What Makes an Expansion?

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So The Elder Scrolls Online just announced its first expansion, and naturally it’s already found itself entangled at the center of the game community’s drama du jour. Now as much I love to get into the ol’ whining on the internet, in this case, I find the drama a lot less interesting than the potential questions it raises.

The drama itself stems from the game’s longstanding promise that the game’s optional subscription would grant, and I quote, “access to all downloadable content“. The news that access to TESO‘s Morrowind expansion will not be included with an active subscription has struck some players as a reneging on that original promise, and I have to admit, my original reaction was, well, somewhat in line with that:

After a bit, I reconsidered. Though an annual release is a bit more aggressive an expansion schedule than what you’d find in a most MMOs, the general cadence pretty much matches up perfectly with what you’d expect from a standard MMO.

In a standard subscription format, you have a box, a subscription that covers access to the game, intermittent “free” updates, and then separate expansions. In ESO, you have a box, free access to the base game, the updates that would usually be free are either included with the subscription or bought separately, and then separate expansions. It’s functionally the same, at least when speaking specifically about content updates.

Expansions also enable the team at ZeniMax to significantly increase the scale of one update per year, which is something I feel the game sorely needs. So yeah, I’m on board.

But there are still plenty of people who feel that the promised terms of their ESO Plus subscription aren’t being met now that it’s clear expansions won’t be included, and while it’s easy to hand-wave those concerns away with a semantic distinction between a full retail release update and a DLC, that feels too much like an adherence to form over function; while that particular philosophy works admirably in a legal context, it’s unlikely to reassure many consumers that they aren’t getting screwed.

This is the part I find interesting. What is it that makes an expansion different than a content update, or a DLC? What expectations do players hold for an expansion’s content? What will ZeniMax have to deliver to demonstrate value to the subscribers whose ire they’ve currently drawn?

There’s obviously the factor of scale. Expansions should be significantly larger than their DLC counterparts, and it could be argued that this is the key point of differentiation between the two. A DLC in your standard MMO might include a minor zone, but with an expansion, the expectation is something more on the continental level. Given what we know about Vvardenfell’s size, ZeniMax seems to already be delivering on this point.

On some level though, I think we all expect more. Expansions differentiate from DLCs not just in terms of scale, but in scope, as well. A good expansion doesn’t just add to a game – it offers fundamental changes in the way the it’s played. Typically this comes in the form of a new class, new game modes, and significant additions to existing class designs.

So far TESO: Morrowind seems to be delivering there, as well. We have the Warden returning from its early-alpha exile as the game’s next playable class, while battlegrounds introduce a brand new mode of PvP. We’ve yet to hear anything about changes to existing classes *crosses fingers for new weapons*, but it’s too early to conclude that as an indicator that such changes aren’t coming. And either way, it’s not like the game is required to hit every single one of my own personal check-boxes.

From everything we know so far, I’m not worried about TESO: Morrowind‘s value proposition. It seems flush with content, making it a welcome addition to a game that hasn’t always felt as if it were growing fast enough. I’m sympathetic to those who feel as if they’re now getting less for their subscription, but even though this new update structure may feel like a violation of the spirit of ESO Plus’ original promise to some, it ultimately seems to be making for a much more engaging game for everyone in the long-run. And I’m okay with that.

 

So what about you? Do you feel let down that expansion access isn’t included in the game’s subscription? What do you think sets an expansion apart from a DLC? Do you think it would be obnoxious if we made a change.org petition to get new weapons added? Let me know in the comments!

 

17 responses to “What Makes an Expansion?”

  1. Profile Photo
    BroScottcho

    Adept

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    Orc Sorcerer

    ESOTR

    I was one of the pissed off people at first until I did like you and re-considered.  I considered that I have paid a monthly sub for years and also bought expansions for WoW and I don’t even get a sweet bottomless crafting bag like I do in ESO.  I consider ESO Plus worth it just for the crafting bag.  The dlc’s, crowns and % gains are just icing on the cake.

    I am fine with what they are doing.  It will be a nice revenue stream for them also.

  2. Profile Photo
    Isarii

    Moderator

    Total Posts: 4220

    Khajiit Templar

    BroScottcho said on February 5, 2017 :

    I was one of the pissed off people at first until I did like you and re-considered. I considered that I have paid a monthly sub for years and also bought expansions for WoW and I don’t even get a sweet bottomless crafting bag like I do in ESO. I consider ESO Plus worth it just for the crafting bag. The dlc’s, crowns and % gains are just icing on the cake.

