Elder Scrolls Online subscription fee was mutual decision, Hines confirms

Tuesday, 1st April 2014 12:09 GMT By Dave Cook

The Elder Scrolls Online will charge players a monthly subscription fee, a decision that was made mutually between Bethesda and Zenimax Online Studios. Bethesda’s Global VP of Marketing and PR, Pete Hines has explained why he feels it was the right decision.


It follows my extensive Elder Scrolls Online beta impressions piece, where I concluded that I wouldn’t pay for it.

Speaking with GamesOnNet, Hines said, “It would be fair to say it was a mutual decision. It wasn’t like they decided it, and we didn’t mandate it. There was a lot of conversation around it. I worry about it, but I worry about everything. That’s my job, to worry. But I think it’s the right decision for the right reasons.”

“What’s going to determine whether or not it succeeds or fails is not really tied to what anyone else has done,” he went on, “it’s tied to ‘do we make a strong enough argument for the value that you get for your fifteen dollars?’. If we’re providing the kind of content people want to see where they’re like ‘This is awesome, I’m having a blast, this new stuff is totally worth it and I’m having fun’, then the subscription totally works. If we’re putting out stuff that doesn’t make a case for it then we have a problem on our hands and we have failed to meet that value proposition.

“But I would argue that other games that have or haven’t succeeded with this: it’s more about that, not the model itself. It’s about ‘are you giving me my money’s worth for what you’re asking me to pay?’ If yes, then they don’t have a problem with it. If no, then they have a problem with it.”

When it was suggested that $90 AUD (the site is Australian) was still too much to pay if a person wanted to see more content in future, Hines replied, “If you don’t like the game, of course you’re not subscribing to it. You get the game, you get your first month without having to pay for a subscription to see ‘is this thing a thing I like’? If your approach that you want to take is that, for example, you love Skyrim, you played it for 125 hours, but after three or four weeks you were done, then you can do the exact same thing in Elder Scrolls Online.”

“You can buy it, play the hell out of it for four weeks and go ‘Eh! I’m done. I did everything I wanted to do, I did a bunch of single-player stuff, I did a bunch of PVP, and now I’m out.’ Then you’re out. The subscription is irrelevant. The initial purchase is exactly the same as any other PC game because you don’t have to pay for the subscription until your 30 days is up.”

Hines closed by reminding everyone that Zenimax Online Studios are “pretty agile”, if things need to change, but didn’t disclose anything further.

The Elder Scrolls Online launches on PC, April 4.



  1. _LarZen_

    I agree wholeheartedly with this.

    #1 9 months ago
  2. ij 44

    Pay rent to keep enjoying a game. Is this really a step forward from Oblvion/Skyrim?

    #2 9 months ago
  3. orren

    @ij 44 “Pay rent to enjoy a game”

    For the initial box price:
    - You buy an AAA single player game(like Dishonored). You play it for a month(most titles don’t last longer than that). Then you are done.
    - You buy an AAA MMO for the same price. You play it for a month. Then you are done.

    No difference.

    Next month:
    - If you want to continue playing the single player game, you have to pay more for DLC.
    - If you want to continue playing the MMO, you have to pay more for another month.

    Again, no difference, except that with the MMO you don’t have to wait for a DLC to come out, and the DLC is usually more expensive and shorter than a month of MMO.

    The above assumes that you actually *like* both games. (If you dont like it, you wouldn’t play it regardless if it was a sub game or a DLC game)

    #3 9 months ago
  4. Xbone

    Im gonna try out the game at the end of the year when it goes F2P or B2P

    #4 9 months ago
  5. GrimRita

    Words that will be eaten after 6 months in to launch. From what I have read and seen, this game isn’t worthy of a monthly fee. The combat animations are something from a 1920s B movie starring Buster Crabb, the quests – generic and importantly, if you want to play a game based on a popular franchise, it lacks the link between Elder Scrolls.

    When Wildstar arrives, this is going to struggle. Guild Wars 2 in an outdated frock and monthly fee. Good luck, it will need it.

    #5 9 months ago
  6. fearmonkey

    I believe that free to play is a cancer, as now people expect it and think they shouldnt pay for updated monthly content/fixes/etc. All the best ftp games were once pay to play, I havent found a single ftp game that kept me more than a month if that,.

    I played Wow for years, paid a sub, and enjoyed it very much. The game was constantly updated and being fixed and it was really worth it (this was in the first years of Wow). I believe it will be the same for TESO, and I am willing to pay for that.

