Update 41 is now available for testing on the PTS! You can read the latest patch notes here: https://forums.elderscrollsonline.com/en/categories/pts

What if ESO were free to play?

Gidorick
Gidorick
✭✭✭✭✭
✭✭✭✭✭
[disclaimer]
Ok. Let me start off that I am NOT suggesting ESO be free to play (FTP). I am not saying it should have been FTP. I love the subscription model. I hate the idea of pay-gates and the seemingly sneaky tactics of many of the FTP systems that are currently out there. I prefer to pay my $15 a month and know that I can just play to my heart’s content and not have to worry about having to shell out some cash to go do activity A, B or C.
[/disclaimer]

ZOS has always maintained that ESO being a subscription model enables the game to be developed in a way that benefits the game overall. I pulled the following quotes from this interview: http://www.gamestar.de/spiele/the-elder-scrolls-online/artikel/www.gamestar.de/spiele/the-elder-scrolls-online/artikel/the_elder_scrolls_online,44578,3026853.html

“We're building a game with the freedom to play - alone or with your friends - as much as you want. A game with meaningful and consistent content - one packed with hundreds of hours of gameplay that can be experienced right away and one that will be supported with premium customer support.”

“The Elder Scrolls Online was designed and developed to be a premium experience: hundreds of hours of gameplay, tons of depth and features, professional customer support”


Bulleting these points we have:
  • Freedom to play - alone or with your friends
  • Meaningful & Consistent content
  • Hundreds of hours of gameplay
  • Tons of depth and features
  • Premium & Professional customer support

As I see it, they have somewhat delivered and justified their choice in being a subscription model. I do find there are some areas in which ESO has stumbled. I find myself wondering if ZOS has been successful in implementing the above bullet points in a more meaningful way than they would have if ESO were always FTP, or if the subscription model has been used as a shield from the pressure to create a game experience compelling enough to have players coming back for more.

In a subscription model, we make the commitment prior to playing and I’m sure there are players that continue to play to try to get their monies worth and continue to subscribe out of obligation to their accounts/characters. I can’t help but wonder how we players have benefited from ESO being a subscription model or if we would have better benefited from ESO being FTP, which would have put the obligation on ZOS to make ESO a more consistently compelling (and stable) experience.

The one bulleted point I’d like to point out is the Premium & Professional customer support. In my opinion, ESO has an acceptable level of customer support, but that's really it. It doesn’t seem to be above and beyond the service that can be found in any other game that’s out there. It definitely doesn’t stand out as an example of the way to offer “Premium” customer support. Us customers seem to be "handled" rather than "supported"... but maybe I'm wrong...

The main purpose of this post is to ask a question to those that have extensively played FTP MMOS.

How do you think ESO would be different if they had chosen a FTP model instead of subscription?

Feel free to comment specifically on the bulleted points listed above.

Thanks! I’m looking forward to what you all have to say.
Edited by ZOS_Icy on February 2, 2024 6:18PM
What ESO really needs is an Auction Horse.
That's right... Horse.
Click HERE to discuss.

Want more crazy ideas? Check out my Concept Repository!
  • superfluke
    superfluke
    ✭✭✭
    Oh no you din't! Prepare for an incoming Khajit-Storm!
    Do you even backstory, bro?
  • starkerealm
    starkerealm
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    Sharee wrote: »
    Gidorick wrote: »
    How do you think ESO would be different if they had chosen a FTP model instead of subscription?

    It would be different in that i would not be playing it.

    Also, that.
  • starkerealm
    starkerealm
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    If ESO were Free-to-play these will happen:
    To expand on these a little...
    -Time between updates significantly increases, I wouldn't be surprised if it would be 1-2 major updates a year.

    When he's saying "major updates", that's not major content updates. Go look at a F2P game (other than DCUO), and "major updates" starts to look a lot like the 1.4 -1.5 updates.

