ESO Pre-Order Announcement Reactions

Hello TF community, today has been a landmark day for The Elder Scrolls Online with two major announcements shaking the internet community. Most obviously, the unveiling of the distribution packages for ESO have revealed a set of exclusive bonuses for pre-orders and enhanced game editions which are both compelling and controversial.  Secondly, a major announcement regarding game mechanics was a bit overshadowed by the focus on pre-orders. ZeniMax have lifted the racial restrictions for alliance membership and players will be able to create a character of any of ESO’s 10 (yes, ten) races in whichever alliance they choose.

These announcements have sparked rampant discussion, disappointment, excitement, and even anger throughout the MMO community. The purpose of this article is both to highlight the significant news of the day as well as to weigh in with my thoughts on these developments. I warn you in advance, many of you will patently disagree with me on certain points. I say this now so you have ample time to gather your torches and pitchforks and prepare to lay siege to my opinions in the comment section below.  I’ve been surprised by the responses to this news from throughout the ESO community and in contrast I am prepared to  defend the decisions which have been criticized by many fans, while condemning choices that many others have applauded.

I hope you will bear with me for this, and at least consider my thoughts before laying into me. However, I do want to hear from you even if you think I’m utterly full of rubbish. Ok, here goes…

Pre-Order Bonuses

The contents of the physical Imperial edition

The contents of the physical Imperial edition

Perhaps the most exciting news of the day was that ZeniMax revealed details regarding the preorder packages that are now available to buy through major online retailers. On all platforms you can buy both physical or digital editions in “standard”, and “imperial” editions. The standard edition of the game will retail for $60. All preorder packages come with a number of shared features:

  • 5 days of early access (from Sunday, March 30)
  • A “Scuttler” vanity pet
  • Bonus treasure maps that you can find throughout Tamriel

The collectors or “Imperial” edition of the game is priced at $80 for the digital version and includes the following extra benefits:

  • Access to the Imperial race as a playable selection for your character
  • Imperial white horse (a free standard level mount)
  • Mudcrab vanity pet
  • Rings of Mara (gives bonus experience shared between two accounts when you group together)

The physical collectors edition, which is priced at $100 additionally includes the following goodies:

  • Printed map of Tamriel
  • Emperor’s Guide to Tamriel (a 224 page illustrated guide to the game)
  • A Molag Bal statue

Some of this news was fairly standard, vanity pets, in-game trinkets that give minor experience bonuses, and free mounts are all pretty standard fare for enhanced editions of the game featuring an expanded price tag. The most surprising and controversial component of the pre-order packages is the addition of the Imperial race as a playable selection in ESO. The Imperials had originally been included as an NPC faction under the control of Mannimarco and Abnur Tharn, and partially blamed for the corruption of Cyrodiil which gave rise to the three-faction conflict as a core premise of the game. Traditional Elder Scrolls fans have been asking for a while to see the Imperial race included in the game, and while many are happy to see their wishes realized, there has been a great deal of disappointment regarding the perception that ZeniMax are essentially turning this 10th race into paid content exclusive to the “Imperial” editions of the game. I sympathize with these sentiments, however, on this particular point I am prepared to defend ZeniMax’ decisions.

  1. A lot of fans have condemned the fact that “we have to pay 80 dollars just to play Imperials”. Firstly, if you are going to criticize the pricing of this package, at least recognize that you are only paying $20 to unlock the Imperial race (plus extra bonuses like the mount and the Mara rings). Twenty dollars for an entire playable race with it’s own skill line is far from the worst price gouging I’ve ever seen in the MMO industry.
  2. It is ZeniMax’ job to design compelling collectors edition exclusives in order to cater to their most ardent fans. Charging a single price to everyone for only one version of the game is a terrible choice from a business perspective when you can instead take advantage of the fact that some of your playerbase have a very high demand for your product. Offering multiple tiers of the game allows players to self-select into the version which is most appropriate for their own valuation. In this respect, I think ZeniMax did a great job. How often do you see a collectors edition for a game and feel like the extra stuff you get is mostly crap? With the “Imperial” edition ZOS have put together a bundle of really great exclusives that will appeal to a number of people. Everyone would like to have access to Imperials for free, but the bottom line is there are plenty of people willing to pay the extra $20 for that privilege, and it’s a savvy business decision for them to make.
  3. The fact that you can “buy” Imperial access does not mean that ESO will have a cash shop. It does not mean that ESO will have microtransactionsIt does not mean that content will be pay-gated even though they already have a subscription model. The Imperial is an exclusive account flag that you will be very likely able to unlock eventually in some other way, either by completely certain tasks in-game, or by paying the difference in cost ($20) to “upgrade” your account. Plenty of MMO’s work in this framework where you can add the entitlements offered by collectors editions to your account later down the road by paying a fee equal to the difference in price.