    I have played on 4 betas and bought the game day one and love it. It’s not perfect, it has it’s issues, and it does have bugs and such. But it’s still one of the most polished launches I have ever been though regarding a MMO. I havent had queues yet, I havent been kicked off the server, and I havent had issues with getting stuck in geometry, etc. The only bugs I have encountered are where quest progressions get stuck, but they have greatly improved that sicne the betas.

    The game has alot to explore and see, and more is coming, and that is worth paying for in my opinion.

    @grimstar – You obviously havent played the game, and Wildstar is very “meh” in comparison.
    The game is very good actually., but it is a MMO and not a single player ES title with multiplayer. It has elements of that. Its one of the most solo friendly MMO’s I have played.

    #6 9 months ago
  7. orren

    @GrimRita “From what I have read and seen…”

    Read and seen, eh?

    From what i have played , you are completely wrong on all accounts.

    #7 9 months ago
  8. TheWulf

    Look at this. I mean, really, look at this. Just cast your eyes upon #3, as that’s a herdie, right there. Aping the marketing buzz of Hines without ever even forming their own opinions.

    What Hines isn’t telling you is that other games provide you with an endless license to enjoy it for as long as you like. So if you want to revisit a game two or three years down the road, you can do that, without having to pay. His logic is purposefully flawed to mislead the herd, who don’t know any better. See, according to the doublethink he’s trotting out, here, he’s saying that it’s acceptable to charge $15 every time you want to reinstall Morrowind, Oblivion, or Skyrim again to play them.

    And the herd just nod-nod-nods along, never actually applying analysis and insight to what’s actually being said. And the sad part is is that they would follow this twisted logic to the end result of giving up ever more money and more rights, because a fool and their money are soon parted. But for any insightful individual, any pack person, this is wholly unreasonable and it suggests tyranny. Holding my games at ransom unless I want to pay $15 to access them again down the road, or tough, no game.

    I’m sure that’s a bit of a wet dream for people like Hines.

    And what is “money’s worth,” exactly? Some of the best games throughout history have been really short. Think of what you consider as your top ten all time greats, and a number of them you’ll have their because of their qualitative values, rather than their quantitative values. Portal is, as always, the best example. Three hours of glorious, pure gamplay. But the marketing man, like Hines, wants to wave their hand and tell you that time is the one metric of value to rule them all.

    Nod nod nod.

    Except no.

    By buying into this time nonsense, all you’re doing is giving a developer a free pass to be lazy. They can use trickery like repeated content, grind, padding, and busywork to extend a game that would otherwise be just six boring hours out into sixty boring hours. “Look,” they’ll say, “this game lasts you a really long time. You’re getting your money’s worth! Be happy!

    But are you? They’re selling you padding, and grinding, and the same thing over and over. Are you actually getting your money’s worth? See, for me, it’s the question of being to have a feast from a local Chinese takeaway put in front of me, filled with addicting and unhealthy MSGs, or just having a small meal comprised of tasty, healthy things.

    Entertainment is no different than that. However, some people can just continue to consume the same thing over and over, I guess, without even realising they’re doing it, which is how fast food became a thing. Still, you’re either self aware enough to question your actions, or not. You’re herd, or not.

    Sometimes you even need to think about thinking just to understand your own motivations. And whether your words have any weight behind them. I feel it’s obvious to see that #3′s words were just herd aping, with no thought. That’s commonly a very extroverted, herdlike thing to do.

    So it’s up to you, really.

    You’re smart, or you’re not.

    Nice to see that #2 gets it.

    My approach, which is that of someone who’s considered their actions and motivations over long periods of thought, is quid pro quo. As I believe I mentioned. Quid pro quo means you pay for something, and then you get unlimited access to that. Then, if they release something else in the future, you can pay for that and see how you like that. And if you don’t like something, just stop giving them money.

    I’m also a firm believer in ‘try before you buy,’ so you can find out whether you’re being exploited or not, whether they’re selling you impossible hyper or something you’d actually enjoy.

    These are all intelligent considerations.

    I try something, I like it, I buy it, I keep it. I’d question the humanity of anyone who disagrees with this conclusion, because I don’t think that any self-respecting human would want to give up their right to be able to do that.

    I don’t pay for a new desktop computer AND rent it. I pay for a new desktop computer OR rent it (and many rental plans actually allow me to own the computer after a certain period of rental, anyway).

