The world is a hard place for MMOs, let alone subscription MMOs launching on consoles. Zenimax Online's Elder Scrolls Online is coming to Xbox One with its own monthly subscription fee, so its publisher is understandably worried about players who will balk at paying for that and Xbox Live Gold. Bethesda marketing boss Peter Hines told the Official Xbox Magazine that Bethesda is trying to see if Elder Scrolls Online can be exempt from Xbox Live Gold.
"We feel like most people such as yourself currently pay that subscription not to pay a game, but to play all games online," said Hines. "So in that sense, when I'm playing Call of Duty online I don't feel like I'm paying my monthly Xbox Live sub for Call of Duty – I'm just paying it because that's a thing that I do, and whatever game I'm playing at the time is the one that benefits."
"Having said that, we have been in talks with Microsoft about that very thing, and seeing whether or not there's any room to change their minds about that, for folks who are only paying The Elder Scrolls Online and don't want to pay for an Xbox Live Gold subscription, just to pay the Elder Scrolls Online," he added.
"The answer right now is that's the way it works, but it's something that we're aware of and we keep pushing on, to see if there's something that can be done. We'll let you know if there's movement there."
It's a catch-22 for Microsoft: they want a wide variety of content on its platforms, including MMOs, but the extra subscription fee makes it not worth it for a number of MMO publishers. Cryptic Studios had an Xbox 360 version of Champions Online "ready to go" back in 2009, but the company could never work out the issues with Xbox Live. The original version of Final Fantasy XIV - which relaunched today - couldn't come to 360 because of Xbox Live. Anonymous sources told GameInformer that Microsoft was actually trying to get a cut of MMO subscription fees in order for a game to come to Xbox 360.
Sony has been more flexible when it comes to allowing MMOs on PlayStation platforms, but its list isn't much larger. Final Fantasy XIV, DC Universe Online, Dust 514, and Defiance are all you can get on PlayStation 3, and only one of those titles has a sub fee. Sony Online already confirmed that DC Universe Online for that PlayStation 4 will be exempt from the new PlayStation Plus subscription fee for online play. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like that extends to non-Sony or subscription-based MMOs: a Bethesda spokesperson told USgamer that Elder Scrolls Online is facing a "similar situation" on Sony's platform and the PlayStation Plus fee will be required for online play.
Neither situation bodes well for the future of subscription MMOs on console, no matter how PC-like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are.