It strikes me that what is happening here is that ZeniMax came up with a completely kick-ass exclusive for the folks that buy their collectors edition, and instead of being excited about that the internet community has blown up in outrage that not everyone gets that same feature for free. It seems almost like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario”. If you offer great exclusives people will complain that not everyone gets them, if you offer lame exclusives people will accuse you of exploiting or nickel-and-diming your customers. I don’t think that many people can convincingly argue that the contents of the “Imperial” edition is not worth $20 to an avid ESO fan. I stand behind you on this one, ZeniMax marketing team.

 

The Removal of Faction Locks

I have said my piece defending ZOS for their choices with the game packages, contrary to much of the sentiment I’ve seen throughout the fan community. Time for me to stir the pot even more by unleashing my righteous wrath on a change that many people have acclaimed as a great move. As part of the pre-order bonuses for all game editions, players have the opportunity to create any race they wish within any of the game’s three factions. I won’t temper my words for the faint of heart on this count, I think this is the worst decision that ZeniMax has made regarding their game thusfar. Here’s why:

1) Incompatibility With Lore

I am not a die-hard TES lorumite. My grasp of the Elder Scrolls world only extends so far, and yet I cannot possible validate this decision in the context of the world ZeniMax has created for ESO. I know many of you will say “but Atropos, it has always been a staple of the TES franchise to play the way you want, and make your own decisions, why should I be forced to espouse the political ideology of one faction?”. Let me be clear, I agree with this sentiment entirely in the context of the single-player games. When you individually are the hero and the world revolves around you and your choices, stepping outside the cultural norms established by your racial society is acceptable and even interesting. This strand of logic, however, breaks down when you extend the game experience into multiplayer space. The races, societies, and cultures of the Elder Scrolls are multi-toned, with complex customs, traditions, and social norms. Individual outliers lend a great deal of flavor to this world, where not every Bosmer is a carbon copy of Fargoth, and not every Altmer is a Thalmor zealot. It makes perfect sense in the context of the world for, perhaps, 5% of a racial population to oppose the political ideologies of the majority. It does not in any way make sense to dispense with these cultural and political ties at the aggregate level.

How can you justify over 50% of Dunmer opposing the Ebonheart Pact by allying with Altmer or Bretons? How could you fathom a majority of Altmer siding against their ancestral race? How could it possibly make sense for a majority of Bretons to take up arms against the King that unified their people? You may argue that faction locks inhibited roleplaying, but their removal does nothing but facilitate the following (in the words of Rial):

I am Ulfnar Bearbreaker, I am a Nord and I love killing those evil elves! I serve my queen Ayrenn loyaly because she’s hot!

2) Destruction of Faction Identity

The absolute best thing about a unique three faction system is the ability to identify and associate with your chosen group. ESO was off to a great start from the beginning with this, headed by Matt Firor, Brian Wheeler, and others of DAoC fame, they chose a three faction system where each alliance was different, with its own lands, ideologies, races, and political agendas. This created a wonderful sense of rivalry that was palpable even here on the Tamriel Foundry forums. The lengths people would take in order to justify why their alliance was the “best”. The removal of race restrictions strips out one of the main (and only remaining) reasons why Alliances in ESO mean anything at all. The game has already softened their stance on guilds (you can join a guild on any alliance), chat (you can whisper players of any alliance), and exploration (you can explore the lands of any alliance). By removing racial restrictions ZeniMax has removed one of the only remaining features for instilling faction loyalty and pride from their game. It may seem silly, and you may think I’m wrong but this change has caused me to give up hope of ever having the same type of community in ESO that would do things like this for their faction:

