You’ll Pay A Monthly Fee To Play The Elder Scrolls Online

You’ll Pay A Monthly Fee To Play The Elder Scrolls Online

Putting an end to speculation that the massively multiplayer entry in Bethesda’s award-winning role-playing franchise would be free-to-play, Zenimax Online’s Matt Firor has confirmed The Elder Scrolls Online will follow a subscription-based business model.

The general manager of Zenimax online confirmed monthly subscriptions for the eagerly-anticipated game during a pre-Gamescom interview with German site Gamestar. Players will purchase the game, which comes with 30 days free, after which they’ll pay a monthly fee of $US14.99/€12.99/£8.99.

Why a subscription? Here’s what Firor told Gamestar:

The Elder Scrolls games are all about allowing the player to go where they want, be who they want, and do what they want. We feel that putting pay gates between the player and content at any point in game ruins that feeling of freedom, and just having one small monthly fee for 100% access to the game fits the IP and the game much better than a system where you have to pay for features and access as you play. The Elder Scrolls Online was designed and developed to be a premium experience: hundreds of hours of gameplay, tons of depth and features, professional customer support – and a commitment to have ongoing content at regular intervals after launch. This type of experience is best paired with a one-time fee per month, as opposed to many smaller payments that would probably add up to more than $US14.99/month any way.

He could have just said “It’s The Elder Scrolls” and been done with it. Kudos for going the extra mile, Mr. Firor.

The Elder Scrolls Online – Matt Firor: »We are going with the subscription model for ESO.« [Gamestar]


  • Is this fee going to be on top of the current planned prices for accessing online gaming?

    • I think (can’t be arsed hunting for a link right now, though) that Sony said that games which require ongoing payments like subscription based games or f2p games would not require PS+ for online play. I may have that a bit confused, but I seem to recall them saying something along those lines, anyway.

      • …even if they don’t that’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard!!

        “hey guys I’m going to get my ps4 so I can play elder scrolls online but I won’t pay for PS+ to play it online so I am saving money”…. i would dare say anyone playing games online will already subscribe to PS+

  • “Players will purchase the game, which comes with 30 days free”

    Should be players will purchase the game and 30 days of play is included in the price of the purchase.

    Free would be pay nothing and play for 30 days.

    Anyway i hope they still make single player Elder Scrolls games while there having fun with this MMO or were going to be waiting a long time for the next one (Warcraft 4 anyone?)

    • Actually, that’s right, because they say ‘comes with 30 days free’. It’s a common expression.

      Also, ESO is being developed by a different team to Bethesda.

      • It’s good to hear it’s a different team, hopefully we will see another single player Elder Scrolls not to long down the track.

        “Comes with 30 days free” you don’t pay, you don’t get your 30 days, it’s like saying the games you get from Playstation plus are free, they are not because if you stop paying you loose the games.

        Any item digital or physical that is given to you for “free” when you purchase something is inclusive of the price you have paid, you can say it’s great value, but it’s not free.

        • There’s nothing wrong with the statement. A game unit has a particular wholesale value (say $40) which the retail outlet then adds to to get your retail price (say $50). The wholesale value is further broken down into shipping, distribution, publisher fees and so on, so the developer would be lucky to get half the wholesale value, and what they do get goes to pay for (some of) the initial development.

          The subscription fee is a completely separate breakdown. Retailers make little to no money on game cards and credit subscriptions go entirely to the developer and server operator in a breakdown that covers operational costs and funds future development.

          With MMOs – at least those subscription MMOs released to date – the box price is determined completely independent of the subscription fee. There’s not enough value left after everyone has taken their cut by the time the money gets to the publisher and developer to say that the first month subscription is factored into the price. When they say a month’s subscription is included free, in most cases it really is included free.

          • You’re explaining how it works for the publisher/developer.. but how it works for the purchaser is: pay $x and you get 30 days play. The game is useless without the 30 days play, so that purchase price includes the 30 days. It would be like saying “buy this car and you get 4 wheels free”.

          • It’s free just like when you see a take away shop say “Free soft drink with every burger purchase”

            I don’t care if they are loosing $50 on that can of soft drink, if i have to hand over money to receive it, it’s not free.

            I have seen people many times say they got free games on PSN+ or when they are an Xbox Live gold member, they are being paid for by the subscription that you keep paying for, so again they are not free, just good value for money spent.

          • Yes, the soft drink is free. The fact that is has a conditional attached to it (that you purchase a burger first) doesn’t change the fact you are not paying anything for the soft drink.