    Unfortunately, the nod nod nod herd is just driving us further and further down a road of less rights by just accepting this. Quantitative value and endless rent. If we get to a point where console and computer gaming ends up in the same state as mobile gaming, you only have yourselves to blame for being yes-men and merrily nodding along. You’re empowering people to screw you over, and the only reason you’d do that is if you don’t possess the most basic elements of human intelligence.

    So, you nod nod nod, or you think.

    Honestly, this is why I’m inclined toward humans with pack mentality and introversion. They’re insightful, intelligent, and the last thing they ever do is just nod along.

    #8 9 months ago
  9. TheWulf

    Also, why is it so hard for the herd to comprehend that both freemium and subscription models are cancerous and damaging to the videogames economy? The only way to mend the way things are is quid pro quo, you pay for a thing and you get the thing, then that thing is yours to keep.

    Two decades ago, if you’d suggested to someone that they need to buy and then pay continual rental for their suit, they’d just laugh, laugh, laugh, and laugh some more, then they’d leave the store in disgust and find a business that isn’t completely insane. Subscriptions are unhealthy. If you buy the thing, you should get to keep the thing, otherwise they shouldn’t ask you to buy the thing in the first place.

    Nowhere else in the software world does this craziness exist. Even with anti-malware suites it’s a yearly rental that’s the same every year. None of them would try to have you pay $60 for a box, and then $15 for every month after that. That’s not just insanity, that’s stupidity, it’s as venomous and greedy as any freemium model. And any person with self-respect should just say no.

    This is why I believe so firmly that herd animals are a thing, because only a human with sub-human intelligence, who apes the words of other people rather than forming their own opinions would actually believe that paying for something and renting that same thing is reasonable. Just the same as with freemium fans, only a sub strata of our species would believe that spending hundreds of monies on a freemium game, when you can get the same experience elsewhere for the flat cost of $20 is reasonable.

    You try the thing, you buy the thing, you keep the thing. Is this really so hard to understand? Or do I have to be a charismatic extrovert who uses borderline NLP to control crowds to actually get this through to the herd?

    It’s ridiculous.

    #9 9 months ago
  10. orren

    @TheWulf “So if you want to revisit a game two or three years down the road, you can do that, without having to pay.”

    That is BS Wulf and you know it. Sure, i can revisit a game 3 years down the road, i have tons of games like that, tons. And do you know how many out of those tons did i revisit 3 years down the road?

    Three. That’s it. The vast majority of games you ‘own without having to pay’, you buy, you play, and you throw away. There are too many new games coming out to spend time with old ones.

    Other games do provide me with a license to enjoy them as long as i like, yes. What you ignore however is that, for the vast majority of games, the ‘as long as i like’ in the above sentence usually means ‘less than a month’.

    And after that month, if you want to play something, you have to buy it again. And another game again. And again. With an MMO, i am doing the same – except the ‘buy again’ costs me $15, not the price of a full game.

    #10 9 months ago
  11. GrimRita

    @6 Nope I haven’t played it mostly because I just have zero interest in Elder scrolls as a game and especially as an MMO. It offers nothing new to the table, so its an instant no sale.

    You’re point about F2P being a cancer is utter bollocks. In your opening statement, you hit the nail on the head – CONTENT. If developers churn out regular updates (even the rehashed shit like Blizzard did early doors), then people will most certainly pay, because they see value.

    If, you leave a game in limbo like Bioware did with SWTOR without any news for almost 6 months, after 1.7 million jumped ship, of course people won’t pay for it. Even today, they are struggling to get content out on a regular basis and their subs are in free fall as a result of it.

    I think Guild Wars 2 is the stand out for content and that’s free to play! So it CAN work if done correctly – both can.

    Wildstar I have played and had a lot of fun. I’ve gotten over the cartoon graphics and the generic quests but PvP is just bags of fun. Classes feel different, combat is engaging and they have done lots of work on server stability – my first week, I had such bad lag(UK to US server) I gave up but now its smooth – real smooth.

    Will I pay for it? As it stands, yes but I will have to wait and see how the PvP content pans out because I was really hoping that SWTOR would improve it’s pvp but after the recent ‘Q&NO post’, PvP is an after thought, as all they care about is turning Star Wars into a Sims expansion with stupid cosmetic and fucking houses!

    #11 9 months ago
  12. Hcw87


    GW2 is buy2play, not free2play. Pretty big difference there.

    Every F2P MMO have ridiculous cash-shops where you need to buy stuff like mount-unlocks, inventory extenders etc. The ONLY good F2P MMO i’ve played is Rift, and it started out as a subscription-based MMO.

