The Elder Scrolls Online: Free-to-play or Not?

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor May 28, 2013
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With all due respect to the super-enjoyable-looking WildStar, there's just one mega-huge MMO in the works this year, and that's The Elder Scrolls Online. ZeniMax Online Studios has kept details of the game pretty close to the vest, including the real biggie: Will it have a subscription or will it be free-to-play? There are arguments for and against each possibility:

The Elder Scrolls Online will have a subscription

A few years ago, we wouldn't have even been having this discussion. For an MMO of this size and scope, a subscription would have been automatic. Since development on TESO must have started several years ago, before F2P had a solid foothold in the West, this was almost certainly the plan from the start.

ZeniMax also seems to think of TESO as the Next Big Thing, and when you have the Next Big Thing, the natural compulsion is to wring as much money out of it as possible. I'm not saying this makes the company greedy; it's just sound business. That's certainly the opinion, right or wrong, that BioWare held with Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Finally, you'd think that, if the game was going to be free-to-play, it would have already been announced. That's generally good PR, and at the very least gets more people excited about the game and thinking they'll try it out. But their PR has been very low-key up to this point, so maybe they aren't looking for that big rush just yet.

The Elder Scrolls Online will be free-to-play

On the other hand, the fact that ZeniMax hasn't said one way or the other how they're going to go might be a sign that they're still working it out. As mentioned, a subscription was probably the original plan, so perhaps they're still crunching the numbers and haven't reached a final decision – or at least haven't committed to one they're ready to tell people about.

They also can't be totally ignorant of current trends. With very few big-name MMOs still having a subscription, they have to think that F2P is at least somewhere in the game's future. Maybe the plan is to launch with a sub and then go F2P after a year or so, but why not save yourself the headache and the “Oh, the game is dead, it's going F2P” negativity?

And let's not forget all the Elder Scrolls fans who are still very much lukewarm about TESO. Skyrim sold over 10 million copies, so that's 10 million potential players of the MMO. If TESO launches and opening sales are “only” in the two to three million range, will that be seen as a failure? Anything ZeniMax can do to boost those numbers – and free-to-play is the most obvious choice – has to be at least be considered.

The popular opinion is that we'll probably hear more about The Elder Scrolls Online, from the actual gameplay to payment models (and possibly pre-orders), around the time of E3 next month. Until then, what do you think? Will TESO require a subscription or not? My gut says “yes,” but my wallet says, “I hope not.”

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In this article: The Elder Scrolls Online, TES.

About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

Discussion (112)

Anthony 8 years ago
I think they'll release it free to play, And leave out the coolest places like certain areas of morrowind, hammerfall, etc, out for future DLC, which will be pay to play. Wait until everyone is hooked, then drop that, people will get it. And the people who don't, eventually will to continue journeying with their comrades.

Vince 8 years ago
Can't it follow Guild Wars 2's example, and be "purchase once, play free forever"? Subscription-less, but still require the purchase? Maybe also throw in some microtransactions for additional revenue after that (additional mounts, cosmetic items... and uh, horse armor)?

It seems to me that Bethesda is touting this as single player-friendly, no doubt to pull in all the fans of Oblivion & Skyrim. In a lot of ways, it's advertised less as an MMO, but as the next big Elder Scrolls game... just playable with your friends. In that case, I'd imagine it would follow the model that those games followed, which is Guild Wars 2's model. Buy the game, and then you can play it. I never understood why MMO's only see "subscription-based" and "free-to-play" models, but not the "purchase the game and play online for free" model ArenaNet pioneered(?)

UndeadBled 8 years ago
It is going to have a first person mode ( really only advised to use third person on PvP ) and will be on xbox at least so that and a controller will make a nice new feel to the game universe.

Hopnot 8 years ago
It better not be, free to play is a disaster model and doesn't work on MMO's.

david 8 years ago
i am really thinking of getting this game for the Xbox one but i have seen vids on it and looks like they may make u play with the kinect and if s i will hunt down who ever the jackass who made that a choice or even idea for this amazing and great game

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G3ntlemaniac 8 years ago
a buy to play business model with an ingame shop i think it's the way to go ; even though it's a well known ip wich is guaranteed to succeed in one way or another a subscription model is too much of a risk in today's market , although i have to be honest , i will happily pay for a sub if the game proves to be up to the par ...