Alliances in ESO are now just straw-man stories that equate to little more than “choose your leader”, Ayrenn, Jorunn, or Emeric. There’s not much to be proud of in that choice. The game is no longer “us versus them”, it’s “us versus … also us”. Meaningful choices are defined by what you give up to make them, ZeniMax has decided to give players a free lunch, not having to give up anything when creating their character. The “you can have it all” mindset has made this change resound with applause and excitement from many corners of the community, but it absolutely is not the best thing for the long-term health of the game.

3) It Already Failed in Guild Wars 2

I give my life, for the blue team!

I give my life, for the blue team!

Part of the successful formula for MMO development is learning from the mistakes of the past, improving upon them, and innovating in small amounts. One of the absolute worst parts of Guild Wars 2 was that at the end of the day, it’s difficult to be THAT excited for a war that is as stale and uninteresting as “red vs. blue vs. green” (or just red vs. blue in structured PvP). ZeniMax looked at two games that have used the same model for three faction conflict, on the one hand you have Dark Age of Camelot who to this day is reflected upon as one of the best MMOs of all time, particularly for it’s PvP system. On the other hand, you have Guild Wars 2, a game that many people enjoyed, but had obvious and severe failings in it’s “World vs. World” implementation. Between the two they (initially) chose correctly and went down the path of Dark Age with unique factions, races, and lands that would instill the playerbase with a sustained sense of pride and belonging. Unfortunately, at this late date, they have decided to abandon this fundamentally pivotal cornerstone of that model and opt for the GW2 approach. Welcome to ESO alliance vs. alliance, pick your side – red, blue, or yellow.

Where does this leave us? I suspect it’s only a matter of time before the last vestiges of Alliance affiliation are lifted entirely and you can group with players of every alliance. Some will welcome this as a positive change for ESO, and in terms of PvE, perhaps they are correct. In my mind, the most reliable, dependable, and sustainable facet of ESO‘s endgame has always been their PvP system which is truly dynamic, player driven, and engaging. ZeniMax has chosen to sacrifice the feature that makes that system great on the altar of public opinion because “people want to play with their friends”.

I think it’s time to leave it there, I suspect this article will be an unpopular one both because of my defense of the monetization of the Imperial race and my condemnation of the removal of faction locks. I hope to be proven wrong regarding the latter, but I cannot bring myself to understand a world in which this decision is a healthy one for the long term stability and stickiness of the game. Please let me know your thoughts in the comment section below, I would like to hear them even if you disagree with me completely (perhaps especially then).

671 responses to “ESO Pre-Order Announcement Reactions”

  1. Profile Photo
    Nybling

    Grandmaster

    Total Posts: 2122

    Altmer Sorcerer

    Entropy Rising

    I agree with you 100% about Faction Locks.  Though re: Imperials, they will only be available by spending $20 according to what ZOS is saying.  So no in-game way to get them.

  2. Member Avatar
    Rhaiden

    Scamp

    Total Posts: 2

    Redguard Templar

    I appreciate this post, and your thought out defenses of Zenimax in regards to the Imperial class. I do disagree with you on that. The price lock behind something that is implemented in game, but has a buy to get this content when i’ve already purchased the content is what confuses me. It’s pretty much like DLC that bioware did with ME3. Buy the game for 60 bucks like every other game! BUT….. You don’t actually get the whole game til you buy all the DLC packs!

     

    It’s a business decision made on behalf of a business, and not for a playerbase.

     

    I think great collectors edition items should be things such as the map, figure, soundtrack and titles (if such a thing exists). Maybe even a transmog effect for a certain sword. Gating a race by $20, when i’ve already purchased the game just doesn’t make sense to me.

