Changes are in full swing in The Elder Scrolls Online, first on the PTS, where update 1.6 has been released and players have also been given the opportunity to test out the game's upcoming cash shop, the Crown Store. The Crown Store opened up for testing with players on the PTS given Crowns to use as they please and test an array of items that will likely make their debut when the game transitions over to subscription-optional Tamriel Unlimited.
The store items give away that this transition has been in the works for at least some time. This is clearer when examining how a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic that needed some time between moving from a subscription-only to a hybrid model, as well as reports of EA hiring monetization experts to figure out what to charge players for and what to include in a possible shop. While plenty of people have mixed feelings about this whole thing being in the works for a while, Zenimax gave what amounts to a preview of what we can expect. Most players logged into the PTS on Monday received 5,500 crowns to spend however they'd like in testing the shop as part of an organized stress test or beyond. None of the items or crowns would transfer over to the live Tamriel Unlimited, so this was, in effect, a preview. Given that it's on the PTS, it's all subject to change before next month's official launch, but any major changes are unlikely.
As one might expect, the cash shop is filled with customization and fluff items, along with some consumables. There are a couple of practical items, including the Imperial upgrade, which has been available as an upgrade for some time, letting you get the Imperial race, Imperial Horse, Pledge of Mara, and Mudcrab pet. This will cost 2100 crowns. There's also a starter pack for 1,500 crowns that contains 20 each of health, magicka, and stamina potions, plus a horse, and a Windhelm Wolfhound pet. You'll be able to buy Soul Gems, all three potion types, and repair kit packs in the store. The rest of the items are cosmetic and include costumes, mounts, and pets. There are a few costume packs that are geared toward classes, such as the Stealthy Rogues, Woodland Scouts, and Armored Knights packs, each containing three costumes for 700 crowns. If you plan to take advantage of the game's all-new Provisioning system, or simply want to look the part, there's a chef's outfit available. There's also a blacksmith outfit for the same cost (400 crowns), though for those like me that have characters who engage in both pursuits, there could be a splurge. There are also costumes like that of a Royal Court Jester, Draugr Polymorph, and also a wedding dress. All costumes in the shop are wearable by characters of any gender.
I do wonder, however, if crafting will ever be expanded beyond what we have now, thanks to the cosmetic items. Sure, the gear in game is what will have stats and can be molded to fit each player's style, but the initial rush to get all of the books to be able to craft in each available style was great since it expanded options for player characters' looks. Now it seems as if there might not be any further changes on that front and any new look options will have to be purchased.
The mounts in the shop are mostly horses, alongside a couple of varieties of Guar. Most seem to be reskins for the time being, without distinct advantages over mounts for gold. Costs range from 900-1300 crowns each. Finally, the game's assortment of pets include your very own Housecat. If you've ever looked longingly at all of the kitties in the game and lamented the fact you couldn't pick one up and keep it, this 400-crown pet might be what you're looking for. Not into cats? Perhaps a Alik'r Dune Hound, a Windhelm Wolfhound, or a Bantam Guar? Or, if you are into cats, but house cats are too tiny, try the Striped Senche Panther. This is the most expensive pet at 700 crowns.
A few things come to mind when looking at our starter cash shop. I wonder if the drop rates for Soul Gems might be affected by putting them into the shop, but this doesn't seem likely. Still, making sure you have a gem on hand is important, and kind of annoying, so it truly is a convenience item, but one that some might be a bit miffed at, moreso than simple potions. Yet, this is not going to be any sort of “pay to win” situation. With the introduction of a shop, it's clear that all gear won't be available for gold anymore. While these are simply cosmetic items, even subscription (AKA ESO+) accounts won't have full access to them unless players spend their crowns in the shop, similar to how SWTOR's Cartel Market operates. It creates a gate, especially for roleplayers.