    I could be cynical about why this happens, but the biggest thing with a F2P release is that, once you've gone to that format, there's no longer an real incentive to improve the product. You're pulling in mountains of cash compared to where you were... (but, see below to find out where that's coming from), and so there's no reason to actually work until the game's population starts seriously sliding. I'd call BS on this myself if I hadn't seen it happen over and over and over.
    -The community will just die. Though that doesn't sound like much of a problem but the community in a MMO can completely change your experience with the game (for better or worse, when its F2P its 99% of the time worse)

    Yeah, so, there's a difference between community and population. I've seen a lot of arguments over the years saying, no, really you get more people coming in. But, at the same time, you have fewer people staying, and the people who do come don't often participate in the community, because they're getting shouted down by the 12 year olds who are trying to spam zone, scam people, or otherwise just being little... whatevers.
    -Most of the people who actually care about the game and want it to succeed will be gone, have fun with a bunch of 9yr olds in Zone chat "trolling"

    Also, of the adults who remain, there's no incentive to make things better.

    Now, you will always have a small loyal cadre of players, but over time they withdraw into their own insular little bubbles.

    Because of how the guild setup works now, you'd be effectively limiting people to having up to 500 other players that were part of their community, total. Because, again, zone would turn into (more of) a wasteland.
    -There would be a 95% chance that a Micro-transaction and pay-to-win feature would be added to the game, and then all you'll ever hear is people complain about it.

    ...and this is where the money comes in.

    Running an MMO is expensive. Making one is more so. You cannot give that away and keep a roof over your head, so you need to make money somewhere. If you can't do that on subs, you need that on whales.

    Whales are players who invest obscene amounts of money into a game, and they're the ones that will keep you afloat. These are people that can afford to drop upwards of 1k a month on a game.

    With a lot of F2P games, what ends up happening is you see heavy monitized gates, to encourage people to become whales. Since they're the ones (effectively) paying for the game, they're the ones that get (mostly) what they want.

    If you can't afford to be a whale, you get priced out of the game, or get punitive sanctions dumped on you, because you're no longer the paying customer, at least not at a level the developers care about.

    I mentioned DCUO earlier, but it's a little bit of an outlier because it's using a DLC format we're used to seeing in console releases.
    If ESO were to go F2P, it would literally kill the game and give it no hope in having a future. F2P kills every MMO

    Yeah, the exception I'd hold up is DCUO, but again, that has more to do with some abnormal design decisions. But, basically, Bosmern is right. A F2P MMO is going to be a completely different animal from the original version. It's like watching someone skin something you love and come back wearing it as an Edgar suit.
  • Frenkthevile
    Frenkthevile
    ✭✭✭✭
    Gidorick wrote: »
    [disclaimer]

    Thanks! I’m looking forward to what you all have to say.

    Look at AA to see how F2P works nowdays...shameful recycled ideas with P2W options and stale developement!
  • ers101284b14_ESO
    ers101284b14_ESO
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    ✭✭✭
    I agree with what most others have said about how they would monetize it. Chests would be harder to open and lock picks would break more often but you'd have to buy Lockpicks from a cash shop.

    It would probably be free if you wanted to play a male Breton. Oh you wanna be an Argonian? That will be $20. Oh you want an alt? $10. You want that alt to be a Nord? $20.

    The community would do a 180 on all levels. You know how when you go to a zone and ask for help with a boss? Well that wouldn't happen because there would already be 10000 there killing it to make sure you couldn't. And dont ask for help or youll be berrated being called every nasty name in the book, if you can even read chat past the gold spam.
    Remember how packed those starting areas where on release and the people farming the delves? Yeah that would come back.

    Remember the bot trains, gold selling spam and gold selling mails we used to get? Yeah that would be back.

    Also as others said the content drops would slow to a crawl an would probably cost money. Yay new adventure zone Murkmire! That will be $50 to unlock it. Oh you can't beat the boss in a cave in Murkmire because you can't find appropriate armor? That will be $20 for the armor. Oh you don't like the armor being bright pink with polka dots? That will be $15 for the dye.