  3. Member Avatar
    Kelnoreem

    Novice

    Total Posts: 20

    Altmer Nightblade

    The Noore

    They have not released enough information to clarify previous questions, now they release information and end up causing more questions.  I think there narketing group has been enslaved by Molag Bal.

  4. Profile Photo
    c0rp

    Adept

    Total Posts: 228

    Khajiit Sorcerer

    Pantheon

    Nybling said on January 29, 2014 :

    I agree with you 100% about Faction Locks. Though re: Imperials, they will only be available by spending $20 according to what ZOS is saying. So no in-game way to get them.

     

    Source?

     

    I also support the Imperial bonus and the faction release.  I think a majority of people will pick a race, and still play the faction that race is supposed to be in.  I suspect that 25%?? of the total population will preorder?  Meaning 75% of the pop is still  in the correct faction.    I see no problem with this.

     

  5. Member Avatar
    Pirhana7

    Scamp

    Total Posts: 9

    I agree with you mostly and completely understand the race differences and seeing them as your enemy and I have the exact seem feeling and disappointment as you with this change.  But I think you are over reacting by saying it is just like GW2 now.  GW2 is the excact same team on each side, same land, same story, everything, it is a mirror of your enemy colors.   Now ESO still has the majority of thing still in Common with DAOC.  Each alliance is still different, they have different lands, different stories, different priorities, different beliefs and different leaders.  AD for example you are fighting for the Queen.

     

    Another difference is ESO’s map will not reset, what you do stands until enemies take action to change that.  there is no waiting for resets or feeling like there is no point to claim a keep because building it up is a waste after it resets.  Also the PVP effecting your PVE.  GW2 kept these 2 separate.  none ever left PVE to go to PVP because of something happening.  Now ESO will work more like DAOC, you will get the “call to arms” and the panic in alliance chat when one of your Elder Scroll Temples gets attacked.  You will see people leaving dungeon raids and PVE to go defend just as you saw with enemy relic raids in DAOC.

  6. Profile Photo
    Stonesthrow

    Master

    Total Posts: 751

    Altmer Sorcerer

    @Atropos You could be right on both counts. I agree with the first 100% but the second not so much, at least in the short run. I do hope they don’t allow cross-faction grouping as that would kill the feel and purpose of PvP altogether. But I do feel that some people being able to choose races that aren’t originally in a faction is okay for the most part.

  7. Profile Photo
    Cheers

    Adept

    Total Posts: 117

    Breton Templar

    Pantheon

    Very well thought out post!  I agree with you on one point and partially disagree with you on the other

    I agree with you on the Imperial Edition.  I think it’s worth the money and c’mon people $20 difference is nothing to get worked up about.  I could see if they originally had the race in beta, took it out, then decided to “put it back in” and charge more for it.  That would be a cash grab, but that’s not how it happened.  I am perfectly willing to pay the extra $20 and consider it a value.  I already purchased it online.

    I partially disagree with you on the factions.  I do agree that it will turn into red vs. blue vs. green and it kind of kills faction pride.  On the other hand people play games to have fun.  MMO’s are social games and if they can’t group with their friends then they may leave the game.  The more subscribers the healthier the game is and the more content is released (and more people to kill in PVP :) )  So I really don’t have a problem with it if it helps the game’s long term viability.

    Cheers!

  8. Member Avatar
    EbonheartFoundry

    Apprentice

    Total Posts: 28

    Argonian Dragonknight

    Knights of Blood

    will this become avalible for non pre order players after a while?

  9. Profile Photo
    Knightomare

    Novice

    Total Posts: 12

    Khajiit Nightblade

    Thank you for this article it is very thought out and well written and I agree with much of what you are saying, this lack of region lock makes it so that the decision to join any alliance a moot point. However  I would say if they hadn’t done that then most people would have made charecters in all three factions eventually to play with their friends. I also agree that this also destroys much of the world PVP and turn it into red vs blue   though from my own knowlege back in the days (very long ago in GW2) we still had a fairly competative PVP scene.

