On March 17 the PC version of The Elder Scrolls Online ditches subscription fees and gains the subtitle "Tamriel Unlimited." What are we getting for free, and what does the change mean for existing players?
In a live session streamed via Twitch earlier today, Pete Hines of Bethesda, game director Matt Firor and creative director Paul Sage went over some of the big changes coming to the PC version of The Elder Scrolls Online, along with what's in store for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 releases in June.
Why make the free-to-play announcement now? According to Firor, with a ton of content in the game and the console versions on the way, the time was just right. There'd really be no point to set up the complicated infrastructure necessary to accept console subscription fees and then take them away a couple of months later. So, responding to player feedback about the game's pay model, they went to a one-time purchase model with an optional subscription and a cash shop.
The subscription fee isn't going away completely. As with many games that have made the transition from free to subscription, players will be able to pay a monthly fee for a premium service. ESO Plus, as it's being called, will give subscribers free access to new downloadable adventure areas, which non-subscribing players will have to purchase separately. These new areas aren't restricted by levels — the idea is anyone of any level can purchase them and play them immediately.
Subscribers will also receive a monthly allowance to spend in the Crown Store, the in-game shop where players can purchase cosmetic outfits and mounts, special pets and also repair kits, soul gems and health and magicka potions — none of which are more potent than items that can be crafted by players.
There are no powerful weapons or items — the Crown Shop is all about cosmetics and convenience. Firor says "You can't buy anything in the shop that you can't acquire in-game."
Added Sage, "The game is still going to be the best place to get the best gear."
Here's a rundown of all the benefits of continuing to subscribe to The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited.
Sage stressed that these percentage bonuses were extras for subscribers — they aren't slowing down progression for everyone else — for non-paying players progression in experience, crafting research, gold acquisition and crafting inspiration will remain the same as it is in game now.
Free players will have access to the full game, sans downloadable content. They'll progress a bit slower than paying players, but the experience overall will be the same.
As for players who are either paying customers now or have been in the past, there's a little money in it for you.
So if you've already purchased The Elder Scrolls Online you're good to go — once March 17 hits you can either go free or continue paying, your choice. If you're new, you'll buy the game and choose if you wish to pay or not.
A $60 one-time charge with no required subscription service sounds much more attractive than the prospect of paying a monthly charge until you get sick of paying a monthly charge, doesn't it?
Check out the full Twitch broadcast for more information, as well as a look at the upcoming console versions, due out in June.