"Freedom To Play," Not Free To Play
Zenimax Online Studios has confirmed that you'll need to pay a flat monthly fee to play The Elder Scrolls Online, suggesting that a free-to-play approach would have compromised their game beyond all recognition.
Game director Matt Firor announced the traditional payment model during an interview with Gamestar, confirming that we'll have to shell out monthly on PC, Xbox One or PS4. "We're thrilled that gamers are looking forward to diving into The Elder Scrolls Online and we've been working hard to deliver the game that fans want - one that's worthy of the Elder Scrolls name," he said. "Choosing the right business model is part of that. We are going with the subscription model for ESO.
"We're building a game with the freedom to play - alone or with your friends - as much as you want. A game with meaningful and consistent content - one packed with hundreds of hours of gameplay that can be experienced right away and one that will be supported with premium customer support. 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. Going with any other model meant that we would have to make sacrifices and changes we weren't willing to make."
Firor directly addressed the notion of making TESO free-to-play, which he believes would have damaged the MMO irreparably. One pay wall is better than dozens if not hundreds, he reckons.
"The Elder Scrolls games are all about allowing the player to go where they want, be who they want, and do what they want," he elaborated. "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."
Elder Scrolls Online customers will receive a free 30 day trial subscription to get their feet wet.
"The choice is yours to play as much as you want; hundreds of hours of content, PvP, etc - is all there for you to experience with the base purchase of the game," Firor concluded. "If you want to continue playing for hundreds of hours more after that first month you'll pay a flat fee for continued, unlimited access to the game.
"We'll talk about further discounts, etc. later, but for now, we are very happy to finally announce our model. It's very simple - you pay once per month after the first 30 days and the entire game is available to you."
The logic is sound, and hopefully the reliable revenue stream will allow them to create regular major content updates. However, with the likes of WildStar and Guild Wars II playing around with buying subscriptions or abandoning them entirely in favour of a single purchase, it's clear that TESO will need to earn its keep with raw uncompromising quality. Here's hoping it will do just that when it releases next year.