    In short: MMO’s need to be Buy2Play or Sub-based, or i won’t touch them for any extended amount of time. F2P MMO’s are indeed cancer.

    #12 9 months ago
  13. GrimRita

    @12 and whats Elder Scrolls? You have to BUY that to play it – same as Guild Wars 2. You miss the point about F2P totally, like most of those who state that F2P is a ‘cancer’.

    It’s simple logic. If you don’t want X mount, then don’t buy it. But the game is free to play, like it is with Guild Wars 2. The line only gets crossed when it comes buy to win. League of Legends is probably the finest example of a free to play game.

    Yes its a MOBA but the foundations are the same. Really, do some research before throwing stupid statements.

    I’ve nothing against either IF the content is there. And if you want to see a really bad Freemium model – check out SWTOR. It’s probably the worst in gaming history. 3 tiers of ‘the haves’ and ‘have nots’.

    That’s where F2P is wrong. Subscription, restrictions, cash shop, lack of content, nickle and dime at its worse.

    #13 9 months ago
  14. orren

    @GrimRita ” League of Legends is probably the finest example of a free to play game.”

    #14 9 months ago
  15. GrimRita

    @13 and your point? If people are that stupid, it’s their own fault. Or, if people see value, its down to them. It’s their money, and LoL doesn’t force you to buy anything but skins and boosts which has zero impact on your gaming experience.

    get over it.

    #15 9 months ago
  16. Hcw87


    Even if you’re not forced to use the cash-shops in F2P games you’ll feel like you’re missing out on half the game if you don’t. You either have to (for example) run around with 10 inventory slots if you don’t want to cash out for 10 more. Also, 10 inventory slots are in all likelihood NOT enough (a tactic they’ll use to force people into buying slots).

    Also, having to pay to unlock races, classes, different tiers or gear etc. You won’t have the complete experience unless you cash into their shop. This is why F2P MMO’s suck, because they ALLWAYS add new stuff to buy, stuff which you’ll feel like you’re missing out on if you don’t buy it. That’s why they often turn out to be more expensive to play than BuytoPlay or even sub-based options.

    Also to clarify:

    Free to play: Download and play with no charges

    BuytoPlay: Buy the game and play as long as you want

    Subscription-based: You need a subscription to play

    ESO falls into the Sub-based category obviously. And i’d much rather it stayed there instead of going F2P eventually.

    #16 9 months ago
  17. orren

    @GrimRita No f2p game forces anyone to buy anything. But they constantly nag you, shove stuff into your face, scream “buy Buy BUY” at you on every corner, and the devs spend the majority of the development effort trying to figure out a way to make you want to spend money(usually by making your life miserable without spending cash), instead of making the game better:

    #17 9 months ago
  18. Hcw87



    #18 9 months ago
  19. fearmonkey

    @GrimRita “@6 Nope I haven’t played it mostly because I just have zero interest in Elder scrolls as a game and especially as an MMO. It offers nothing new to the table, so its an instant no sale.”

    So you are commenting on a Elder scrolls Online comment? makes sense…..
    BTP is just fine, PTP is fine, FTP can sometimes be fine, but most of the time as the others have mentioned is a waste of time. I havent enjoyed one FTP MMO other than those that started out PTP. Not all FTP games are bad but most of them are annoying in some way.

    The Wulf’s wall of text seems to miss the point entirely that some MMO’s are worth the monthly cost. Wow for instance was constant updates while I played, constant class stat corrections, bug fixes, new free areas, etc. It was worth the cost back in the first two years. I quit after that so I have no idea if it was worth it later. Saying we are all sheep is just stupid, as some games really make that extra cash worth the investment.

    #19 9 months ago
  20. decias

    @TheWulf You’re overanalysis can be simplified. Is ESO worth the $15? My answer is yes. I’ve been in several betas and have concluded for myself that this game is absolutely fantastic.


    Pro-tip: Brevity is the soul of wit.

    #20 9 months ago
  21. decias

    @TheWulf LOL. Listen to yourself. Your ego and sense of self-importance is more startling than your overly critical and rather silly analysis of ‘herd mentality’. You sound like someone trying to figure things out in life, which is fine, but you’ve got a ways to go. You say, “you’re smart, or you’re not.” I say, “You recognize you’re just making self-inflating opinions, or you don’t.”

    I have no problem paying $15 a month for ESO. What’s the freakin big deal to you anyway? If I paid $50 a month for my family of four to go to the theater and watch a movie, would that fall under your category of ‘herd mentality’? Am I just digesting the bread crumbs being tossed to me by New Line Cinema if we go watch The Hobbit? I wouldn’t own the movie at the end of it, but who cares? We all had fun as a family.

