    Winter is coming. 

  12. Profile Photo
    Lorelai

    Adept

    Total Posts: 156

    Altmer Sorcerer

    Order of the Crimson Moth

    Totally going to be doing a 6-12 month payment option.

    WOnder if multi month packages will have any bonuses to it other then a cheaper price. A title, armour set, perhaps? Or just an adorable pet of some sort.

    ”Halo! Its divine wind will rush through the stars, propelling all who are worthy along the path to salvation.”

  13. Profile Photo
    Umaril the Unfeathered

    Hero

    Total Posts: 3414

    Altmer Sorcerer

    Farewell to all the trolls who can’t stand the game not being F2P!

    *Formerly known by the username ”GarlasMalatar”*

    ”What is better? To be born good, or to overcome your evil nature through great effort?”Paarthurnax

    ”Shanta, ehlno.  Tyavoy balangua!” ~ Umaril the Unfeathered

    ”Welcome, Nerevar. Together we shall speak for the Law and the Land and shall drive the mongrel dogs of the Empire from Morrowind.” ~ Dagoth Ur

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    The Hisk

    Scamp

    Total Posts: 5

    Argonian Nightblade

    This Game Will Still Be Great!

     

     

    The Hist Watch over me.

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    Raxvon

    Master

    Total Posts: 866

    Bosmer Sorcerer

    Children Of Auriel

    The-Hisk said on August 21, 2013 :

    This Game Will Still Be Great!

    Meh, I just don’t really care for the monthly payment, but I can deal with it I guess.

    Where are my trousers?

    Xbox Live Gamertag: Raxvon

    Faction: Aldmeri Dominion

    Conquer peace for Tamriel! 

  16. Profile Photo
    Yevon

    Grandmaster

    Total Posts: 1771

    Breton Nightblade

    NerevarDunmer said on August 21, 2013 :

    See you later ESO. You had promise. You had the potential to be a great game. Just not enough to warrant $15 a month. Assholes.

    I would imagine this is the a console gamer. Also, I must add the obligatory, “Can I haz ur stuffz?”

    Seriously though, if $15 is expensive for you then you should consider spending your time doing something besides gaming. I’m sorry to be harsh but this arguement is just silly, I know of no other renewing form of entertainment that is cheaper than $15 a month.

     

  17. Profile Photo
    Morningstar

    Journeyman

    Total Posts: 95

    Altmer Templar

    ESOTR

    I think this is great, they will be able to keep my world thriving over the years:) best news I’ve heard all day!

  18. Profile Photo
    ba-cal

    Adept

    Total Posts: 204

    Argonian Templar

    I think it’s a bad idea. Many tes fans and non mmo players probably won’t want to pay every month. I hope they would have a yearly subscription.

     

     

     

  19. Profile Photo
    Arya

    Journeyman

    Total Posts: 78

    Dunmer Dragonknight

    Entropy Rising

    NerevarDunmer said on August 21, 2013 :

    See you later ESO. You had promise. You had the potential to be a great game. Just not enough to warrant $15 a month. Assholes.

    A tad harsh?

    I doubt ESO lost all of its “potential” because of its business model…

     

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  20. Member Avatar
    Hwrath

    Master

    Total Posts: 781

    Lorelai said on August 21, 2013 :

    Totally going to be doing a 6-12 month payment option.

    WOnder if multi month packages will have any bonuses to it other then a cheaper price. A title, armour set, perhaps? Or just an adorable pet of some sort.

    I’ll likely do the same. I do hope there is a price drop for 3 month, 6 month and 12 month subs.

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