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Elder Scrolls Online Removes Six-Month Subscription & Sparks Rumors of Going Free-2-Play

Written by Jeremy Shane on Wednesday, December 31 2014 and posted in News with Benefits

Elder Scrolls Online Removes Six-Month Subscription & Sparks Rumors of Going Free-2-Play

Granted, there have been rumors of it going F2P since before it even launched.

Elder Scrolls Online used to offer 3 different subscription options: 1month, 3 months, and 6 months.  Recently they removed the six-month option.  This news isn't new to die-hard players as it has been going around on their forums for a couple of weeks now.  What is interesting are the rumors of the game going F2P (Free-to-play) or even "Buy-to-play" (where they charge for game purchase and possibly other expansions but not a monthly subscription fee).  Where it gets interesting is that with all the F2P rumors to follow ESO since pre-launch, this is the first time there has been actual evidence that created those rumors, where before it was always someone's gut feeling about the game.

What evidence do you ask?  Even if you didn't, here is what most players are seeing:



Since Zenimax is a privately owned company, subscription numbers are unknown to anyone on the outside.  Any articles you've seen showing hard numbers for sales or subs are, and always have been, purely speculation.  With that being said, speculation wise using the powers of observation, there has been a steady drop off in population even after the initial drop-off that MMOs experience after launch.  The game moving to Steam and the holiday season has shown a bit of an influx, but the population definitely isn't anywhere near what it used to be.


Game Reboot

With the 1.6 patch (Champion System + Justice System) coming to test servers in January the game will see a major change not only in end-game character advancement, but throughout the rest of the game as well.  The way stats and numbers work are changing, some class skills will be completely replaced with new ones, and more.  Many are calling this ESO 2.0 and it is timed nicely with the fact that the console version is in the final stages of development.  It's easy to see that the game would sell and play better on console as a buy-to-play release instead of a monthly subscription on top of the sub fees players on consoles already pay.

The Champion System also puts in place a long term end-game advancement that would leave Zenimax free from having to constantly increase level caps or add other ways for characters to improve at end-game outside of gear.


Die-Hard players leaving

With the new Champion System rolling out (in patch 1.6) many players that have long been at end-game, even with multiple characters, are upset that they will be essentially losing their experience when the full system goes live.  This will actually take two different patches to play out, but eventually Zenimax plans to remove "Veteran Ranks," of which there are currently 14, which is used to progress after the "max-level" of 50 and make every player level 50.  All players of various ranks will be made equal (with patch 1.7) with whatever different bonuses they might have received for differing veteran ranks - they haven't announced the specifics of this yet.  But yes, those players that advanced to the maximum veteran rank will have done hundreds of quests for millions of experience and be the same as every other player that hits max level (and will not have those same quests available to advance with in the new champion point system).  This has caused a fairly large uproar in part of the community and has some players headed for the door.

This is on top of some major changes in PvP (Player vs. Player) recently that saw a fairly large population drop in that player base.  Even with the population caps reduced on the PvP servers, they still rarely top out like they used to.  The odd thing about all this is that Zenimax doesn't seem to care about losing considerable chunks of dedicated players a piece at a time.  This could be because the game is easier to maintain server wise without a small percentage of players hogging up a lot of server usage and because they would expect many of them to stick around or return if the game gets rid of the subscription model.


6-Month Subscription Option Removed

This is the big one.  The only response Zenimax has offered so far came days after the issue had been asked repeatedly in their forums and that was simply from a moderator in the French forums that said a small percentage of players used the option so they opted to remove it.  Plausible, and does make Zenimax a bit more money since the longer you subscribed for, the cheaper the price.  (Except for the fact that a "small percentage of players" wouldn't really make a very big difference in those profits.)

But there is also the fact that the last half dozen(+) MMOs that have removed long term subscriptions did so as they were moving toward F2P.  And, as we mentioned earlier, it does line up somewhat nicely with a console release sometime (probably) in the first quarter of 2015 or soon after.


Is that necessarily a bad thing?

That depends.  We would have to see how they set the game up.  Will it turn into a huge cash-shop grab like some MMOs?  Or be able to survive simply selling expansions (DLC on consoles) and have a small cash shop on the side for certain services? 

Many players say they would leave if the game goes F2P, but if it's easier to jump back on one day because you're bored and it's free, would they stay gone for long?

Some point to future content being effected by a game not being subscription based, but since launch ESO has only seen two new dungeons and one new zone added (Craglorn), which was in development before launch, supposed to be in game at launch, and had to be released in two-parts, months later.  Though they have done a lot of work in balancing the game and have added features like chat bubbles and armor dyes, I don't think anyone should expect a great deal of content for 2015 (we pretty much know what that content will be) whether they are paying a subscription or not.

If they continue to cater only to casual players however, the they will have no choice but to take the game F2P eventually and it may thrive for it.


Then again...

Anyone that has followed and/or played the game since launch has heard the same thing over and over.  "It will be F2P in a couple months."  At this point, many of us are so desensitized to the possibility that even if it happens we might not believe it.




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About the Author - Jeremy Shane

Jeremy was born in a small mountain village of a strange foreign land called Weystvurginea.  Banishment for liberal views saw him spend years wondering the east coast until he decided to bike to California.  When he saw how long a trip it was, he drove instead.  Now he's living it up in a low humidity climate, sometimes working on his photography and when not, he writes for us covering books (by way of his blog: Reading Realms), gaming, tv, movies, comics, conventions in the SoCal area, and creates a weekly webcomic: A Journey Through Skyrim.  If you look for him offline, start in the L.A. area; online start at: for his profile and all the social networks he's on... or just follow him on twitter, he seems to be on there a lot: @jeremyshane.


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