          • The soft drink isn’t free, because it’s subjective. If the burger costs $5 and the soft drink costs $1 normally, but they have a special and say you get a “free” soft drink when you buy a burger, then that CAN BE true due to the context. You could just say you want the burger and no soft drink, and they might still charge you $5. Or the manager could say he/she will knock 50cents off the price as a gesture of good will as the soft drink does have intrinsic value. It’s not really free then.

            X=$5, Y=$1, X+Y=$6. Version 2: X1=$A, Y1=$B, X1+Y1=$5. Solve for A and B. You don’t have enough information. If you are told the burger is $5, you can assume the soft drink is free. But if you go up and demand to buy the soft drink for $5 and get the burger for free, then chances are they are not going to stop you.

            In the case of a deal, it’s marketing perception. The store needs to pay for the burger, and pay for the soft drink. They will not let you have it for free without the burger.

            So basically: Is the soft drink free? No. Is it free with a burger purchase? Maybe.

          • I do enjoy philosophical debates, even on seemingly inane subjects, but I suspect I’m in the minority here, so without wanting to drag it out much more, I’ll leave my position as this:

            The only evidence currently available is what the seller states: the cost of the game is a certain price, and it comes with a free month of access. There’s no evidence to believe the game is actually worth $15 less than the advertised price and the free month is factored in to the cost, or any other breakdown. From my own experience with the industry, I find the ‘free’ statement to be an accurate breakdown of costs.

            Cynicism or philosophical bent may incline a person to believe the actual breakdown is contrary to advertised, but without supporting evidence it isn’t really anything more than suspicion.

      • It’s allmost certain their working on Fallout 4, I would not expect another Elder Scrolls game for years.There was 4 years between Morrowind and Oblivion and 5 years between Ovlivion and Skyrim.

  • While I am very much so looking forward to this game the attitude towards it many Elder Scrolls fans have is fustrating. The article sums it up with:
    He could have just said “It’s The Elder Scrolls” and been done with it.

    That said, I prefer subscription based models for AAA titles so I am happy with this decision.

    • how do you figure?

      Nobody likes F2P mmo’s they suck. Its either pay to win with xp boosts mounts at level 1 or extra bag space (designed to force you to buy more) and all that kind of BS, or it isn’t and instead they paywall actual content and cool things.

      In almost every single case you will spend many many many times more to get the entire experience than if it had just been $15 a month.
      It makes things quick easy and simple, pay 15$, do everything, the end.

      Personally Im super excited for this game, I have wanted a console mmo for a long time. The only one we’ve had that was good was Phantasy star one, but i was a Teen with parents who feared there CC being stolen so never got to play and FF11 was awful. That game was pure 100% grind, not even the good kind with quests but the bad kind of at lvl 10/50 it already took 3+ hours in a special monster farm group to level once or double that by yourself.

      • Damn straight!

        F2P = Structure the core gameplay in a manner which makes players hand over cash regularly.
        Monthly fee = Make the gameplay the best possible to keep people playing.

        Will be interesting to see how much it costs to purchase the game though, I won’t be happy if I end up spending full retail price on something that I then have to pay a monthly fee on too.

        • Tell that to GW2.
          Also I think having to pay $15 counts as “making players hand over cash regularly”.

      • You seem to think that it won’t be pay to win even though there’s a subscription based model?

        Good luck with that.

        • Are you stupid?

          You CAN’T have pay to win on a subscription mmo, there is nothing to purchase.

          • I’m pretty sure that I can pay to win in World of Warcraft if I chose, and I’ve been playing that since release and it is subscription based too. It’s a legitimate query. The same is true for D3, and that’s FTP.

      • It’s OBVIOUS you’re super-excited because you make that fanboy mistake of insulting everything else but the thing you like. Personally, I play Guild Wars 2 and I like it more than my days with WoW and SWTOR, so ONE guy likes a F2P mmo that doesn’t suck. Also, I’m a weird person who doesn’t care about the endgame, I’d rather explore with friends. Don’t get so mad because someone likes something you don’t, dude.

  • Who actually thought it would be free2play? I couldn’t name one f2p that was actually interesting enough to keep playing.

    • Whould have thought they would adopt the Guild Wars 2 style and support it with microtransactions after the initial purchase.

    • You’ve never played Neverwinter, Planetside 2, Star Trek Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, etc? Or games like Tribes Ascend? There’s plenty of good F2P games out there.

    • Diablo 3 was decent at first but it was plagued with bad programming, unrewarding loot and bad design decisions.

  • “We feel that putting pay gates between the player and content at any point in game ruins that feeling of freedom….buuuuut we’re going to do it anyway”

    Fixed that for him.

