What Will the Elder Scrolls Online's Pricing Model Be? - Page 3

Updated Fri, Apr 12, 2013 by gunky

What Will the Elder Scrolls Online Pricing Model Be?

Option C: Subscriptionless with Cash Shop

Also known as "Buy-to-Play" (B2P) or "the Guild Wars 2 model." A copy of the game is initially purchased, and there is no further financial commitment required. The initial box price gives players full access to the game, and an in-game cash shop with cosmetic and convenience items funds the maintenance and development teams.

ESO Pricing Model - Pay Once (GW2)

Again, a fine line must be walked here. On the one hand, the developers need to make players want to spend money in the cash shop by offering lucrative items. On the other hand, loot boxes requiring a store-bought key to open them are kind of annoying. There's no guarantee that they contain anything worthwhile, and they can't be pawned to vendors like other trash loot, but they accumulate quickly and take up precious inventory space.

Cash shop items tend to be fluff and convenience, plus nonessential upgrades. Cosmetic outfits and accessories seem to sell fairly well, but not all players care much about how their character looks. Convenience items serve to eliminate tedium - for example, using a consumable to access a town service out in the wilderness instead of having to run all the way back to a town, or boosts to accelerate experience gain (or other, similar level-up resources for PvP ranking or faction renown, etc.). Nonessential upgrades include increased storage or carrying capacity and additional character slots - you get more value from these upgrades if you play a lot, but most players can probably get by with the default. 


  • One and Done, Plus Bonus - Pay one upfront fee for the whole thing, and the rest is all voluntary. A large number of players will be happy to spend additional money to enhance their game experience in some way, but no one feels compelled to.
  • Familiarity - A lot of players will be coming from the Elder Scrolls series and not from a MMO background. The one-price admission fee will be most familiar to them... as well as to ZeniMax, which is breaking new ground with their first MMO.


  • Spikes and Dips - These games generate a spike of income from the initial purchases, but this drops dramatically a few months after launch. By then, pretty much anyone that will ever play the game has bought it, and new players come in at a crawl.
  • That Fine Line - Again, there is a fine line between "convenience" and "requirement." For example, the ability to buy extra inventory space is great, but only if inventory space is not ridiculously restricted without paid unlocks. And any game offering statted gear in a cash shop will ultimately be accused of being Pay-to-Win, even if the gear sucks compared to drops or quest rewards.


Guild Wars 2 challenged the dominant F2P "freemium" model and seems to be doing very well, without so much as a single subscriber. This bodes well for future games, but only if these future games have as much to offer as GW2 does. The Elder Scrolls Online looks like a serious contender as direct competition for GW2, and adopting a similar financial model makes sense, in a way.

While B2P and F2P/Freemium seem the most likely models for the Elder Scrolls Online to follow, we won't know for sure what direction they will pick until closer to the launch date when ZeniMax Online announces it. And of course, there's always the possibility that the studio will come up with some kind of new financial model. However it pans out, we'll be there, happily parting ways with our money.

This analysis is flawed. SWTOR lost the subscription market because the game wasn't good enough to merit it. People would have continued to pay for it, if the game had been sufficiently engaging, but it wasn't. Holding it up as a paragon of why P2P no-longer works is just faulty reasoning.

P2P is still the AAA of MMOs. But, like AAA games, there are some which are good and make a lot of money, and some which are bad which don't. However, MMOs are a much bigger investment than your average AAA game, which is why we see much fewer of them each year. It also means that even if they are bad, you need to leverage some form of revenue from them - which is why we have seen the proliferation of other models.

So, the important question is really: Is ESO good enough fo justify P2P? The answer to that is: We don't know yet. It has certainly impressed a lot of people, it has a lot of good buzz about it and people are excited. But, until more significant hands-on impressions are obtained, no-one can answer that question. I think that Zenimax would *like* it to be good enough to be P2P. While we have no concrete information, there has been some indications of that intent. Certainly, Nick Konkle has said that they want to make it a premium service, which implies P2P.

Game isn't a sandbox and won't have millions of subs within the first month whom are stuck in a frustrating but rewarding enough skinner box to continue playing ergo this game will at best be B2P, it may even be freemium/full F2P.

News from around the 'Net