    I am fine with what they are doing. It will be a nice revenue stream for them also.

    They were soliciting suggestions on how to further improve ESO Plus’ value on the forums after the expansion announcement, as well, so I expect we’ll see a bit more development adding more features to it.

    *crosses fingers that it’s a wardrobe system or weapon dyes*

  3. Profile Photo
    Ivar-Bloodstone

    Expert

    Total Posts: 296

    Imperial

    Tamriel Foundry Community

    If they release a physical copy each time then I don’t mind it at all!  The physical collector’s edition is a huge value.  The mount at 2500 crowns, pet at around 750, DLC at around 2500, costume at around 1000 and class at around 5000 (motif price?) along with the statue, book and an entire copy of the game to give away to a friend…

    That’s almost 12k crowns which retails at around $90 by itself not counting the statue and book you receive.  It’s an awesome value especially since PC players can get the physical collector’s edition for $79 on Amazon Prime.

     

    TL;DR

    The physical collector’s editions give actual value to the game.  You will have nothing left but memories and screenshots when the servers shut down but when these physical editions come out you get so much more.

  4. Profile Photo
    Isarii

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    Khajiit Templar

    Agree @Ivar-Bloodstone! I went in for the CE based on that epic statue alone.

  5. Profile Photo
    Malic

    Master

    Total Posts: 741

    Imperial Nightblade

    I am one of the VERY unhappy eso+ members. However I have chosen not to go fully whine and go to the official forums and bitch like many others.

    Let me make some concessions:

    1. I understand the difference between an expansion and DLC. This is not my first MMO.
    2. I respect that other people do not feel the same way I do and I do not fault them personally for their support of ZOS decision.
    3. As a point of historical compare, I consider the Morrowind content to be “expansion” worthy. It’s more than a zone with some new quests.

    The problem is DLC is very specific its downloadable content. There isn’t a way to E lawyer out of that. So literally this would include ANYTHING that can be downloadable. The onus is now on the producer of the content to distinguish what THEY DEFINE as DLC, and this is where ZOS falls way short. They have been selling ESO+ with the very desirable feature “you get access to 100% of the downloadable content”.

    Morrowind will be downloadable.

    It’s really not complex at all, it’s being made more complex by the player base but either the sub covers 100% of the downloadable content or it doesn’t. ZOS is now saying it does not, that’s a breach of contract. What I think a lot of players don’t realize is breach of contract has degrees. This instance is a minor breach as you do get most DLC. The issue that I and any other unhappy person has is this isn’t actionable because there really isn’t any damages.

    The damage is reputation to ZOS. Meaning you are not required to buy this DLC to play The Elder Scrolls Online. It’s just a shitty thing to do to people who have been paying the sub for YEARS with the understanding they would get 100% of the DLC. That’s no longer the case, and it just sucks when, as a customer I take someone at their word and they don’t fulfill it.

    Shame on me, I am the consumer. So now I’m left with yet another shitty choice. Do I unsub and not support a game I like to play in principal? Do I pay this extra fee for DLC that I want to play but is produced by a company I no longer respect and IMHO has extremely suspect ethics?

    This happens all too often with games now, the consumer is continually pinched and placed in a circumstance where they have to make this kind of choice. I mean it’s a game, I’m not completely down and out but I want to support the game, I want ZOS to make money I just don’t want to be taken for granted.

  6. Profile Photo
    myohozen

    Adept

    Total Posts: 122

    Altmer Dragonknight

    Ivar-Bloodstone said on February 5, 2017 :

    If they release a physical copy each time then I don’t mind it at all! The physical collector’s edition is a huge value. The mount at 2500 crowns, pet at around 750, DLC at around 2500, costume at around 1000 and class at around 5000 (motif price?) along with the statue, book and an entire copy of the game to give away to a friend…

    That’salmost 12k crowns which retails at around $90 by itself not counting the statue and book you receive. It’s an awesome value especially since PC players can get the physicalcollector’s edition for $79 on Amazon Prime.

