Developer avoids free-to-play treatment on upcoming MMO

ZeniMax banks on subscriptions for Elder Scrolls Online

ZeniMax Online Studios is sticking with the traditional subscription business model for its upcoming MMO, The Elder Scrolls Online.

Speaking to Gamestar, ZeniMax Online GM Matt Firor said in order to create a game with hundreds of hours of gameplay, the studio had decided to charge a monthly fee rather than go down the free-to-play route.

He claimed that if the developer had made the title F2P, it would have been forced to make sacrifices and changes to the game that it wasn’t willing to make.

“It’s important to state that our decision to go with subscriptions is not a referendum on online game revenue models,” said Firor.

“F2P, B2P, etc. are valid, proven business models – but subscription is the one that fits ESO the best, given our commitment to freedom of gameplay, quality and long-term content delivery. Plus, players will appreciate not having to worry about being "monetised" in the middle of playing the game, which is definitely a problem that is cropping up more and more in online gaming these days.

"The fact that the word "monetised" exists points to the heart of the issue for us: We don’t want the player to worry about which parts of the game to pay for – with our system, they get it all.”

Firor also revealed that the basic subscription charge for the game would be £8.99 ($14.99) a month.

A number of big-name MMOs have ditched the subscription model over the last few years in favour of free-to-play, after struggling to garner a sufficient number of users.

Star Wars: The Old Republic, which is rumoured to have cost EA in excess of $200 million, was originally launched as subscription only. After struggling to gain traction however, the publisher and developer Bioware eventually took the game free-to-play.

Developers on titles such as All Points Bulletin: Reloaded, EverQuest, Star Trek Online and Aion have also taken similar measures, with many reporting a large uptake in the number of users.

The world’s leading MMO however, World of Warcraft, is subscription-based. Although user numbers have steadily declined in recent times, Blizzard’s MMO still boasts 7.7 million players.

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