    Yeah no thanks.
  • Gulvar
    Gulvar
    ✭✭
    Gidorick wrote: »
    [disclaimer]The one bulleted point I’d like to point out is the Premium & Professional customer support. In my opinion, ESO has an acceptable level of customer support, but that's really it. It doesn’t seem to be above and beyond the service that can be found in any other game that’s out there. It definitely doesn’t stand out as an example of the way to offer “Premium” customer support. Us customers seem to be "handled" rather than "supported"... but maybe I'm wrong...

    I'm of the opinion that CS is getting worse and worse in games. Not because they don't care but because they're too removed from the actual games. I would pay a higher subscription price to have in-game GMs compliment the call center CS we now have in most games. Early EQ style GMs to deal with problem players and player issues in real time.

  • AlexDougherty
    AlexDougherty
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    ✭✭
    Gythral wrote: »
    Pay 2 Win is a good way to describe most F2P systems, plus I'd sooner pay a sub, it's always cheaper than P2W!
    Sharee wrote: »
    Gidorick wrote: »
    How do you think ESO would be different if they had chosen a FTP model instead of subscription?

    It would be different in that i would not be playing it.

    These two quotes sum up my feelings on Pay 2 Play.
    People believe what they either want to be true or what they are afraid is true!
    Wizard's first rule
    Passion rules reason
    Wizard's third rule
    Mind what people Do, not what they say, for actions betray a lie.
    Wizard's fifth rule
    Willfully turning aside from the truth is treason to one's self
    Wizard's tenth rule
  • KhajitFurTrader
    KhajitFurTrader
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    ✭✭
    F2P usually boils down to Pay2win, but not always exclusively, or at first. I've seen my share of F2P mobile games, and I've seen LOTRO slowly deteriorating over the years after going F2P. The mechanisms are quite similar across all genres:
    • Decoupling of real-life currency from in-game currency -- inhibition and self-control are circumvented by virtualization and abstraction. Spending 29 foozles with the click of a colorful button and receiving instant gratification with getting an item or service at once is differently perceived and justified that forking over $2.90, while having to supply CC data and jumping through the hoops each and every time. Best thing that could happen is that the customer doesn't even consciously realize he's spending RL money while he's clicking something (preferably without this practice constituting as fraud).
    • Existence of more than one in-game currency, to further support the best-case scenario declared above. One currency (the "weaker" one) might be earned (slowly) through in-game means (thus providing another persistent motivation), the other, more powerful one could only be exchanged from the former at abysmal rates, or bought only by RL currency.
    • Artificially created scarcity of needed in-game resources can be alleviated by buying readily offered shortcuts.
    • Artificially created and temporarily limited discounts create a sense of urgency in the customer, plus the warm glow of "I just made a steal".

    These are only aspects that would work quite well in a single player game. In a competitively oriented game, offering outright advantages over others (a.k.a. P2W) is an almost surefire selling point.

    All in all, F2P boils down to encourage the customers to spend even more money over time than they would have on a singular buy-out price or regular subscription. The developer/provider gambles that the game will attract enough paying customers to cover for expenses and make a profit. He will take the great mass of free riders in stride and hope to subliminally convert them into (at least occasionally) paying customers, all the while secretly hoping to attract some "whales", i.e. people with deep pockets and low self-control, who would singlehandedly uplift the "average revenue per customer" ratio.

    So what would ESO look like if it were F2P? This question basically boils down to: "What kind of convenience can be monetized in what way?" ESO would have things like
    • an almost nonexistent or very low entry barrier regarding availability of the game and ease of account creation
    • all kinds of in-game barriers, time sinks, and inconveniences which could be circumvented by spending virtual currency (think storage space, crafting research times, availability of crafting and improvement resources, access to higher quality items, speed at which certain achievements can be gained, etc.)
    • all kinds of stuff encouraging envy between players, and/or promising "uniqueness", i.e. a sense of "standing out from the crowd" (think access to crafting styles, access to race/class/alliance combinations, access to extraordinary/rare equipment colors or horse skins, etc.)
    • all kinds of buyable, "slight" advantages over other players in PvP (e.g. Forward Camps without restrictions, hireling/mercenary NPCs as bodyguards or buff bots, even access to unique, pay-only skill lines)

    The possibilities are endless. My tolerance for this kind of thing is not. :wink:
    Edited by KhajitFurTrader on November 1, 2014 6:11PM
  • Nox_Aeterna
    Nox_Aeterna
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    Hum i heard that SWTOR gets more money now than it did with a sub model.