    You’re forgetting that they sell discounted crowns every couple of months for 40% to 50% off so it’s so great of a deal as you want it to be. Plus a lots of player are who always subs are sitting on a large amount of crowns with nothing to spend them on.

     

    In game ID: MysticMan

  7. Member Avatar
    Hwrath

    Master

    Total Posts: 785

    Orc want Spear! Also, Orc want endowment, endowment slider and realistic endowment physics! The physics are crucial for this…expansion?

     

    Thanks a lot Conan Exiles B===D ;)

  8. Profile Photo
    skahhbuskus

    Novice

    Total Posts: 20

    Argonian Templar

    HONESTLY NOT EVEN MAD AT THEM ABOUT THIS ITS A GOOD IDEA AND IT KEEPS THE GAME FROM GETTING STALE ALSO SINCE ITS AN EXPANSION AND NOT A DC IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE THAT IT ISNT INCLUDED WITH PLUS I WOULDVE LIKED IT TO BE INCLUDED BUT I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO NOT WORK AND ONLY PLAY ESO SO HELL WHY NOT BUY THE EXPANSION

    check out my guild mud bubble for good pvp times and hit me up on my gamer tag if youd like to join the guild and game gt: theamaturejesus

  9. Profile Photo
    Meticulous

    Scamp

    Total Posts: 5

    Breton Templar

    This was well-stated and, I feel, an rational approach to the topic. As a long-time MMO player, I understood immediately the ramifications of their change and welcomed it, honestly. If new zones/story content and trials are all part of the content we’ll still get for subscribing, I can only imagine what we’ll get with an expansion.

    Just days before this change was announced, in a thread on reddit, players were talking about how most only sub every so often to do some farming, usually cancelling it before the month is up. I don’t think subscriptions were the answer ZoS was looking for but I think this is. The beauty of this new form of handling expansions is the same as the genius of the subscription: You don’t have to have it.

    There are blatant cash-grabs and then there are strategic marketing ideas that benefit the game and community as a whole. This is quite clearly the latter.

    ”Ain’t nobody got time fa dat!” – Queen Ayrenn

     

  10. Profile Photo
    Elloa

    Expert

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    Breton Dragonknight

    I very much agree with you @Isarii Loved the article, your point of view and your writing style! … as usual :)

    i’m very excitted about the new expansion, I’m confident Zenimax will deliver something great, in the line of a Mega-Orsinium. I’d have hoped they would add some Dungeons, but seing new dungeons coming in the August DLC, I’d expect it. Just hope.

    I also think it’s really much needed for the game. While small DLC are maybe nice and fun, I believe that the best content for the game would be a replica of Orsinium which was in my eyes, the best content delivered by Zenimax. To produce one expansion by year, will allow Zenimax to produce that kind of content they would not have been capable of doing with just DLC.

  11. Profile Photo
    Isarii

    Moderator

    Total Posts: 4220

    Khajiit Templar

    Elloa said on February 9, 2017 :

    I believe that the best content for the game would be a replica of Orsinium which was in my eyes, the best content delivered by Zenimax.

    I agree 100%, and I know we’re hardly alone there. Osinium is very much the pinnacle of anything TESO has been able to deliver so far, so it was extremely disheartening for them to come out and say they’d never be able to do it again. If this is the solution, sign me up!

    Hwrath said on February 7, 2017 :

    Orc want Spear! Also, Orc want endowment, endowment slider and realistic endowment physics! The physics are crucial for this…expansion?

    I’ve been saying that dong sliders are the key takeaway from the early success of Conan Exiles. Dong slider going to be 2017’s hottest buzzword. I’m sure of it.

  12. Profile Photo
    Malic

    Master

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    Imperial Nightblade

    It’s very unfortunate to see comments that rational for companies ethical breaches. Notable though is there is no denial of that fact, it seems to be “ah well, i’ll pay” Ive never truly understood why consumers do this but I guess a deeper examination of the word “fan” would be fitting.

    One last time for posterity: Suppose you entered into a contract with BMW, you pay a monthly fee and you get to drive any car they produce. Then they produce a new car, its the car of your dreams and you cant wait to try it out. BMW tells you “you have to pay extra to drive this car” and you reply “but I pay a monthly fee to drive any car you produce, that was our deal”. Their response “This is an automobile, not a car so you have to pay”. You then end up in a never ending semantics discussion about the difference between an automobile and a car. You know there isnt a difference, anyone who wants to accept what words literally mean knows there isnt a difference but in the midst of what is a ridiculous notion to you, the company goes ahead and charges extra for the “automobile”.