  10. Member Avatar
    Do’kroza

    Scamp

    Total Posts: 5

    Altmer Templar

    I completely agree with both of your statements. I for one was looking forward to rushing into battle as a loyal soldier of the Aldmeri Dominion, prepared to strike down any of the Ebonheart Pact or Covenant.  I’m supposed to be fine with the fact that there’s a Nord standing next me, fighting for Queen Ayrenn who has already stated that she’d rather have an elven infant on the throne than a man?

  11. Profile Photo
    talrashajj

    Apprentice

    Total Posts: 31

    Orc Dragonknight

    Defenders Of The High King

    The Imperial edition is bullshit and anyone with any sense knows it. If this were a free to play game it would be completely acceptable, but when Zenimax is already charging a subscription on top of the 60 dollars  it becomes money grubbing and completely unacceptable.  No other game that has had a subscription model has ever had the balls to try something so underhanded as this. And  if we allow something like this to fly whats stopping Zenimax from going all the way with a cash shop. This whole thing is a mess, I will still be playing the game but i will not recommend this to any of my friends.

  12. Profile Photo
    Phazius

    Master

    Total Posts: 834

    Dunmer Dragonknight

    Entropy Rising

    Ill agree that its bad but I dont think it will be as bad as GW2 since you will always be AD or EP or DC but in GWs one week your blue the next you could be red. I do agree with your assessment of the Imperial Race thingy though.

  13. Profile Photo
    Marsh-Shadow

    Master

    Total Posts: 571

    Argonian Sorcerer

    An-Xileel

    I might buy the imperial edition even though I don’t like imperials and I will never play as one.

  14. Member Avatar
    Hwrath

    Master

    Total Posts: 781

    c0rp said on January 29, 2014 :

    I also support the Imperial bonus and the faction release. I think a majority of people will pick a race, and still play the faction that race is supposed to be in. I suspect that 25%?? of the total population will preorder? Meaning 75% of the pop is still in the correct faction. I see no problem with this.

    That’s an interesting point c0rp. It could be they looked at the number of expected users and also looked at the average number of users which typically purchase CE or special editions of the game. It will be interesting to see how these numbers play out.

  15. Profile Photo
    Lorelai

    Adept

    Total Posts: 156

    Altmer Sorcerer

    Order of the Crimson Moth

    I have mixed feelings on the “every race for every faction” thing. It’s only for pre-orders though, but I imagine most people buying the game are pre-ordering.

     

    However, since PvP is restricted to Cyrodiil, and Cyrodiil alone, I don’t mind too much. I’m most likely still going to play in my race’s political faction instead of rebelling against them. The only except I could see myself making is maybe a Dunmer in the Aldmeri Dominion.

     

    Wish the Imperial Edition came with the game’s soundtrack, though.

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

  16. Profile Photo
    Elock Shadowheim

    Journeyman

    Total Posts: 67

    Dunmer Sorcerer

    ARCANE

    I think your right for the most part but I hate that people will have a 5 day headstart and can be lorebreaking.

    ”Was it Molag? No, no… Little Tim, the toymaker’s son? The ghost of King Lysandus? Or was it… Yes! Stanley, that talking grapefruit from Passwall.”

     

  17. Member Avatar
    RedSatyr

    Journeyman

    Total Posts: 56

    Dunmer Sorcerer

    As it says in the ESO store, “Become an Imperial and play in any Alliance”. I take that as, not something you start out as, but something you work towards. Perhaps I’m reading too much into that, but that’s what it says to me.

    Also, I think the faction lock will be equal to the issue you mentioned, a LOT of players playing a race that is going against their race’s faction and that doesn’t make much sense. However, I’m sure that since it’s a pre-order bonus, that after the game has released it’ll even out after a while. Not to mention, ZOS isn’t dumb. They’ll have a good story-related reason for doing this, as they’ve had only good reasons for doing what they’ve done so far. I trust them.