    In the end the "whales" really keep F2P model going strong and a choice for companies.

    The thing with ESO is that the devs did say they would close the game before allowing it to become F2P didnt they? Then again , lying is something zen devs are pro at doing.
    Edited by Nox_Aeterna on November 1, 2014 6:22PM
    "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."
    -Hanlon's razor
  • Exarch
    Exarch
    ✭✭✭
    Hum i heard that SWTOR gets more money now than it did with a sub model.

    As someone who quit SWTOR after ~6 months I would believe that simply because people enjoyed the game, just not enough to find it worth the subscription fee. On the other hand, I have some trouble believing that because the FTP model that SWTOR adopted was the most punitive I've ever seen, punishing the customer for not spending money rather than tempting them to spend (having to pay for additional action bars stands out as one of the most egregious examples); I would have continued to play to a limited extent once it went F2P, but I found the experience so degraded as to not be worth the time.

    By contrast both Rift and TSW adopted much more palatable F2P models, where spending money enhances an already enjoyable experience; I could happily divide my meager time budget between those two games, if I wasn't playing ESO.
  • ArcVelarian
    ArcVelarian
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    Exarch wrote: »
    Hum i heard that SWTOR gets more money now than it did with a sub model.

    As someone who quit SWTOR after ~6 months I would believe that simply because people enjoyed the game, just not enough to find it worth the subscription fee. On the other hand, I have some trouble believing that because the FTP model that SWTOR adopted was the most punitive I've ever seen, punishing the customer for not spending money rather than tempting them to spend (having to pay for additional action bars stands out as one of the most egregious examples); I would have continued to play to a limited extent once it went F2P, but I found the experience so degraded as to not be worth the time.

    By contrast both Rift and TSW adopted much more palatable F2P models, where spending money enhances an already enjoyable experience; I could happily divide my meager time budget between those two games, if I wasn't playing ESO.

    SWTOR styled FTP would be a worst case scenario. EAware brushed aside all real content for the fluff and nickel/diming.

    Murphy's Law of PvP : If it can be abused and or exploited, it will be abused and or exploited.
  • Lonestryder
    Lonestryder
    ✭✭✭
    Sharee wrote: »
    Gidorick wrote: »
    How do you think ESO would be different if they had chosen a FTP model instead of subscription?

    It would be different in that i would not be playing it.

    Indeed.
  • Lord_Kreegan
    Lord_Kreegan
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    FTP is a farce. F2P is an even bigger farce. Yeah, I know they're the same thing...

    While I am loathe to pay for any game that is improperly released in terms of content and tons of bugs -- I am not going to pay to Beta test any company's game; what is this? ArcheAge? -- I have seen FTP destroy games.

    LotRO and SW-TOR are the best examples of what happens to games when a FTP monetization model is applied. In LotRO's case, the game fairly rapidly went downhill (I played LotRO from release through four years later; at that point, I could no longer tolerate the constant lies told by the CM and development teams). I felt like I was repeatly seeing one of those TV commercials, "But wait! Call right now and we'll throw in a second piece of crap you don't need! And we'll also include this totally useless other piece of crap. And if you include this promotion code: "I am an Idiot", we'll add another even more useless piece of crap! Just pay extra shipping and handling... lots of extra shipping and handling since that's where we make our profit... and, no, you can't buy just one because everything is pre-packaged (there really isn't any extra shipping and handling; it's just pure profit)." LotRO bombarded you with ads...

    In SW-TOR, if you let your subscription lapse, it was "Pick which two of your characters you want to continue playing... Oh, all those extras you bought with your subscription points? Too bad..."

