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The Elder Scrolls Online Goes Free-To-Play

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In a somewhat expected move by Zenimax Studios, Bethesda Softworks announced early January 21st that The Elder Scrolls Online will be dropping its subscription model in March, adopting a free-to-play model with optional microtransactions.

Along with the announcement of TESO‘s console release date, Bethesda outlined the details of the change, introducing a lenient buy-to-play model that would allow players to experience all current and future content for free, with the exception of DLCs. It’s also being re-advertised as Tamriel Unlimited.

“The biggest change coming with Tamriel Unlimited is that you will no longer need a game subscription to play!” Bethesda said. “Because we are removing the requirement for a monthly game subscription, you will now need to ensure you have an active PSN account with PlayStation Plus to play ESO as long as you like.”

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I’ll admit to feeling a sense of dread creep slowly up my spine as I read the announcement, sick with the fear that one of my favorite MMORPGs of all time would succumb to the poison of free-to-play MMOs. Fortunately, Zenimax seems to be attempting to lean away from that “fake free” design, using a model similar to The Lord of the Rings Online. The subscription is no longer required, but is optional for players who want to experience the full range of features along with free DLCs. Non-subscription players have to buy the DLCs separately, and won’t receive the same bonuses as those who chose to keep their subscription. From the Playstation Blog:

“Tamriel Unlimited also debuts ESO’s new optional membership package, ESO Plus. With this premium membership service, players will be granted free access to all of the game’s DLC game packs; bonuses to XP, gold, and crafting; and a monthly allotment of Crowns to purchase items from the Crown Store. What’s the Crown Store, you ask? This is an all-new merchant store to ESO full of optional cosmetic and convenience items you can purchase for Crowns, a new currency allowing you to buy content directly from PlayStation Store. You’ll be able to fully enjoy ESO without being a member, but we think you’ll really enjoy the benefits if you have fun playing the game.

Those that don’t enroll in ESO Plus can still expect free patches that implement fixes and other improvements along with optional DLC offerings you can purchase to add more adventures to the already-enormous game.”

In an effort to soothe players’ worries about the game potentially becoming pay-to-win, game director Matt Firor reassured us in a Twitch stream discussion that, “you can’t buy anything in the shop that you can’t acquire in-game.” According to creative director Paul Sage, the best gear will always be acquired by playing the game. He also mentioned that although subscribed players would receive bonuses to XP, gold, and crafting, progression won’t be slowed down or limited for non-sub players. Essentially, the only thing you’d be missing out on by choosing to play for free are the free DLCs and the convenience items – and if you’d spent a lot of time playing TESO without those items and you don’t mind paying separately for DLCs, this won’t be much of a problem.

Since its release in April 2014, TESO was met with many mixed opinions, the largest number being those who loved the idea of an Elder Scrolls MMORPG, but were turned away by the subscription. People never really expected it to stick, but Zenimax’s decision to remove it a year after its release seems almost abrupt. Fortunately, the game’s gained more than a few fans thanks to a highly communicative dev team and constant improvement, which is only likely to grow with the elimination of that pesky monthly fee.

 

About Deborah Crocker

Deborah is a 22 year old semi-hermit currently plodding through her senior year of college and getting her feet wet in game journalism. She has a somewhat unhealthy obsession with high fantasy, video games, novels, and Elder Scrolls. When she's not in front of a screen, she enjoys singing and a bit of beading. She's also currently on the hunt for the restaurant with the best cheeseburger.

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