Elder Scrolls Online's subscription-based model is the "right decision"

Bethesda's Pete Hines says says, "I think it's the right decision for the right reasons."

In a new interview with Games.On, Bethesda marketing executive Pete Hines defended The Elder Scrolls Online's subscription fee, saying it was the "right decision" for the MMORPG. Recalling the decision to make The Elder Scrolls Online subscription-based instead of free-to-play, Hines said it was a "mutual" choice between publisher Bethesda and developer Zenimax Online Studios.

Though Hines said he's feeling some trepidation around the decision to make The Elder Scrolls Online a subscription-based game, he ultimately believes that "it's the right decision for the right reasons." The Elder Scrolls Online's success or failure will come down to the game making a strong enough argument to lead players to pay $15 month beyond the free 30 days, Hines said.

"If we're providing the kind of content people want to see where they're like 'This is awesome, I'm having a blast, this new stuff is totally worth it and I’m having fun', then the subscription totally works," he said. "If we're putting out stuff that doesn't make a case for it then we have a problem on our hands and we have failed to meet that value proposition."

Hines stressed that it's not the distinction between free-to-play vs. paid that determines an MMO's success or failure, but rather whether or not players feel they are getting their money's worth. "If yes, then they don't have a problem with it. If no, then they have a problem with it," he said.

MMOs like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Lord of the Rings Online started out with a subscription model and later transitioned to free-to-play. One analyst believes the same will be true for The Elder Scrolls Online.

Speaking with GameSpot earlier this month, Hines defended The Elder Scrolls Online's subscription-based model, saying players can expect meaningful content updates delivered on a regular basis. The Elder Scrolls Online launches this Friday, April 4, for PC. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions will arrive this summer.

Disclosure: CBS CEO Leslie Moonves is a member of the Zenimax Media Board of Directors.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Discussion

220 comments
mabc_1
mabc_1

I'm interested in the game, but the subscription model is a turn off.  I don't like feeling pressured to play a game to avoid feeling like I'm wasting my money, and that's exactly how subscription models make me feel.  I did that for a while, years ago, when WoW first came out.  Never again.  Subscriptions make the game less fun.  They turn the game into a job.

aero_landes
aero_landes

I prefer the subscription based model. How many of you sub haters played WoW for more than a month? I'd bet a lot of you. For those of you saying it's crappy or you think it ruined TES, I'd have to disagree. The level of difficulty is still there and I always said I wished I could play with friends because it would be that much more fun exploring such a massive world. It cost money to bring a game such as this to life. I played GW2 and while their F2P model worked in a sense, I found I was spending more than $15 a month to get things I wanted. While TESO has bugs and things that need to be dealt with, oh and those damn gold seller spammers, I'd like to shoot them all, in the end the game is innovative and different. I've seen people in the guilds I'm in freak out and rage over bugs and calling it trash etc. but they are few and far between. Idk why people expect perfection right away, remember early WoW, it was nearly unplayable and yet they still have subs, even though they have lost quite a few (IMO because the challenge is gone), and they push out well done expacs, give ESO a chance. Frankly if they go F2P I'll just go back to WoW, I'm comfortable paying $15 a month and the Imperial Edition was worth the money.

ranbla
ranbla

If the game is good enough, the subscription model will matter very little, if at all. Sadly, this game isn't good enough for me to even want to play it for free. 

Draconuskahn
Draconuskahn

I would rather pay for a sub where I get access to everything than have to pay for the right to loot, upgrades, and all the other mmorpg amenities. You people defending free to play seem to forget that the vast majority of those titles are always free to play only if you don't care about getting serious with your gaming experience. Raids in Star Wars: The Old Republic in standard gear? Forget about it. It just becomes pay to win, and that's just not right. I quit playing Neverwinter because the only player trade currency was the kind that had to be bought with real money -- the gold was vendor only, and the few pieces of gear that one could buy were for casual gaming...


I'm sorry f2p fanboys, but never again. The choice comes down to 60 bucks right now and 15 in another 30 days and 15 every subsequent month, or I can play free right away and then have to spend 15, 20, 45, 60, and on and on until I unlock every character slot, every inventory upgrade, every weapon category, etc. And, why do I want to unlock all of those things? Well, I am a roleplaying gamer, and I want an honest gaming experience -- not something chopped up and served to me piecemeal; furthermore, if I have to spend as much money per month as an outing to the nearest family restaurant, I will gladly sacrifice that one outing for thirty days of fun. I rest my case.