    One approach to FTP tries to sucker you to buy stuff you don't want; you almost can't help but click on a "Buy Me!" hot spot; the other approach tries to twist your arm to force you to buy stuff.

    There's a severe lack of integrity in both approaches... and I'm an old Southern ***, not exactly inclined to tolerate dishonorable behavior.

    So, hell no, I won't play FTP.
  • seanvwolf
    seanvwolf
    ✭✭✭✭
    I'd prefer it, should ZOS decide to adopt a f2p structure, to do one thing.

    Have a megaserver for the sub model and a separate megaserver for the f2p model. This way, we get our subbed community and the updates and service that it requires, and ZOS still has the f2p server to swell, generate interest, and hopefully convert over to the subbed server.

    Subs get the monthly updates, open content and ZOS appreciation.
    F2P gets the P2W experience, whales, bots and trolls and a maybe annual update on the game based on what the subs have enjoyed the past year.
    Edited by seanvwolf on November 1, 2014 10:22PM
  • Leeric
    Leeric
    ✭✭✭✭
    Subscription base models are actually cheaper than most F2P games....Things go F2P so companies can maximize profit, most due to smaller numbers of people actually playing the game (high turnover ratios). Soooo it would be stupid for ESO to go free to play so we don't have to pay for dumb crap. This isn't league of legends guys.
    Edited by Leeric on November 1, 2014 10:30PM
  • Ysne58
    Ysne58
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    Unfortunately, a long time ago, Zenimax stated that it was their intention that ESO should, eventually, go F2P.

    I'm not looking forward to that day.
    Source please?
  • Arthur_Spoonfondle
    Arthur_Spoonfondle
    ✭✭✭✭
    Sorry, read it too long ago to remember where but, hope it doesn't happen for a long time.
  • Nerouyn
    Nerouyn
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    I strongly prefer the subscription (without cash shop) model myself. But I always thought and said that ESO probably would have been better off going with B2P - for the simple reason that their enormous fan base from the single player games were familiar and obviously comfortable with that option.

    Sell the game. Sell regular (yearly, half or quarterly) expansion packs. No subscription.
  • seanvwolf
    seanvwolf
    ✭✭✭✭
    I've seen MMO's with B2P options before, but can't think of a single one that stuck around. The only exception are those games that had a solid offline experience supplemented with online options that didn't require a huge burden on servers. ESO is a different beast, and I don't think that pick and choose expansions would have been appropriate.
  • bedlom
    bedlom
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    I would like to think that ESO deserves better than F2P.

    Maybe a trial like wow, but something like SWTOR would be horrible to see happen to ESO.
  • starkerealm
    starkerealm
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    Exarch wrote: »
    Hum i heard that SWTOR gets more money now than it did with a sub model.

    As someone who quit SWTOR after ~6 months I would believe that simply because people enjoyed the game, just not enough to find it worth the subscription fee. On the other hand, I have some trouble believing that because the FTP model that SWTOR adopted was the most punitive I've ever seen, punishing the customer for not spending money rather than tempting them to spend (having to pay for additional action bars stands out as one of the most egregious examples); I would have continued to play to a limited extent once it went F2P, but I found the experience so degraded as to not be worth the time.

    By contrast both Rift and TSW adopted much more palatable F2P models, where spending money enhances an already enjoyable experience; I could happily divide my meager time budget between those two games, if I wasn't playing ESO.

    SWTOR styled FTP would be a worst case scenario. EAware brushed aside all real content for the fluff and nickel/diming.

    I can't decide which is worse, Bioware's approach to F2P or Cryptic's.
  • Gilvoth
    Gilvoth
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    Voodoo wrote: »
    No offense OP but I am tired of this conversation so..
    npqkut.jpg

    i quoted this picture as it does indeed agree with my opinion of this thread and topic.
    eso has come a long way and is a good game. if she goes free to play i would be alot more then angry i would probably be very very angry.
    i hate free to play mmo's they are the most expensive mmo's on the market.
    is a chance we could now end this thread discussion and perhaps never see it again?
    -crosses fingers in hopes-

This discussion has been closed.