Elder Scrolls Online, an MMO set in the long established region of Tamriel and launched in April of 2014, has recently announced plans to drop the monthly subscription fee in favor of a free play format referred to as Tamriel Unlimited. Before, players of ESO were required to purchase the game itself, for a price ranging between 59.99 for the standard edition to 79.99 for the Imperial, as well as sign up for a monthly subscription package (14.99 a month or 13.99 if done in 90 day increments). While the initial buy-in will remain, players will now be able to access the game without paying a monthly fee, opening up the game to a range of new players. This isn’t an entirely unexpected move, since many preceding MMO’s have eventually dropped the monthly charge in favor of adding in-game purchase options to either ease or advance gameplay. This move is not always seen as positive, since the introduction of in-game purchases sometimes accompanies a few changes to the gameplay itself–namely, the difficulty increased or altered to make completion without a few purchases very difficult. ESO players will have the option to play for free, or they may continue with a comparable subscription plan that offers a few perks–but nothing that alters the previous leveling structures of the game, according to the developers. It’s a fine line of showing users why continuing to pay would be beneficial while trying to assure free players that they will still have an enjoyable and comfortable gameplay experience. So, from the information we’ve been given about the upcoming changes, does it look like current subscribers can truly benefit by continuing with a paid subscription?
I’ve been an official subscriber since ESO’s launch, and while there are a few frustrating nights filled with “WHAT? IT CRASHED AGAIN?”, the game has generally treated me rather well. I still fall under the category of casual gamer, since a full work and school schedule keep me from fulfilling the dream of never leaving my computer. So when Bethesda made the big announcement concerning ESO’s shift to free-play, it made me seriously consider my subscription status. I log on when I have the time, play for a handful of hours, and leave it at that. I craft when I can, but the quest for raw materials is often more exhausting than it’s worth and I find I’d rather spend my time slaying Daedra. Having matching armor is a luxury, and I’ll spend half an hour at the dye station so everything looks shiny and matching, but you better believe that when I find a better helm on the road I’m slapping that baby on my head and waving bye bye to the lovely dyed one. I’m in a guild. but I’m a lousy member, and I’ve yet to venture into the PvP features of the game. I had to do my research. Is it worth it for a casual player to keep paying every month? Here’s my breakdown of the benefits for those who may be in the same boat.
I’d never had a good enough computer to really engage in the great wide world of MMO’s. I couldn’t run World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, EverQuest–anything with the word “Online” tacked on to the end of it…or “Multiplayer”, really. It just wasn’t gonna happen. Dreams of upgrading to a true gaming computer became a reality last year, and I gifted myself with a beautiful, sleek gaming laptop. Bursting with excitement, I waited until I was accepted into the ESO beta and promptly rushed in to join the experience. As someone who spent days exploring every cavern and hilltop in Skyrim, I was sure that I’d be a pro at the online open world version in no time flat. Wrong. But I struggled through, shamelessly looked up codes and tips and character builds, gathered my courage and started posting in the zone chats, and joined groups of players I had never seen before to navigate dungeon crawls. Group participation is something I’m still working on. It took a long time for me to seamlessly shift between the chat box and my bow while simultaneously trying to fend off 7 undead brutes. The game wasn’t flawless, especially in beta, but I had a great time playing and the story lines were interesting enough to keep me logging on day after day.
Basically, this is what’s going to happen: your paid monthly access account will transition to an ESO Plus account when The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited launches. For example, if you paid for a 30-day membership on the 1st and ESO transitions on the 15th, those remaining 15 days will allow you the benefits of a Plus account. Automatically renewing accounts will continue to auto-renew, but players will receive the benefits of Plus membership instead of simply paying the fee to play each month. What are those benefits?
An allotment of crowns to spend in the new in-game Crown Store based on your membership period
Access to all of ESO’s downloadable content (or DLC) game packs for the duration of your membership
A 10% bonus to XP and gold gain, crafting research, and inspiration
The introduction of the Crown Store is one of the changes coming to ESO. The Crown Store is designed to provide players with boons–in the form of exclusive vanity pets, armor, weapons, costumes, mounts, and other convenience items to make your playing experience easier. The informative article posted on the Elder Scrolls Online website states that “The most important thing to remember about Tamriel Unlimited’s virtual currency system is that we’re not adjusting the base game—it will be exactly the same game, with the same leveling pace, experience point gain, user interface, etc. that you have been used to since April of last year. We’re adding customization and convenience items in the Crown Store, but those will be added to the game as it is now; we’re not going to make it harder for you to enjoy the game you already play to encourage you to use the Crown Store.”
That sounds like a fair venture. The Crown Store will likely have some cool items. I’m all about funny costumes and weird vanity pets (I was one of those people who spent the first month with a stupid mudcrab scuttling along behind me). It keeps a sense of jovial fun to the game experience, and provides an interesting way to participate in the community.
The access to all of ESO’s downloadable content is probably one of the most enticing perks for the more casual player. The DLC is constantly expanding, and maintaining automatic access to all additions to the base game is a pretty big deal. The monthly ESO Plus membership keeps all future DLC’s open to your playing pleasure.
Finally, Plus members will earn a 10% bonus on in-game leveling systems. That includes experience gain, gold bonuses, and inspiration gained through crafting. It’s a little boon that helps players level up just a little bit faster. As someone who doesn’t have the time it takes to grind levels at my leisure, this is perhaps the most convincing perk. It’s not a huge bonus, but even 10% adds up after awhile.
The Bottom Line
People who carve out at least 4 or 5 hours in a work week to play ESO can find value in the Plus membership, especially with the XP, gold, and inspiration bonus and the included access to DLC. Of course, we have not been told what the price to purchase the DLC separately in the Crown Store will be, so there’
I’ll have nearly two months worth of credit left over around the time the transition occurs, which means I’ll have a first hand account of how beneficial continuing a paid membership is. For now, I think it will be a nice little boost for subscribers. We’ll see how the Crown Store works out, and whether the premium convenience items there are interesting/useful enough to keep paying for a monthly subscription.
Read what the developers have been saying concerning the future of ESO on the official website. What do you think about the change in ESO’s membership options? Are you looking forward to what’s yet to come? Let us know in the comments!