    That’s a shame. Was really looking forward to this, but if we’re getting stung with $89 (assuming that’ll be the base cost to buy the disc from retail) then $15 a month on top of that….feels pretty steep. Back to Skyrim for me.

    • No, they’re not. They’re charging a subscription fee, which is a different thing. Compare with how some theme parks charge: A subscription fee is paying once at the entrance and being able to freely access all the rides once you’re in. A pay gate is getting into the park for free but having to pay at the gate to each ride.

      • Your analogy is good, but a bit off. A subscription fee is paying at the entrance(buying the game), but then also paying for how long you intend to be in the park(buy in 1hour increments for example) for unlimited use during that period. A pay gate is paying at the entrance(buying the game) and then also paying at each individual ride. You still need to pay for whatever food/beverages you want.

    • Yup.. I agree with you:

      “We feel that putting pay gates between the player and content at any point in game”

      Buying the game is a pay-gate. Paying a monthly subscription is a pay-gate.

      You are paying for access to the game. The thing they are alluding to is obviously IAPs that unlock areas that are not accessible with the initial purchase or download of the game. However, paying at all is still a pay-gate.

      If you don’t pay the subscription fee, can you play the game? No, so it is a pay-gate.

      • That’s disingenuous and you know it – as you said, the meaning is obvious. If you’re going to ignore the context of online gaming, then you may as well refer to everything you ever do in a video game in future (eg. shooting, killing, collecting, jumping) as ‘pressing buttons to change pixels on the screen’, since you’re not actually doing any of those things.

        • They are alluding to IAP in other games, I acknowledge that but at the same time they are ignoring the elephant in the room, which is that paying anything related to gaining access to content in the game is a pay-gate. It’s as simple as that, nothing sinister in what I said.. just a pure and simple fact.

  • Hmm. So guild wars 2 offers new content every few week for the cost of just buying the game. Micros transactions are still in place but don’t ruin the game.

    I was hoping elder scrolls online was going to be the same. Never once have I payed monthly to play a game, and by being a big fan of the franchise, this game won’t change that. I think I’ll just wait till it goes F2P 🙂

    • NCSoft’s net income for GW2 has been falling for months. The game has been enough to keep ArenaNet out of the fire, but it’s not particularly profitable. For NCSoft that’s no problem because Lineage still makes the lion’s share of their income, but for ArenaNet they have no choice but to squeeze out content constantly to keep the game above the red.

      F2P games are very risky because they depend entirely on micro transaction income to survive. Box sales don’t even cover the cost of initial development.

      • And yet NCSoft’s income for CoH was not falling, yet they nerfed the game anyway and as a roll-on effect people started to boycott their games. Not really a great example.

        • Not sure how that relates, unless you’re saying the fall in GW2 income is a result of the CoH boycott. It’s possible, but CoH was closed nearly a year ago, the dropping income over the last 6 months with GW2 is unlikely to still be caused by CoH’s closure.

          To keep a F2P game going, you need to have a constant stream of income. That means either consistent box sales, or consistent microtransactions. The former is largely impossible to sustain in the amounts needed, and the latter is difficult to balance so as not to cross the line where it alienates the customer base.

          ‘New content’ for GW2 is the lure: it’s necessary to keep you playing the game, because the longer you play, the more likely you’ll spend money on microtransactions to buy skins and outfits and such. Because if you don’t spend money on those things, regularly, ArenaNet gets no money back for the new content they made, and the game starts its catch 22 spiral of ‘less new content -> fewer new players -> less income -> less new content’.

  • Im actually OK with this, and with Wildstar going down the monthly sub route too
    I feel that it breeds a better quality community since you have to pay to keep playing

  • I have no issue with a sub model method, especially if it keeps the hackers and cheats at bay and the game world content stays fresh, new and exciting as the game is played.

    After playing World of Warcraft for 8 years, I came to appreciate that yeah, the game can get expensive if you count up the costs over those years – but the gameplay experience evolved constantly, the content was ever expanding and the integrity of the gamespace was managed well for players.

    I am content to pay a sub model for a quality experience, especially if they deliver up to expectations. It’ll be a first for the console format too, so I’m very interested to see how this pans out.

    From what I’ve seen so far I’m cautiously optimistic, but as a console gamer too, I’m yet to see a quality MMO hit this format.

    Will X1 be the new platform of choice for MMO developers? We’ll have to wait and see.

    But if you’re a MMO fan, this may be the generation that finally brings gamers what they want.

    Fingers crossed!