    Some people have no problem with this, I only wish I had customers like this when I was a business owner I would have sold them a subscription for oxygen then down the line charged them extra for air.

     

  13. Profile Photo
    VileIntent

    Expert

    Total Posts: 311

    Dunmer Nightblade

    Entropy Rising

    Downloadable content (DLC) is additional content created for a released video game. It is distributed through the Internet by the game’s official publisher. Downloadable content can be of several types, ranging from aesthetic outfit changes to a new, extensive storyline, similar to an expansion pack.

     

    That is the definition of DLC. Make note of the last line. “Similar to an expansion pack”.

    Just because you can download the expansion pack doesn’t mean it’s dlc. The size of the new content generally defines what the product is. DLC is typically small in the amount it changes. Thieves guild, dark brotherhood, Orsinium. These titles are no where near the scale of what Morrowind has shown thus far and we may not even know of everything still to be released with it.

    I’m fine with buying an expansion.

    http://atropos.objects.dreamhost.com/vileintent-signature.jpg

    ” If you wish to make a fight boring, make it fair.”

  14. Member Avatar
    Frilleon

    Novice

    Total Posts: 12

    Altmer Templar

    What about the part where they specifically said this wasn’t an expansion? I was watching the live announcement and they said that, verbatim. They called it a “new chapter”.

    With barely more playable time than orsinium, a dlc, I will not be waiting alongside you all screaming shut up and take my money.

    ZOS is an ethical black hole.

    Thatll be $40

    ESO Junkie, Guild Mistress, Gamer4Life

  15. Profile Photo
    Malic

    Master

    Total Posts: 741

    Imperial Nightblade

    VileIntent said on February 13, 2017 :

    Downloadable content (DLC) is additional content created for a released video game. It is distributed through the Internet by the game’s official publisher. Downloadable content can be of several types, ranging from aesthetic outfit changes to a new, extensive storyline, similar to an expansion pack.

    That is the definition of DLC. Make note of the last line. “Similar to an expansion pack”.

    Just because you can download the expansion pack doesn’t mean it’s dlc. The size of the new content generally defines what the product is. DLC is typically small in the amount it changes. Thieves guild, dark brotherhood, Orsinium. These titles are no where near the scale of what Morrowind has shown thus far and we may not even know of everything still to be released with it.

    I’m fine with buying an expansion.

    Downloadable content means downloadable content. Morrowwind is downloadable, so yes because you can download it, it is DLC.  Inevitably, it doesn’t change the literal, there simply is no semantics argument anyone can make that changes what “downloadable content” is. Had ZOS worded their subscription differently the point would be moot, they chose not to. I suppose to them it doesn’t matter anyway, when they have a swath of the fan base who will attempt to convince others that words don’t mean what they literally mean.

    I suppose its one of the conditions of being a gamer, you actually have people who will tell you a word doesn’t mean what it means and when you rebuttal? Often they go after you personally. Its remarkable some of the discourse on the official forums, I am continually amazed at the liberties people take with logic due to anonymity.

    Anyway thanks for being civil and I hope you have a good time with morrowwind. :)

  16. Member Avatar
    LastPotions

    Scamp

    Total Posts: 1

    Dunmer Dragonknight

    My opinion on this. I feel like I have gotten the value of my ESO Plus sub.With 5 DLCs we’ve gotten, crafting bag, Exp bonus ect. So I am ok with paying for the Morrowind expansion if it sets itself apart from the rest. That could be from new features, items whatever. I am also expecting that we will see additional DLC from this as well.

    Now, hopefully I don’t live to regret what I have just said. But truly with the push of improvement this game has been on in the last 12 months. I am confident I will get my money’s worth outta Morrowind

  17. Profile Photo
    MCGreenLantern

    Apprentice

    Total Posts: 27

    Breton Nightblade

    I have been playing this game since it was released on Xbox and in that time I have wasted so much money buying new Xbox games, because after about 2-3 days I find myself back on ESO. I am willing to pay but I do feel those that pay their monthly dues should get either a reduced cost or extra content that the non members don’t get. That is my 2 cents.

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