(By the way, I do play ESO right now, and it's a blast. It is worth the sub, in my opinion.)

grin89
grin89

i really hope this game gets a honest review. ill stick with guild wars 2 until this is made f2p.

Syndicalist
Syndicalist

The price of the box alone is enough to buy a copy of Dark Souls 2. Why would anyone choose anything else?

TheKeef
TheKeef

And being a gamer who has to have a career that cuts my assured playtime apart, it'll be the reason I don't play it. Good call Bethesda.

cratecruncher
cratecruncher

In 12 months Hines and all the "monetization experts" are going to be looking for jobs and Bethesda will return to building high-quality single player exploration games that made the Elder Scrolls brand.  If I wanted to wait in line for a thrill I'd go to Disneyland - it's more fun than this ESO travesty and probably less expensive.

flexy456
flexy456

Subscription based was viable eons ago when a game like WoW was new. Today, there is no way in hell that a subscription based MMORPG at such a premium price would work unless it would provide exceptional new things which no other MMO ever offered. TESO will go the same way as SWTOR or TSW, read my lips. Of course, for them it's "the right decision" because they try to milk it as long as they can. Let's see in 3 months, 4 months, 5 months. Lol. People today are not willing to spend premium anymore on a genre which has been done and re-done 1000x times. There is no reason whatsoever that TESO would not go the same way as pretty much any other MMO out there today, unless they have delusions of grandeur.

KungfuKitten
KungfuKitten

Maybe the Guild Wars 2 system would have been way better. It worked for me. Pay up front. Then no fee, and you can pay more in their store for customization and pets and character slots. And in Guild Wars 2 they even give you the ability to buy those things with ingame resources.

Even though that is a very slow way to get those items (so probably nobody does it) it is so much friendlier to consumers. Because this way, when you bought the game, you really did get the whole game that you can play any time you want. And that way you can have your new content depend on the microtransaction profits. People are not so concerned about upcoming content as much as the content that is there when they are looking to buy.

KungfuKitten
KungfuKitten

This just makes you wonder "where is the microtransaction store?"
I wanted this game and I wanted it to be fantastic. But I am afraid that other developers would repeat this poor practice. $70 for the complete edition, and $15 per month on top... of which you have to pay one at least to get your free month. That is a $85 game that you're playing on borrowed time... Which would be fine if the game looked stunning in terms of gameplay and/or presentation.

The gameplay looks like it could be fun but due to the MMO model they have made so many sacrifices! The visuals, no mods (outside of UI mods...and mods were a big part of what made Skyrim so awesome), restricting access to area's, and a less interactive world (can't hit friendly NPC's/animals). I so want this to be good but I have to refrain from buying it for such a steep price.

And this may sound weird to you, but I like having a full game, and the fact that I cannot even get one of the pets anymore because I wasn't part of some BETA is maybe the worst offender to me. But I know that is not a feeling that many people share, it's a purrsonal pet peeve.

jamenta8
jamenta8

I give the ESO subscription model about a year before they start struggling hard (if they even make it pass the starting gate).  Too many premium games out there with one time purchases - GTA anyone, Titanfall ... 


The problem with Pete Hines thinking is it is outdated.  The economy and the video game industry isn't what it was when WoW hit the scene.  When was that?  Something like 10 years ago?

dalepickstock
dalepickstock

If im honest its not the subscription im against its having to pay full price for a game you cant play without a subscription.

One or the other!!!!

My fear is this actually draws people in and like the microtransaction model developers start doing it more and more.

Gaming is getting very expensive....

Mommas_b_o_y
Mommas_b_o_y

Just started playing eso the last couple of days. it's a lot of fun. I like the subscription based model. I hate f2p games. If this game goes f2p, I'm out.

tjexo
tjexo

"Hines said it was a "mutual" choice between publisher Bethesda and developer Zenimax Online Studios."


I'd love to know what market research they compiled to base this conclusion off.     It is an almost certainty that more revenue would be accrued using a f2p model with a well designed cosmetic/content shop over a subscription based model, primarily due to the massively increased player base.  If you disagree you may only look to DDO to see how wrong you are.   The average player 'happy' with a game is more likely to spending well over $15 a month on content from a cash shop, myself included.   

neonakaa
neonakaa

Bethesda. You need to get beaten with a hose  to get the ̲S̲T̲U̲P̲I̲D̲  out of your head.

smokeless_0225
smokeless_0225

I do believe this was a poor decision. I am choosing not to get this game just because its subscription based. I've tried wow before (back in the BC and WotLC days). It was fun for a while but then realized that the subscription simply wasn't worth it. I know there is a crowd that enjoys these types of games but I can't help but wonder if most of them are still loyal to their current subscription anyways.