  18. Profile Photo
    Domonos

    Scamp

    Total Posts: 2

    Orc Dragonknight

    well I bought the imperial digital edition and apparently aprill 4th and beyond you can go ahead and switch to imperial from standard and the imperial race you can start out as at any time

    ”Cyrodiil is the covenants and with it the vanquishing of the pact and Dominion”

  19. Member Avatar
    RedSatyr

    Journeyman

    Total Posts: 56

    Dunmer Sorcerer

    c0rp said on January 29, 2014 :

    Nybling said on January 29, 2014 :

    I agree with you 100% about Faction Locks. Though re: Imperials, they will only be available by spending $20 according to what ZOS is saying. So no in-game way to get them.

    Source?

    I also support the Imperial bonus and the faction release. I think a majority of people will pick a race, and still play the faction that race is supposed to be in. I suspect that 25%?? of the total population will preorder? Meaning 75% of the pop is still in the correct faction. I see no problem with this.

     

    c0rp said on January 29, 2014 :

    Nybling said on January 29, 2014 :

    I agree with you 100% about Faction Locks. Though re: Imperials, they will only be available by spending $20 according to what ZOS is saying. So no in-game way to get them.

    Source?

    I also support the Imperial bonus and the faction release. I think a majority of people will pick a race, and still play the faction that race is supposed to be in. I suspect that 25%?? of the total population will preorder? Meaning 75% of the pop is still in the correct faction. I see no problem with this.

    What exactly are you wanting a source on?

     

    Also, I agree. I don’t think it’ll be much of an issue. And hey, if it turns out 80% of people going to play the game pre-order, then that’s all the better for the game.

  20. Profile Photo
    Micanis

    Master

    Total Posts: 527

    Bosmer Templar

    I agree with your sentiments on the loosening of the faction lock, but I disagree with your thoughts on the Imperial Edition.

    A lot of fans have condemned the fact that “we have to pay 80 dollars just to play Imperials”. Firstly, if you are going to criticize the pricing of this package, at least recognize that you are only paying $20 to unlock the Imperial race (plus extra bonuses like the mount and the Mara rings). Twenty dollars for an entire playable race with it’s own skill line is far from the worst price gouging I’ve ever seen in the MMO industry.

    Yes, 20$ isn’t a lot, but players shouldn’t have to pay an extra cent to play a race that’s been playable by default in the past three ES games. Mounts, vanity pets, special armor, that’s all standard fare for a collector’s edition. Races are completely different, people form loyalties to there favorite race, I’m not an imperial fan, but what if was your favorite race that was locked behind the collector’s edition. Sure, most people won’t mind buying the Imperial edition to play an imperial, but it still stands that they shouldn’t have to.

    It is ZeniMax’ job to design compelling collectors edition exclusives in order to cater to their most ardent fans. Charging a single price to everyone for only one version of the game is a terrible choice from a business perspective when you can instead take advantage of the fact that some of your playerbase have a very high demand for your product. Offering multiple tiers of the game allows players to self-select into the version which is most appropriate for their own valuation. In this respect, I think ZeniMax did a great job. How often do you see a collectors edition for a game and feel like the extra stuff you get is mostly crap? With the “Imperial” edition ZOS have put together a bundle of really great exclusives that will appeal to a number of people. Everyone would like to have access to Imperials for free, but the bottom line is there are plenty of people willing to pay the extra $20 for that privilege, and it’s a savvy business decision for them to make.

    There are plenty of other things they could put in the collector’s edition to make it meaningful and maybe it’s a savvy business decision, but it’s not very customer friendly. If player’s are already paying a subscription they shouldn’t have to pay more to play a race that should have been a default option from the beginning.

     The Imperial is an exclusive account flag that you will be very likely able to unlock eventually in some other way, either by completely certain tasks in-game, or by paying the difference in cost ($20) to “upgrade” your account. Plenty of MMO’s work in this framework where you can add the entitlements offered by collectors editions to your account later down the road by paying a fee equal to the difference in price.

    If you buy the standard edition and then decide to upgrade you still have to pay for the Imperial race. If the Imperial access can be gained in-game for free then the people that bought the Imperial edition to play an imperial would feel cheated.

    In the end the Imperial Edition doesn’t affect me because the exclusives don’t interest me and I’ll still be playing the game of course, but I still feel that what ZOS is doing with the collector’s edition is unfair.

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