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Could B2P Hurt Elder Scrolls Online?

Christopher Coke Posted:
Columns Player Versus Player 0

Welcome to Player Versus Player, the column that pits two MMORPG writers against each other in a battle wits, tears, and experience points. Twice a month, we take to our podiums to debate both sides of your most heated arguments. This week, Elder Scrolls Online rocked our newsfeeds with the bombshell that the game would be going buy-to-play before its summer console launch. Our topic: Is this a good thing for the game or the beginning of the end?

Your combatants:

Chris “The Subscriptionless” Coke: Chris has played more than any man’s share of MMOs and is ready to sever the subscription to Elder Scrolls Online for good.

Ryan “For The Community!” Getchell: Ryan would rather pay to secure a great community than chance it with open doors.

Without further ado, let’s get it on!

Chris: Thanks for joining me today, Ryan. I know you’re a big fan of ESO and spend a lot of time thinking and writing about it. I played the game and had a blast -- except for that werewolf that killed me over and over --  but it never hooked me enough to pay month after month. So for me and lots of players out there, this is a great thing. I may not be willing to pay a subscription, but I would definitely log in more often if Zenimax wasn’t demanding my credit card number every time.

Ryan: Hey Chris, getting more players into the game is always a great thing. However, opening the door to the masses also opens the doors to the trolls and bots. If you remember back when ESO launched, bots were a major concern. With the game going B2P and how inexpensive the game can be when it goes on sale, this move could bring back the flood of bots to both console version as well as PC. Aswell with it being as low as $15 to get the game, the fear of being banned isn’t nearly as high as it would be if you were forced into a subscription.

Chris: The question is whether or not a good community can really be a profitable community for ESO -- not that those two things are mutually exclusive. And let’s be honest here, a good community can hold its own. Just look at Lord of the Rings Online. But back to profitability. The perception from the rest of the internet is that Elder Scrolls is a sinking ship. That may not be true, especially because they may have planned this conversion all along for the console release (cue ominous music and tinfoil hats). The one thing this does is guarantee that Elder Scrolls Online will be a game for a while and not a memory because Zenimax couldn’t pay the bills.

Ryan: Of course there is the chance that ESO could prosper with this new model, and you’re right Lord of the Rings Online is successful for their model. That said, when LOTR change their model the game didn’t have the following that ESO has. There are a lot of naysayers within that following, those who wish to spout nothing but negativity. Even while the game had a subscription these people were relentless on the free forums they had access to such as facebook, and twitter. With the B2P model, and as I mentioned before, the lack of any large financial investment, they will move their comments from the confines of facebook and twitter to the official forums and the in-game zone chat.

Chris: Fair enough. Let’s look at things another way. We’ve seen a lot of games come and go over the years. The ones that have tried subscriptions and failed see their content draaaaaaag to a painfully slow pace. When they switch, it’s like someone loosed the dam. Being without a subscription means that Zenimax will have the cash flow they need to add interesting new systems. And so far they’ve done the cash shop right.

Ryan: According to Matt Firor, we won’t be seeing ZOS keep up with their 4-6 week promise of content patches. The next major update won’t be coming until after console launch has settled down. So while ZOS is taking in the money, I fear that this move may actually slow down their releases and could potentially cause players to get bored. In my latest MMORPG.com article I ask, Will ESO Subscribtions Plummet? So with this change to B2P we might actually start to see ZOS take sufficiently longer to release content.

Chris: At the same time, the introduction of the Justice System and endgame should provide players with more than enough to tide them over. Honestly, Ryan, I think PC players are going to have to play second fiddle to the console crowd and wait it out on this once. The move to Buy to Play is definitely a tendril to those players; they expect to pay for the box only and that’s fair for them. And I trust Zenimax to get back on pace once the dust has settled. But to be totally selfish, I want this game to be another Secret World: my little get away when I need something fresh. That doesn’t fly with a subscription game. And in my case anyway, patch pace is outmatched by the freedom to check them out when I please.

And that’s really it for me. How about it, Ryan, what’s your final thought?

Ryan: With patch 1.6 being included in the B2P model and it also having the justice system, well half of the justice system. Only the thief part is included the Justice part isn’t part of this patch and we have not been informed as to when it’ll be implemented. Plus the End Game in ESO isn’t like the End Game in a lot of MMOs. It’s not something that takes months to do, the End Game trials can be done in a day or two. While we have future content to look forward to, I don’t think patch 1.6 is going to offer enough content to keep players playing as much as they do. ESO is designed for the casual gamer, and with this B2P move we’re going to see a lot more on and off again players.

I’ll say this, I really hope I am wrong, I really enjoy ESO and it will be a sad day to see the trolls and spammers win this fight.

That’s all from us, folks! Let us know where you fall in the comments below!


Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight