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The Subscription Model is Dead, As Proved by The Elder Scrolls Online

Recently, Bethesda announced that The Elder Scrolls Online will cost players $15 per month. Twitter’s reactions have been negative regarding the news- a quick search of #ESO reveals that people are dropping interest with great speed. This reveals a lot about what has changed in the world of gaming over the last few years.


This does not bode well for ESO– while the game has generated quite a bit of hype, the backlash generated by everybody’s reaction might be enough to prevent it from getting off the ground. To be honest, I don’t think that $15 is too much per month for a tremendous and engaging experience- it’s not too much for what ESO is offering. The problem is, people today have grown used to free-to-play (F2P) and balk at the idea of paying a subscription for access to all the features of a game. It’s not that people are wholly opposed to paying money for a game- people drop money for cosmetic items in DotA 2 quite frequently- the items don’t affect gameplay, but they do change the way that different characters look.

If you own a mobile device, you probably already know that there are games that are “free” to get started with, but start asking for money to speed the game up so that it’s actually playable at a fun pace- or something else along those lines. People don’t particularly appreciate this model of “F2P”, but it somehow makes money. Then, too, are games that are completely free, but full of advertisements- there seems to be a middling opinion towards these.

When it comes to multiplayer games, subscription fees are pretty rare nowadays- besides World of Warcraft, I can’t honestly think of a successful subscription-based multiplayer game. If ESO is to succeed, it will need to blow players away and keep them loyal- it’s not like Bethesda to release expansions and DLC frequently; they have rather long development cycles, and charging a flat rate for access to an expansion probably wouldn’t do them much good. If they were to charge $60 upfront for a copy of ESO, the $15 fee would be covered in four months- too soon to charge for an expansion. 

How will ESO turn out? It’s hard to say for sure- thus far, it looks like a promising MMORPG, one that has could make the Elder Scrolls experience much bigger- whether it’ll be worth playing remains to be seen. For now, however, Bethesda may want to think carefully about it’s business model- it would be a pity for a great game to be largely shunned because it costs a little more than lunch.

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  1. heyyo! says
    August 22, 2013, 10:27 AM

    most F2P will be free on ps4

    so….. yea
    it’s the same on ps4 and pc

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  2. Dirk says
    August 22, 2013, 11:11 AM

    I don’t object to a subscription service, but the main problem is the subscription is way too expensive for a single video game. Especially when you consider that you have to pay $60 just to buy the game before the subscription even starts. Make the fee $15 for 5 months or charge make it a much lower amount per month. Think about X-Box Live. $60 to play any multiplayer game for a single year. People have a hard enough time forking that over. A single game is going to be so popular that $180 a year is acceptable just for the privilege of access. I don’t think so.

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  3. Maico says
    August 22, 2013, 12:58 PM

    Not at all, you simply need to have the right kind of game for it. Eve Online has a subscription service and has been growing almost every year and it has been out for 10 years. Both the people and the developers need to understand that there are ways to have a successful game AND have a subscription based service, you just have to be very careful how you go about it. ESO has the chance to become what EVE is only replacing space ships with swords, armor and magic, space stations with houses and grand castles, and constellations with territorial regions.

    It is a risky move but it doesn’t mean all is lost, especially if the devs keep the game up to date.
    The idea is to make the game so unique and expansive that the only place to get that kind of experience is that one game and the only way to play it is to pay for it.

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  4. HiVeloCT says
    August 22, 2013, 1:16 PM

    I’m a big fan of Elder Scrolls, up to and including Skyrim. But I have never paid a monthly fee to game online and I never will, so if they adopt this model they’ll lose me as a player. I refuse to pay for the game and then pay again month after month.

    Too bad.

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  5. August 28, 2013, 2:13 PM

    […] been talking about dying things a fair bit lately at BNR, and it’s kind of saddening. A lot of neat stuff comes and goes in […]

  6. Zanteogo says
    January 31, 2014, 6:36 PM

    Way back when MMO where new they had people line up to play them and pay monthly.

    I remember when Ultima Online became a surprise massive success. EverQuest and WarCraft Online followed and where crazy successful… however people are either still invested in the latest game or are just sick of the whole medieval online thing.

    Elder Scrolls games where all about a single player experience. Why they would try to make this into an online thing in the first place is insane. (though I suppose it worked for Ultima)

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