KaleSterlin 8 years ago
I think this will be something like Dust 514 or maybe Runescape; It will be F2P with the optional premium content for a fair price. Of course, some people might think that a hybrid game set-up might kill the game, but I think it's been very successful. I've played games like that and 9 times out of 10, I end up cursing the people who bought premium content. People get the content cause it's good, but like they said in the article, they'll expand their sales of they make it F2P.

Of course, that's just my opinion...what do you guys think?

kevin oliver 8 years ago
i signed up for TESO beta but didn't get a confirmation email should i wait for 72 hours as they wrote there you will get a confirmation email within 72 hours.i would really be great full if someone helped.
thankyou

Golgo28 8 years ago
I see it being b2p with some sort of premium features for subscriptions.Like extra character slots or some such.Having it be sub based is less likely just because the whole industry is moving away from subscription based pay models.Plus I think more people would be willing to get the game if there is no required monthly fee.As a long time TES fan I'm gonna get it regardless of wether it has a monthly fee or not.Until there is an official word from it's devs on pay model it's all speculation.And until you have tried the game stop saying if will or will not be good.wildstar could come out and end up being a complete flop,but none of us will know until release.

@random casual gamers may be a larger pop then serious gamers.But they rarely spend that much money on a game.Most just play a f2p for a couple hours maybe a couple days then never come back again.Serious hardcore gamers like you said will be the ones to drop the cash needed to support the game.Honestly I don't see why casuals are called gamers when most of their so called gaming is spent on crap little time wasters like on facebook.The only reason these casuals even want to be called gamers is because it's considered hip.But none of them wanted to be called gamers or even associated to gaming 20 years ago.

kevin oliver 8 years ago
is TESO free2play because i here in the beta page of the site that they were giving beta invites to pc players on 11.6.13

random 8 years ago
f2p is always the best route, casual gamers are a larger population than serious gamers and if they want to attract a nice following, those who play for environmental atmosphere will spend money to enjoy their time in the game. also, if they want to take a break from the game, they won't quit the game entirely, they will log in every so often without any financial commitment therefore their experience will be more positive incase any bad gameplay/experience arises.

hardcore players will spend even more money on cosmetics etc. to stand out among others and what not. if they really want money they should just adopt the new f2p package of having various account-level packages available to players who are hardcore to the series where they can obtain limited edition cosmetic items etc.

Zac 8 years ago
And another one bites the dust.

Lala 8 years ago
Guys, World of Warcraft came out nearly 9 years ago. Since its launch most MMOs have tried to copy it in some way and failed because of it. The Elder Scrolls has a very long history of quality with each game being a complete hit.

If this game fails, then MMOs are truly dead. Although I do not think it will fail at all.

Vanquish 8 years ago
I've registered for beta a long time ago and right now since I've only heard on one CBT testing (that was an email notification that they started one with x people and I'm not included :-( ...), and right now I'm just waiting for the content reveal for real, especially if I could play it myself. So basically I don't really care if it's F2P or subscription based or 1 time charge, just get it out for me to test because it sounds l33t!

View 1 reply
Ogo 8 years ago
If this has a subscription they will probably have to play this only in their offices, because nobody will pay for the "ultimate game" that is one of the thousand others.

Neverstops 8 years ago
seems legit XD

Free2Play 8 years ago
hope this is a free to play

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Grimagin 8 years ago
Pay once, free forever. Problem solved. Just be sure include lots of events and additional DLC to keep the player base.

OMGFRogz 8 years ago
I would love a B2P. A B2P reduces chat bots and will still get a crowd. I wouldn't mind like a b2p with an expansion if you wanted to do more of the story or wanted more stuff.
Like what diablo II did. And that game was pretty successful.

Armorcladz 8 years ago
I dont think its bad idea to make a P2P role! or pay once to play! it will exclude some kind of players that actually shouldn't have the game like underages making a different kind of community, and if money is required in the game and is an underage that can not afford then this one woul be controlled by the family (just see it like filter of no desired players)

In free to play we will find a lot of troll players.(which is a headache for some hardcore players)

monktard 8 years ago
i hope its subscription and not Free to play.

free to play just brings in all the retards who cant afford games and just turn a good game into a shitpile.

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Ψion 8 years ago
What i would like from TES is to make it like the other games.Buy the game once and you are free to play it forever.And then add some exp boosts/credit boosts for ingame shop.This would benifit them and the guys that want to play free cause lets face it its hard times to pay everymonth 20$ for a game.But if you give 50-60$ from the start and never again its way better ;) But i dont think this will happen any time soon in any mmorpg so fingers crossed it goes F2P with VIP status (increased exp ratio etc.)

