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Is ESO Going F2P?

Ryan Getchell Posted:
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If you went to any ESO related community forums prior to launch you’d see a common topic being discussed, Will ESO go Free to Play? This topic sparked some of the largest debates I’ve seen in the MMORPG community. However, after discussions comparing the pros and cons of the F2P model, the majority of the Elder Scrolls Online community did not want the F2P model. They wanted ESO to be a subscription based game. At QuakeCon, Creative Director Paul Sage made a comment that has added fuel to this debate all over again.

“[…]Any content that was released before Imperial city with these champion weapons, armour, or items, that content is actually going to have been around longer, they’re going to be in the economy more and we might even sell those items directly to players. What that enables us to do is it says, nobody is going to fall behind the item chase, but there will still going to be an item chase.” Paul Sage – QuakeCon 2014

“[..]we might even sell those items directly to players.” That is the line which has the community discussing that ESO is going to end up Free to Play. When I first heard it that was my thought as well. It sounds exactly like a F2P model, selling gear to players to ensure they don’t have to do content to stay near the top. 

I think it was a very poor choice of words on Paul Sage’s part. Once players hear that a company is going to sell something to its community, the first thought is pay gate. Content locked behind a wall that you can’t access unless you throw money at it. Which isn’t the case, least I hope it isn’t for ESO.

What Paul Sage meant was that they’ll offer the older gear to players so they will be able to experience the new content when it is released without having to grind their way through previous content just to get to the required gear level, aka Gear treadmill.

This is something that always bugged me about World of Warcraft. I took a break from WoW and when I returned I was so far behind on the treadmill that I thought I would never be able to catch up and experience the new content before the next content is released.

I am the type of person who would typically be against this type of thing, as I feel my time investment should be displayed through my character. If I spend hours farming a set of gear from the most recent content I don’t want someone who just came back from break to be able to obtain the gear just because they have more money than I. As long as Zenimax only does this to the previous tier or season gear I think it would be acceptable. Again, going back to World of Warcraft, it would be as if Blizzard allowed players to purchase the complete set of the previous PvP season gear in order to be competitive in the new season. I always opted to not spend too much time doing WoW PvP.  I always felt I’d never be able to be survive without a set of PvP gear, and I didn’t want to spend countless hours farming the gear only for it to be obsolete once I obtained it.

I’m going on the assumption that Paul was also referring to selling this gear to players for real money. Which might not even be the case. Paul may have meant that they’ll offer a vendor who has been farming the previous content in order to sell it for gold. A really neat idea if Zenimax does go through with the idea of selling the gear is to allow players sell their old gear. Once a new tier or season is released, allow the player to purchase an item that would remove the “Bound” attribute from the gear. This would allow them to sell it themselves which would keep the money in the economy as well as providing the seller with the satisfaction of getting something more out of his old gear instead of deconstructing it or selling to a vendor for 100 gold. Of course, Zenimax will need to ensure that this removal of the bound attribute can only happen once so the gear isn’t be swapped and endlessly used, and only useable on items from the previous tier/season.

Subscriber Loyalty Program

Another aspect to this F2P debate is the recently announced Subscriber Loyalty Program (SLP). If you’ve been a subscriber to ESO for the last three months you’ll be able to receive a High Hrothgar Wraith pet. This is only the start of this program. They have made mention that there will be plenty of rewards coming in the near future.

Some people have been exclaiming on the boards that this is the first sign that Zenimax is worried about its subscriber base. They are trying to coax players to becoming a subscriber in order to receive free items.

To me these comments are from people who are just looking for a way to make everything Zenimax does seem negative. To me, this is Zenimax once again just showing how much is respects its community.

Take a look at what Zenimax has done so far to the game, what they’ve implemented, what they’re going to be implementing. A lot of it has come directly from the subscribers. We showed our dislike for the current Veteran system, so Zenimax has announced they’ll be redoing the Veteran leveling process, which in itself isn’t easy to do. They’ll be changing the way you experience the game after the primary story line. All because we didn’t like it. Show me another company that is willing to redo their game design after it has been launched, solely because the players are not enjoying it.

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Many companies offer a loyalty program, this isn’t something new. More than likely you have two or more loyalty cards in your wallet. Gas stations, coffee shops, even grocery stores offer a loyalty program. Is it because they are losing customers and they are trying to retain them? No, but they are trying to retain them.

If you’ve gone through a marketing course you will know that loyal customers will always account for more business than new customers. Of course this is all about retail stores, but marketing is marketing.  It doesn’t matter what type of company you’re doing it for, the results will tend to be the same. A study showed that loyal customers (those who visited stores at least 10 times) account for 20% of the company’s customers. Seems low eh? However, that 20% drives 80% of the business’ total revenue and 72% of total visits.

So is this a ploy to try and attract more subscribers? No, more of a ploy to keep those of us who are subscribers, future subscribers.


Ryan Getchell