Pathfinder Online CEO defends Elder Scrolls Online sub-model, estimates $100M generated monthly from MMO subs

Wednesday, 8th January 2014 21:29 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

The Elder Scrolls Online’s subscription model has been defended by Ryan Dancey, CEO of Pathfinder Online developer Goblinworks. According to Dancey’s figures, MMO subscriptions bring an estimated $100 million to the western market on a monthly basis.

Per Dancey, free-to-play MMOs which make use of microtransactions are a bit more difficult to estimate but he suspects the revenue doesn’t event approach 50% compared to subs.

“It’s even harder to estimate how much revenue is being generated from microtransactions (MTX), but it is extremely difficult to imagine that the revenue even approaches 50% of the amount being paid as subscription fees,” he wrote in a guest blog on MMORPG. “Half the subscription revenue is coming from World of Warcraft and Blizzard has just begun to dip its toe in the MTX revenue stream.

“MTX revenue will clearly increase over the next several years but until and unless there’s a major shift in the market, it will remain a junior partner to subscriptions in terms of revenue generation.

“This may be the internal justification ZeniMax is using to benchmark its budget for Elder Scrolls Online. Skyrim, the most recent single-player entry in the Elder Scrolls franchise, is reported to have sold approximately seven million units, which we can impute translates to something like $210 million in revenue. If the MMORPG can carry that kind of weight, its budget becomes suddenly very rational.

“The era of MMO subscriber transparency has ended, but we can still make some educated deductions about these revenues and subscriber totals. It’s impossible to confirm these figures without the cooperation of each game’s developer and none of them are going on the record anymore with these figures. But by triangulating from press releases, SEC (and other government filings), talking to industry insiders, and looking at anecdotal evidence from many sources, we can get into the ballpark for some analysis.”

Dancey said that upon launch, Pathfinder Online will be a subscription-only MMO, but suspects the business model will change over time.

You can have a look at Dancey’s monthly MMO revenue estimates below, and more analysis is through the link.



  1. Arcnail

    As long as microtransactions are not pay to win, then I’m fine with them there along side a monthly fee.

    Thing is though with a monthly fee, you better make sure you’re providing enough content to warrant it so people feel value in paying.

    #1 10 months ago
  2. Tormenter

    Just got through my beta invite for the coming weekend.. NDA :(

    I’ll soon know if it’s worth the sub.

    #2 10 months ago
  3. Arcnail

    Same… haha.. pretty big download… hope it’s worth it.

    #3 10 months ago
  4. TheWulf

    The problem with this list is that they don’t specify that most of those games went free to play with an optional (but completely unnecessary) monthly sub for some minor benefits and a store stipend.

    Honestly, The Secret World was the biggest surprise for me. If that game didn’t have combat or had less MMO-ish combat, it would be my all time favourite MMO and beyond reproach. It surprised me in ways I could never have expected. (So long as I don’t touch the Illuminati or the Dragons, I feel good about the writing, even.)

    TSW loved to randomly give people money for the cash store. Reach a milestone? Have some cash store money! It was ludicrously generous. They were so generous in the time I spent there that I just felt they deserved a little bit of my money now and then. And that’s how I should feel, rather than using nasty methods such as addiction.

    I gave TSW money because it was a good game.

    What a subscription tells me is that the developer doesn’t have faith that their MMO is going to be a good game.

    #4 10 months ago
  5. luciole78

    ??TheWulf :
    What a subscription tells me is that the developer doesn’t have faith that their MMO is going to be a good game.???

    Quite the opposite , what a FREE TOO Play game tells me is that the developer doesn’t have faith that their mmo is going to be a good game. Lol and it makes quite more sens! ! ! if you try to go p2p model is because you expect that people will be willing to pay every month to play your game , and that you are confident that you can provide enought content and fun on your game.

    A game that go f2p is usually a game that fail to provide a good game (more content in regular basis) game become boring fast and they lost masively them subscriber , thats why it become easier to go f2p and tried to arnack/attrack people willing to spend money to pay outrageous expensive micro transaction stuff on the market during other free loader can enjoy the game. Those game are only good normally for casual players and even, who just spend little time in game here and there , or spend time playing 25 000 f2p game everywhere.

    A good game doesnt need free loader , they doesn’t provide income to the company , plus its a lot easier to get players *(freeloaders) on a free to play game, compare to a p2p where everyone need to pay to play.

    God sakes!!! incredible how people try to believe themselve , look at the revenue a p2p game give lots more income, as long as they have a good amount of subscriber. Its when they fell to kept them entertain that they lost and then with a looser attitude change subs for f2p.

    #5 10 months ago
  6. Hyperx64

    $15 per month is fine. Though we should get discounts for buying time in advance. 6 months, 12 months and 24 months even.

    #6 10 months ago
  7. Hybridpsycho

    Subscription > F2P (Micro transactions), ALWAYS for me. I get why alot of more casual players can enjoy the F2P games but when I’ve played them there’s never been enough content for me. It works for players that play a few days a month.

    Also, anyone expecting to “try out Elder scrolls online” this weekend, don’t expect too much. It’s a fucking Stresstest, most likely the servers will be so fucked that if you’re lucky you will be able to play 30-40 minutes. Hardly enough time to even have a clue about if you wanna play an MMO or not.

    #7 10 months ago

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