RazulDarkwood 8 years ago
I think B2P is the best solution. You get the best of both worlds. If its P2P the game may suffer if its not as good as people hope to be. If its F2P the game may gain less money than expected to make, it may even be more of a problem to keep it alive. That problem still exists with B2P but one thing is for sure. If the game became P2P and don't appeal to players expectations it will be forced to become F2P and most of the time that is a bother. Trust me its hard to change a game from P2P to F2P most of the time it doesn't work. So my best bet is B2P or F2P. :)

Katie 8 years ago
If it goes P2P then it'll be a big nono for me and I'll be playing Wildstar. A P2P model is not worth it for me. Because why should I pay, let's say, 20 euro a month to play only 2 or 3 days a month?
B2P I might consider. I am not a huge fan of TES series, but since I already have Oblivion and Skyrim (and I rarely play on either of them) I might try TESO. Although Wildstar will most likely be the primary mmo for me.
F2P of course I'll check it out. Maybe play it casually since a few of my friends will play it too, but it still will go second after Wildstar. :)

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Clockwerkninja 8 years ago
In the current financial climate you have to bet on them going f2p.
Many people are flooding to the market because adding another monthly fee just for a game is illogical. Using f2p they will be able to populate the servers,while at the same time making the same or more from micro transactions.. If they choose the f2p model , how they run it will decide the life of the game.

Hotuken 8 years ago
Same here, ill give it a try, and many many more players + the Fans of TES will do, if its F2P, else. will only be old fans :P

Andy 8 years ago
I think this game is going to flop. Looks like a generic MMORPG that's only Elder Scrolls in name and nothing else. I hate the character design and the unfaithful renditions of many Elder Scrolls staples. It's not being created by Bethesda and the guy behind that crappy Warhammer Online game is the project head. You'd think he would've given up after already butchering one IP.

Wildstar will be the next big thing. I think TESO will be lucky to get SWTOR numbers at best.

Gomez 8 years ago
I think it will be a hybrid model with a F2P limited version (character slots, bags, bank slots, etc) and Sub version with more of those mentioned before. There will be a sort of premium pack to buy for both F2P and sub that will offer some exclusive title or in-game item.

Grandpa Carl 8 years ago
Buy To Play, i think. Rly, just cash in 40 bucks from 10 million ppl and u have 400milion. Than cash in for VIP statuses and the cooles LOOKING ( not the stat sided ) gear, and bam- ur rich

Veosluice 8 years ago
any self respecting gamer wouldn't touch teso or wildstar just stick to skyrim and get the multiplayer mod, those 2 games are complete s*** f2p or sub

SD5150 8 years ago
I heard they are considering scrapping the whole TESO game and reworking it from the ground up. The Beta was so bad and boring, I think its the only option they have. The game needs so much work, that it will be a failure if its launched anytime soon.

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MrPants 8 years ago
Not gonna touch this game is there's a subscription fee. I really want to play it but I think that buying a game and then paying for the ability to play every month(the cost of which is sometimes equivalent to buying the game) is asinine.

tupas3 8 years ago
I think it will be like all grand mmos nowdays. It will start as sub and then after a yr it will go f2p :D

AngryFoe 8 years ago
With all due respect to the super-enjoyable-looking WildStar, there are 2x mega-huge MMO in the works this year, and those are The Elder Scrolls Online and Everquest Next.

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removalmitt 8 years ago
I'll only btp at worse, no way would I waste cash on a sub / time card.

What I'll be looking forward to (only picked up bits of info, haven't dug too deep) is they say 'mega servers' basically all servers emulate to 1 world so there should masses of people about.

The realm vs realm is what I'll be playing most and it should be epic as in thousand vs thousand vs thousand (well that's what I got from one of the talk through vids, coupled with them stating they'll need thousands of ppl for beta to test this part)

Maybe about the most you'll get for GW2 is 70 vs 70 vs 70 on a map, I laugh when the company state epic fights in WvW

Punizher 8 years ago
I wanna play TESO but not paying for a sub, those days are gone

in regards to wildstar, could care less looks looks too cartoony too childish

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Jason 8 years ago
If it keeps away from the pay to win bullshit and has a subscription fee it might actually be worth playing. Otherwise im not touching this game with a 10 foot pole. Pay to win games are shit. This removed all the core gameplay mechanics of the elder scrolls series anyway so its nothing special.

