One of the burning questions since it was announced was whether or not The Elder Scrolls Online would be worth it’s subscription fee. While the hosts on the show have made their thoughts quite clear (they all think the sub fee is fair as each has the game pre-ordered), I wanted to give my opinion, as well as the opinions of a couple of our fans who were kind enough to send in their thoughts.
Let’s face it, this comparison will be made over and over again in today’s market. With most MMOs either launching for sub-free (Guild Wars 2) or switching to the model after launch (The Lord of the Rings Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic), a subscription-based game has a lot of competition. So what do we know about why Zenimax will be charging this sub fee? They state that the reason it’s being charged is so we don’t have pay gates to overcome throughout the game, that all the content will be available as you stumble upon it rather than once you put away your wallet. This is the standard that carried other games in the past, but today’s market works a little differently.
I can tell you personally that I hate pay gates. Having played LotRO since launch I have paid both the sub and experienced the switch to Free-to-play. The differences are striking. In the F2P model everything is monetized. And it’s annoying. It’s especially annoying because since I no longer pay the subscription I don’t have access to all of the areas I have already bought. I own three copies of the original game, Shadows of Angmar. I do not have access to all of the content on those discs because I don’t pay the sub. But yet, I have access to all of the content in the expansions packs I have also paid for. The reason why I put up with this and continue to deal with the pay gates lurking around every corner is because the content of the game is superb. So if Zenimax wants to continue to build a game that players will willingly pay the box price as well as the sub afterwards, the game needs to be filled with not just simply content, but extraordinarily good content.
Jason Etheridge, one of our fans who submitted his thoughts, puts it pretty well:
A sub would be worth paying if new content was continually being added (in a regular 2-3 month cycle). But I’m truly skeptical that this is possible for any MMO company. Having the SWTOR experience well in mind, it seems obvious that ESO will have no choice but to switch to free-to-play sooner or later. Given that, why pay now for what will be free later?
Unfortunately for Zenimax, the Star Wars comparison will also too often be made. If a major international IP like Star Wars could “fail” as a subscription based game, what makes The Elder Scrolls any different?
Is the Current Game Worth the Extra Coin Right Now?
All we have to go by right now are our Beta experiences. Once again, I can tell you personally that I hate paying subscriptions fees. With so many great F2P games out there, why should I be willing to shell out $15 a month to play a game I already purchased?
Easy – the game is really good. At least in my opinion.
The only reason why I don’t pay for The Lord of the Rings Online is simply because I don’t need to do so. All of the content I need to access I have unlocked or paid for. There are no pay gates for my main characters to overcome, so I see no need to pay a sub fee to play the game. The Elder Scrolls Online is different because EVERYTHING the game has to offer is behind that sub-fee, and the content that I have experienced throughout my extensive time with the game has me convinced it’ll be worth it to me in the end.
Yes, I understand that I will be spending a lot of money on a single game in a year. But look at it this way: I will likely not play too many other games throughout that time, so I could end up saving money over the course of the year by not buying other games. Plus, if Zenimax is smart they will offer a lifetime subscription like other MMOs do at the outset (one of my biggest regrets of LotRO is not taking advantage of that!) to gather large chunks of money from their most loyal fans at once. The amount of content already in the game, even the higher end content not showcased in the Betas have me chomping at the bit. I can play three different storylines for that $15 price. Aldemeri, Daggerfall and Ebonheart – all open to me with one price. I don’t need to pay for each one individually, and then pay for each zone, and so on and so forth.
ESOTR Fan Lene Astrup has some experience with MMOs, having played World of Warcraft for many years. She had this to share:
ESO is a MMO, so a subscription fee of $15 is pretty much standard. On top of that ESO has the Elder Scrollsworld, content and graphics … exploration mixed with MMO…To me, ESO revolutionizes the MMO genre.
Jason has his own thoughts though, showcasing the differences in opinion even amongst fans of the series and genre:
But the more I’ve learned, it seems that they really are doing some innovative things, with the more open-world, free-to-roam style that ES games offer. I’m somewhat intrigued by the possibilities inherent in its apparently unconstrained specialisation system, allowing any given character to be anything (or multiple anythings, based on their equipped weapon). There is a lot of goodness there, freedom we really haven’t seen in an MMO. So my current feeling is that ESO is an MMO worth play.
The irony here is that if given a chance to get into the game, it might really hook me in, at which point the sub would be worth paying. But until I’ve experienced it myself for a sufficient period of time, the box price is actually the bigger impediment than the sub. That’s a big chunk of change to drop, knowing that all I’m actually getting is a single month of access.
So is there anything Zenimax can do to change some minds?
Zenimax changed my mind by allowing me to actually play the game in it’s beta. Originally I was not buying this game. Up until about October I was not planning on playing The Elder Scrolls Online. I was going to be just content on reporting about the game and watching the livestreams. Then something happened. I started to really enjoy the game. Zenimax was making changes for the better in the game, the builds were improving with each test and their customer support if there is an issue was always spot on. My dealings with the members of Zenimax’s community team have always been cordial and pleasant (Thanks Jessica and Gina!). The game itself has sold me on paying the box price as well as the sub. I’m even purchasing it for my Xbox One console to experience Tamriel on my TV as well.
Has Zenimax done enough to have others’ change their mind? In the case of Jason, not yet:
I don’t believe there’s anything that ZOS can do that would be sufficiently convincing to bring me into it on day 1, with the box plus sub business model. I’ll wait for free-to-play, and if I can play then and experience the game in such a way that it grabs me, I’m perfectly happy to pay a sub (or the equivalent in whatever its cash shop offers).
That is the big expectation: that Zenimax will be forced to go Free-to-play due to a lack of willing subscribers. I, for one, don’t believe that will be the case. If Zenimax decides it needs to switch models, I think it will be on their terms. Bethesda really hasn’t had a major flop yet, and they’re not about to let the flagship IP start now. If ESO goes Free-to-play in the future, it will be because it was part of the plan all along. Again, just my opinion.
So the big question: Is ESO worth the price tag it’s asking?
In my humble opinion, yes it is definitely worth the sub fee. But not everyone agrees, as stated above. Having that opinion is perfectly fine and reasonable as well! I can see many valid points as to why you shouldn’t have to pay to play a game you’ve paid for. Here’s why I think the game will be worth it in the end:
- While you’re buying the boxed content now, your sub fee will go towards paying the developers working on the next great addition to your journey in Tamriel
- It will keep those out of the game that you would otherwise have ruining the experience for everyone. Once LotRO went free-to-play, a very vocal minority made it so I can no longer walk through Bree without muting region and local chat. A sub fee keeps some of those, if not most of those, players out.
- It will keep you playing the game. I know if I’m spending $15 a month on a game, I’ll be playing it as often as I can.
- You will not be forced to pay for a quest line, region or certain items.
- The quality of your PvP player experience will be based on yours and your PvP enemy’s skill, not the limit of their wallet
What do you think? Do you think that ESO is worth the price tag? Let us know in the comments below, or on our forums!