For about 4 months (maybe 5), I’ve been enjoying Elder Scrolls Online. I’ve been amazed at the depth of the game, the place it plays in Elder Scrolls history and they way that the stories weave into the established Elder Scrolls lore. To be honest I was surprised at quickly I became acclimated to the game and how quickly I was able to find friends – thanks in no small part to Rusty Old Dragons, the guild I play with, whose leaders I have played games with on and off for the better part of 7 years.
However there is a dark cloud looming on the horizon. It’s been there with every MMO I have ever played and I fear it’s growing fast over ESO. That cloud is GREED.
GREED ISSUE No. 1: Subscription
ESO is the first MMO that I have played where a subscription was required. Even though they say the game is “free to play”, there are certain features that are only unlocked if you subscribe. The main feature everyone will tout is the Craft Bag. A place to store all the materials you find on your adventures. Without the craft bag, there is no easy way to store the materials you need to craft potions or food or armor or weapons. The way I play, I need this feature. So I’ve been subscribing – but not in the normal manner.
I’ve been getting around paying month to month by purchasing 60-day playtime cards. I’ve used the power of Google to find cards at less than normal monthly subscription rate of $15 and keeping my playtime going. It’s been working great. Until this past month. Late in October, I began looking for my next play time card. They were nowhere to be found. It’s like they simply disappeared. I was able to finally get one at Gamestop for basically full subscription price. My sister bought me another one for my birthday. So, as I write this, I’m running on less than 120 days of paid subscription. My fear is that when I’m forced to renew, even the full price cards won’t be available.
I think this has come to the state it is because Zenimax wants everyone on recurring subscription and they have stopped making the pre-paid cards. Well, there is a problem with this. Not everyone needs to play the game every day of every month.
To put my situation into perspective, my mind is set on playing Fallout 4 and Skyrim: Special Edition very soon – like around Christmas. When I turn my attention to those games, I’m probably going to loose myself in them for weeks, if not months, at a time. ESO will slowly dwindle down to a once a week or less kinda thing for me while I’m off in the Wasteland. Problem is, when I come back, I think I won’t be able to find the pre-paid and I’ll be forced to sign up for the “proper” subscription. You see Zenimax, I don’t want to be forced to subscribe, cancel the recurring charge, then come back and resubscribe. It’s much easier for me to buy the 60-day cards as I need them and just enter a code when I want to play. And I think I’m not alone.
GREED ISSUE No. 2: Crown Crates
Yesterday Zenimax released Crown Crates in ESO. Crown Crates are a way to gamble for rewards. The idea is that every three months or so, there is a season of “special” items available in the crates. You use real-life money to buy in-game currency called Crowns which you use to buy Crown Crates. When you open a Crown Crate, you get a series of 4 random items. These items can be anything from a pool of items, including the special crate-only items mentioned above. It’s basically the video game version of the Lottery.
When was the last time you won anything on the lottery? See the problem?
This, for me is very easy to ignore. I don’t spend a great deal of money on the lottery in the real world, I’m not going to be spending ANY money on the in-game one. But it points out that Zenimax has, in my mind, turned their eyes firmly onto the pocket-books and wallets of their player base.
GREED My position.
My problem with this is: This is only the beginning, or I think it is. Every video game company these days wants a steady stream of money coming in on a monthly basis. I understand the need for income – I do work for a service company.
The Crown Crates “feature” brings up a very dark point in my past. The very first MMO I played – Perfect World International – became the biggest pay to win free-for-all that I’ve experienced. It got to the point that you couldn’t play the game unless you constantly gave up real-world cash. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I did it. For a very long time I did. I lost more than $1000 to that silly cartoony game 5 or 6 years ago. I’m not going to do it again.
My situation is: I’ve already paid $60 for this game – actually I paid $60 twice, once when I started with the Imperial Edition and just recently with when I upgraded to the Gold Edition. I’ve paid another $85 or so in 60-day cards to date – not counting the birthday present. I’ve done this because the game is good enough that I feel it’s worth it. I will no doubt pay a few dollars more in the future because I want to continue playing.
That being said, I don’t want the Crown Crates. I don’t want to pay a subscription or at least not on a recurring schedule tied to my debit card.
Here’s what I propose: How about you continue to make DLC and release them every couple of months and charge $30 or so for them Make the crafting bag part of the natural inventory system (like it should be). I’ll pay for additional content – assuming it’s good. I’ll pay to expand my inventory if I feel it’s needed. However, I don’t want to pay $15 for a chance to get a horse or a pet cat. And I don’t want to pay for playtime that I’m not going to use. I want to continue to play the game with my friends and not get bored. The DLC contained in the Gold Edition is doing that for me. The Shadows of the Hist DLC is doing that for me. The ONLY reason I’m subscribing currently is the craft bag. If I could find a working alternate for that, I wouldn’t be a subscriber of any kind. Because I feel that paying for basic inventory space is nonsense.
Your game is the best MMO I’ve played. Period. Stop worrying about the monthly cash flow. Concentrate on making great content, release DLC on a timely schedule and the money will come. Because people will buy the game and the DLC. If you’re going to continue the subscription route, then make it accessible to those of us who want to pre-pay for the time that they’ll be playing and not force us to a recurring charge that we’ll forget about or have to struggle with to start and stop. Make it easy for your customers to do things their way instead of forcing them to your way. Things will be better for everyone. And THAT means more money for you in the long run.