GamingMaster 8 years ago
The game will be like GW2 or like WoW but not free to play ... since it's an MMO based on Elder scrolls series and people on bethesda forums have been talking about it for so long + the modders who tried to make like a co op online mod which didn't work out..


I am not looking foward to the game f2p or not ... much better mmo's out there..

( My opinion - Skyrim looks terrible for a game which was developed in 6 years and turns out so buggy and has horrible textures on max settings.. it's just an insult to gaming. Companies like Ubisoft can make games less than 6 years and have rich and beautiful enviroments and I have never come across a serious bug that had to restart the whole game progress from their games)

sokar2012 8 years ago
to by like Guild Wars 2 no subscription model

sokar2012 8 years ago
Please by B2P

Brandon 8 years ago
I want this game to be B2P.

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Tsumaru 8 years ago
I say the game should be free to play, because i'm a huge elder scrolls fan and if the game will be pay to play, why don't i just buy the game skyrim instead of getting the Elder Scrolls Online for the pc i wont care if some elements of the game you will have to buy, but i do know that the free to play markets will boost your money because when people find out about the game being free to play they will not have to go spend 30 to 40 dollars getting a game they can't play with their friends when they can just get on a computer and play the elder scrolls online for free and play with their friends instead of not having the joy of a coop campaign with a friend.

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Name (Required)Lue 8 years ago
Is anyone else disturbed by the plant in screen shot 2 O.o.

Bob 8 years ago
Nice an article about nothing.

70calories 8 years ago
I say B2P would be the way to go with this one I'd buy it

Juraxious 8 years ago
If it goes to sub it will most certainly be run in the ground within 2 years tops. Buy to play I would mind but it would feel like Skyrim or oblivion with multiplayer, but f2p games tend to swith to p2w for some stupid reason. I may try it but not quite to sure about it.

Dizzyjay 8 years ago
I like the B2P model, it really fits the game since all of the previous elder scrolls game followed that step. But this is a MMORPG, so P2P is possible. If they seriously go for P2P, I think I'll just wait until its F2P. But if they go for B2P, then of course I ll buy it and play it.

Razer 8 years ago
This game will crash within a year and then go F2P. That's how it works now.

Venn 8 years ago
They said they were making it subscription based because, like the idiotic morons they are, they believe there are too many f2p games now and games are going to fail because they're f2p.

Inflictious 8 years ago
Well Jason, lol

Just like on the other topic you had posted, You keep leaving out the most possible scenario with the AAA title's, B2P with a decent item mall.
It worked wonders for TSW, and who know's even if it doe's go as a SUB ( I truely think it will ) It has to many loyal fans just about as popular as FF and to my knowledge none of them had gone F2P.
So with loyal fans of the franchise sub it may stay forever " If " they are not to greedy... Remeber Warhammer Online ..Fans still pay subs and still play, sure not as packed as launch but Fan's keep it that way.
ESO should be no diffrent due to Lore.Than maybe dropping to a B2P if Ever.

Inflictious

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kr4n3ly 8 years ago
I am going to call it as B2P. That just seems to be the best model right now. People will by the game, but little will want to pay for a sub. WoW is the only real game standing with a sub, and even they are losing numbers faster than I expected. It would be nice to see it as F2P, but I doubt it will be-- at least not right out of the door.

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Adrian87 8 years ago
i think they gonna start P2P.

Arrow to the Knee 8 years ago
I hope this goes P2P. I rather pay a small monthly fee for a balanced game than pay 2000$ + in a day to be the strongest in the server :/ (not that i would ever pay 2000$ + in a MMO anyways)

mat 8 years ago
dont worry. every new game that makes u pay a subscription will end up being free to play anyways. every mmo nowadays has gone ftp

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Cornjulio 8 years ago
I don't think it's going to matter what the business model is if this game is as generic as it looks. On the flip side, plenty of people are going to buy it just based on the name, regardless of anything else about it.

Draugen 8 years ago
if it has a subscription im not gonna try it but if it's F2P or B2P then im gonna try it

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morteetdabo 8 years ago
teso has NOTHING on wildstar. and i mean NOTHING.

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MarMoar 8 years ago
TESO dont really appeal to me.. Nothing screams new, Its an MMO in TES universe. ANy fan of TES I'm sure will flock to it but not me:\ Maybe if it was F2P I'd give it a shot.

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John 8 years ago
Wow really


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