    • I play a ridiculous amount of WoW… but it doesn’t justify some of the costs. You need to buy the game, and buy the expansions, and pay a subscription… and then optionally spend money on vanities and whatever else… and people hack and cheat ALL THE TIME.

      Seriously, how much money have you spent on the expansions alone? WoW is a good game, but it’s also milked everyone a lot. And there are a lot of other great games that wouldn’t have cost hundreds of dollars. Even other Blizzard games like SC2 and D3. The thing I dislike about WoW the most is the subscription model. I wouldn’t do it with another game I think.

  • I was planning on getting this but I’m really not sure if I will now. The game is looking a bit average and I don’t want it to succeed in case they use its success as an excuse to go ahead with a Fallout MMO.

    I’ve never understood why subscription fees are so high. 15 dollars a month? For one game? How did they ever get away with it?

    • It depends on how many subscribers you have, but the majority of it goes to server maintenance, staff costs and bandwidth costs. It’s only a cash cow if you get above a certain threshold of subscribers (eg. WoW). For many (if not most), they struggle to make back development costs.

  • They can shove it up their arses then. I’m not paying a monthly subscription.

  • I wonder if this will be like the Star Wars Old Republic deal where they axe the subscription after people lose interest

    • It’s a shame about SWTOR. Its only real crime was that it was too similar to WoW in mechanics. The storytelling and voice acting was an excellent addition to the genre.

  • The amount of entitlement from babies who think F2P is actually a better model in this comment section sickens me. Considering you usually get more than a regular RRP worth of time and enjoyment from MMOs with the free 30 days, and none of this microtransaction bullshit, is a good thing. If you’re subbing to a game, you’re playing more than 10-12 hours and often getting much more time or enjoyment than if you spent 3-4 times that on a full game.

    Seriously, I hate people who have killed the subscription model in favour of the idiotic F2P microtransaction shitfest. If they are the ones who cause great MMOs like WIldstar to fail, I’ll have officially lost faith in humanity.

    • I’ve been watching the MMO industry for a long time (I used to work for a company that made middleware used in many MMOs), and I find the biggest cancer in the industry is the ‘roaming overhyper’.

      This consumer type has fond rose-coloured memories of their first MMO experience, but grew bored of the game that provided it to them. Since then, they latch onto new MMOs in development, read too much into developer commentary and overhype the game, convincing themselves it will be the best thing ever. They spread this hype to others, creating more ‘roaming overhypers’ in the process. Their expectations become completely unreasonable (flawless launch stability, cutting edge graphics and polish, etc.) and when the game doesn’t meet those expectations, they completely trash-talk and badmouth the game, trying to actively drag others away from it and exert peer pressure to ruin the game’s reputation. Once this is done, they roam once more, searching for the next MMO-in-development to overhype.

      Being on the receiving end of that as a developer is heartbreaking. MMOs take a long time to develop, they’re a labour of love and nobody really sets out to make a bad game. Valid criticism is one thing, but the kind of feedback a roaming overhyper blasts around blunderbuss-style is useless because it’s all about the gap between their personal expectations and reality, instead of anything meaningfully objective. Having your hopes raised for the success of a game that in many cases determines if you get to keep your job or not, and then trashed because these people do what they do is awful to experience.

      Games going F2P is often either a last-ditch effort by developers to salvage their work and keep their jobs, or a design decision from the outset to try to avoid the whim of the roaming overhyper in the first place. The only reason it works is because it removes the barrier to entry, and tries to make up for it on impulse and vanity microtransactions. Overall it makes revenue volatile and long-term prospects very difficult to plan for, but in the end ‘maybe having a job in 3 months’ is better than ‘not having a job in 3 months’.

      So I agree with you that the people who wreak this havoc on game developers are self-entitled douchebags. For the developers of otherwise decent games that have to change their model to F2P, I have nothing but sympathy.

      • Exactly. People forget that MMOs have three things regular games often don’t:
        1) A much larger budget
        2) Ongoing costs that are sizeable, especially if you’re not raking in Blizzard level of sub money.
        3) A LOT more content (seriously, a lot).

        The F2P model may work in some games, but it’s crippled the MMO genre, both in design and in public perception (see the above ‘I won’t buy it if its sub’ mentality posts)

  • I think we should boycott TESO. Not because they charge monthly fees even, but because it’s so ridiculously high.

    Everyone with a new gen is going to be paying for online service anyway, which has ticked us Sony people off quite a bit already. $15 a month to play TESO is MORE than I pay for playstation plus in a month. And Playstation Plus allows me to play ALL of my OTHER games online. It’s a piss off.

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