Today, Zenimax Online general manager Matt Firor announced that the Elder Scrolls Online would have a subscription fee. No free-to-play options, just the classic $14.99 a month deal some have been paying for World of Warcraft since 2004. In a talk with GameStar, Firor said that a subscription fee just feels right for Elder Scrolls Online.
"Charging a flat monthly (or subscription) fee means that we will offer players the game we set out to make, and the one that fans want to play," said Firor. "Going with any other model meant that we would have to make sacrifices and changes we weren't willing to make."
"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."
"Plus, players will appreciate not having to worry about being 'monetized' in the middle of playing the game, which is definitely a problem that is cropping up more and more in online gaming these days," he added. "The fact that the word "monetized" exists points to the heart of the issue for us: We don't want the player to worry about which parts of the game to pay for - with our system, they get it all."
The problem is others have tried to climb that Mt. Olympus only to get smacked back down to Earth. The list of MMOs that have gone free-to-play stretches on into the void: Everquest, Everquest II, Lord of the Rings Online, DC Universe Online, Rift, Champions Online, Star Trek Online, The Secret World, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Tera. I've played and enjoyed most of them, I admit. The problem is when it came time for me to start paying monthly, it never happened.
During the launch of most of these titles, I was subscribed to World of Warcraft, so that's part of the problem. I was once a raider, but those days are long gone. I don't play WoW everyday or even every week, but it's comfort food: I like it there when I need it. When I run my monthly budget - games journalists don't make a ton! - certain fixed monthly charges are just always there: Phone bill, Netflix, Spotify, and World of Warcraft. I've subbed to Rift, Champions Online, The Secret World, and Star Wars: The Old Republic for a month or two, but nothing has particularly captured my complete attention and their $15 charge wasn't completely off my radar like WoW's is.
The free-to-play shift has allowed me to get in a nice MMO groove, bouncing from game to game. World of Warcraft is my comfort food, but that's backed up by Guild Wars 2, The Secret World, Defiance, and Rift. They went free-to-play (either at launch or after the fact), and I was no longer shackled by the fear of not getting my money's worth. I play them whenever I feel like it. I enjoy all four MMOs for different reasons (I actually can't pinpoint why I enjoy Defiance, but character looks like R.Kelly, so that's awesome.) And a number of them have my money through various means: bank bags, cosmetic items, additional character slots, and pets.
That's what a new MMO is up against. Not a single subscription game like World of Warcraft or EVE Online, but an entire host of free-to-play MMOs that are doing a pretty damn good job of keeping people entertained. So, I wish Elder Scrolls Online luck - it's actually a pretty fun little MMO from what I've played - but I'll also be counting down the time until it goes free-to-play.