I also don't see this game even standing up to competitors. Diablo 3 has just released their new expansion for PC and, since they fixed so many of their screw-ups on release, there are a lot of people who are going back to it (and it isn't subscription based). For those who prefer a bit more than point-and-click, there is Destiny which is supposed to release this fall (no subscription). I'm not saying these games are for everyone, nor am I saying that ESO is going to be horrible and nobody is going to like it. I just think that making it subscription based was a poor business decision for the long run. I can't help but wonder if a huge chunk of the crowd who would've liked to try a FTP version of ESO might just be swayed to try something else because of Beth$eda trying to reach too far down their pockets.

Kme2222
Kme2222

I don't even understand why this article was even posted? This SAME discussion and decision was made and talked about at least 4 times already. Why is this news? OF COURSE, Bethesda thinks the sub fee is valid. They're the ones that decided to do it! We can debate back and forth if they should keep it or not... But the simple fact that everyone is missing, is that they keep defending it and websites like gamespot, keep posting it as news... Which means they feel they have to defend their point in a dying case. You only go to such great lengths to defend your point when you feel you're in the wrong, or no one thinks you're right. Sorry guys, but the way I see it, in the back of their heads, even Bethesda thinks they are wrong lol.

GunEye
GunEye

 "This last weekend I got to play a few dozen hours of it". Wow Kevin.. you sure got some spare time, do you remember to eat? And please don't tell me "I am doing my job" :)? even I can't play so much.

icebear11
icebear11

An epic rpg/mmo game and it's fun to play.


Algearond
Algearond

Could not agree with him more, to put it this way, I would not even be trying, and loving TESO if it were F2P. F2P is a garbage business model and the sooner it dies the better.

downnice95
downnice95

WoW, Everquest and Ultima all worked fine with the monthly fee.



You idiots on this website is why developers do not listen to you

jakesnakeel
jakesnakeel

I think that the earlier mmorpg days of people basically being consumed by one game for a year are over.  The subscription model fails on a normal gamer who plays many games and buys new games.  If you aren't actively playing this full time, then you will cancel and you now own a brick.  It takes a few times for us to learn this lesson and I think by now we have all fallen for it too many times.  


I hope it fails miserably.  Judging by all the crashing I saw while watching the Twitch review coverage, and how the guys just didn't appear to be having any fun, I think it will.



Judicator75
Judicator75

I love how the subscription fee is keeping all the whiners out of the game. It's really effective. Glad I won't be seeing any of you in Cyrodiil :D

FLEEBS
FLEEBS

I would really like to play this game, however the one thing holding me back from playing it is a $15 a month subscription fee. I already pay $60 a year for my XBL subscription, and that's already too much money. There is absolutely no way I will pay an additional $15 a month to play just one game. Sucks, because I would really like to play more Elder Scrolls, but in the end the cost is just not worth it to me.

Horndawgie
Horndawgie

This game will be a huge success, regardless of the whining losers who say they won't be buying it. No one cares. Get a clue. Then get a life.

Runeweaver
Runeweaver

@mabc_1  I agree,ive played alot of MMOs over the years and found subbing just makes me play the game way too much,not because im enjoying it,but because i want value for money,if they sold a lifetime subscription for a few hundred pounds i would buy it and enjoy the game at a pace i want,not a pace i feel forced upon me.


I play swtor and dcuo at the moment,and i do subscribe when i want to play alot for a month,but when the sub ends i can still play a few hours a week and enjoy it at the pace i want.

napkins1
napkins1

@Draconuskahn  The fact is you aren't getting the full the game for $15 a month. They have micro transactions and will continue to pump out more. And where are they getting the money to produce this stuff? Ppl will pay a sub fee so they get more buyable content? doesn't make sense to me. 



I have to bring up Guild Wars 2 because they totally set the bar for future mmos. Complete success without a sub fee and the push out content every 2 weeks. It wasn't pay to win also. Even though i haven't played played gw2 in like 8 months I have to give them props for showing me that mmo don't need a sub fee to be successful. 




cratecruncher
cratecruncher

@jamenta8 I think they noticed how long people continued playing Skyrim and jumped to the false conclusion they could sell the game AND rent it at the same time by converting it to an MMO.  It changes the whole character and kills the immersion of the ES world when hordes of other players are jumping around in your game.

Mommas_b_o_y
Mommas_b_o_y

@tjexo  f2p is trash, but can make lots of money. almost all become p2w and it's just not fun anymore. star wars went f2p cause it's a poorly done wow clone. If it had action based combat like force unleashed; the game would have done 100 times better.

Abanaa
Abanaa

@Algearond  So because you dont like apples, nobody should eat them. Are you Russian by chance?

Xr1s
Xr1s

@downnice95  Yes, and two of those games were technological breakthroughs of the day, played by people on a dial-up connection on their Voodoo graphics card in the early 90s. One of them saw the writing on the wall and went F2P.

The pricing models have moved on since then and the competition within the market has significantly increased, pushing demand for a new title and thus prices *down*, not *up*.

yoruk_hunt
yoruk_hunt

@downnice95  

So you think that their user base for those games are increasing/holding steady? Because they're not.  More like decreasing.

lutarian
lutarian

@jakesnakeel I played 30 hours since Sunday and never crashed once.  With that said, ANY MMO in beta, getting ready to launch and at launch as issues. 

Judicator75
Judicator75

@jakesnakeel  

You make a good point. I think a noteworthy compromise is if we could commit to a year's worth of subscription fees, but be able to turn months on or off depending on when we feel like binging on that particular game. You could essentially extend your 1-year subscription into a two or three year subscription. I'd also be curious what the upper limit is that everyone would be willing to pay no matter how often they played the game - $5? $10?... I know it's $0 for many people, but I wonder where the majority falls.


Also, the number of crashes and bugs are almost gone. Having played 10-15 hours so far, I've only run into a single bug that a relog fixed. ZOS seems to be very aggressive at fixing everything before official launch.

Syndicalist
Syndicalist

@Judicator75

ESO is absolutely packed with whiners:

you know, those people who bought the game, expecting it to be good. LOL

Xr1s
Xr1s

@Judicator75  So you're saying there won't be any whiners in an MMO? LOL. Just wait until everybody is crying about balance issues.


Algearond
Algearond

@FLEEBS  You do realize they negotiated where you do not have to have XBL to play TESO right?

Syndicalist
Syndicalist

@Horndawgie

Disliking ESO makes me a 'whining loser'?

I'd say playing an MMO makes you a loser.

toffifee
toffifee

@Horndawgie  I think Bethesda cares that there are a lot of "whining losers" that won't be buying their game. You do know that they need money to continue making games? I am not sure how smart you are after your comment.

Xr1s
Xr1s

@Horndawgie  

If you love the Elder Scrolls Online so much why don't you marry it. 

We're sure it will be as big a success as, oh, Age of Conan. 

jakesnakeel
jakesnakeel

@Judicator75  How about something as simple as, if they detect that you didn't play the game in a billing month, they don't charge you?  Couldn't be simpler than that.  But they won't do it because their reasoning isn't "to be fair", it's "to milk it".  If they simply didn't charge if the game wasn't played, I would be happy and then could take a month or two off from the game to play something else, like Watch Dogs..

Algearond
Algearond

@Judicator75  They have not only been very aggressive they have been more up front with information about downtime then I have ever seen.

FLEEBS
FLEEBS

@Algearond @FLEEBS  As far as consoles are concerned, I'm quite certain what you are referring to only applies to PS4 and Playstation Plus. Regardless, even if they had made a deal like that with Microsoft, it wouldn't make any difference to me as I already have an XBL subscription, and there are many more games I would like to play on my Xbox than just ESO.

Judicator75
Judicator75

@smokeless_0225

And honestly, I can't blame them. An adaptive pay model would make forecasting a bitch or simply impossible... that's a situation companies, understandably, won't ever voluntarily step into.

smokeless_0225
smokeless_0225

@Judicator75

These are very good ideas for us, the consumers. However we may never see this implemented since it will be keeping money out of the producers pockets.

Judicator75
Judicator75

@jakesnakeel

I agree with that pay model. It definitely suits the needs and wants of the player. Unfortunately, this is a capitalist country. :(

I read somewhere else about the idea of paying by hours played (e.g., $5/15 hrs/month, $10/30 hrs/month, $15/unlimited/month) and the server just tracks your log in times and duration. If you're playing more than usual, the system just bumps up your payment until it hits $15.