    Herd mentality or enjoying life? I’ll be the judge of that, for myself. I don’t need you dictating how it is/should be for everyone else.

    You’re clever, but that trait doesn’t convince for long. Your problem is you think too much, seems like you don’t ‘stop and smell the roses’ much. Or is that a characteristic of the nod-nod-nod herd as well?

    #21 9 months ago
  22. jdblade

    There are way to many f2p games out there like flyff and wonderland online even astonia and runescape to a point for me to take sub games seriously I can play those games on my schedule im not chained to 30 days where it doesnt matter if I play an hour a day or 18 hours a day it cost the same. If the sub was in hours played thats peachy you get what you pay for the hours. What happens when servers go down for a few days or a week? Do you get that time back in the pay 30 days…nope you usually get a crappy ingame item or a we’re sorry. If its playtime based sub big whoop you didnt lose anything cause you werent logged in.

    #22 9 months ago
  23. Rafa_L

    @TheWulf I agree with much of what you say, I’m completely against monthly fees.

    On another matter, not that I’m telling you what to do, but my suggestion is to try to be more concise.

    #23 9 months ago
  24. GrimRita

    I made my comments because TESO was on my radar. Then I saw Dave’s write up of his experiences, then saw videos online and the animations I saw ( some clown vs 2 Tigers) were god awful. Since then, I have seen nothing to make me change my mind.

    So for someone like myself wanting to try this game before throwing money into buying it, F2P makes sense. After all, like most fools, I was burnt by the woeful SWTOR after shelling out major dollar for the deluxe version.

    Only time will tell when we approach the crunch time of October(ish) to see if TESO will switch to a F2P model because sweeping statements like the one made in this story, come back to haunt.

    #24 9 months ago
  25. Tormenter

    How can it be the “right decision”, when that decision will cause the irrelevance of the product?

    Widescale subscription acceptance by the public is dead.

    #25 9 months ago
  26. Tormenter


    Yeah TheWulf has gotten a bit wordy lately.

    #26 9 months ago
  27. orren

    @Tormenter “Widescale subscription acceptance by the public is dead.”

    There are multiple examples of games successfully running with subscription models to this day. You own wishful thinking does not equal widescale public opinion.

    #27 9 months ago
  28. Tormenter


    The a very relevant word in my statement. “WIDESCALE”.

    A few people here and there paying enough for a game to keep going ‘just’.. is NOT widescale.

    #28 9 months ago
  29. orren


    1, you are no expert on widescale public acceptance of payment models. You just are projecting your own opinion on others. The fact you don’t accept something does not mean there is a widescale unacceptance.

    2, “a few people here and there” – EvE online and WoW would like to have a word with you.

    #29 9 months ago
  30. Tormenter


    1. Neither are you.

    2. Those are the exceptions that prove the rule. Eve Onile is a very specialist gaming experience (and certainly by no means widescale) and WoW was the first with critical mass brand recognition.

    #30 9 months ago
  31. orren


    “Neither are you” – Right. I am no expert on widescale public acceptance of payment models either.

    That’s why i am not making sweeping statements like “Widescale subscription acceptance by the public is dead.”

    #31 9 months ago
  32. Tormenter

    Well I was going by the numbers in comparison to what is considered to be a success.. at the very least I have an acceptable basis for my comment.

    #32 9 months ago
  33. orren


    By what numbers? And what is considered to be a success? And who declared it to be such?

    #33 9 months ago
  34. Tormenter


    Widely available.

    The companies’ themselves.. remember SWTOR was still hailed as a success even though they went F2P.. so admittedly even when the companies’ press releases are themselves ambiguous it’s not beyond the realms to possibility for the subject and therefore interpretations of said subject to hold a measure of ambiguity also, therefore opposing viewpoints will be rife… You know my viewpoint, and I know yours.

    Thank you.

    #34 9 months ago
  35. orren


    “Widely available.” – in other words, you cannot provide any numbers. You are just repeating what you heard elsewhere, likely from someone who also heard it elsewhere, and so on and so forth. It’s the same herd mentality Wulf loves to criticize.

    “remember SWTOR was still hailed as a success even though they went F2P..” – Did it go F2P because people refuse to pay monthly subscription – or did it go F2P because it wasn’t good enough to warrant one? The fact that people do not seem to mind paying subscription for games they do like suggests the latter.

    #35 9 months ago
  36. Tormenter


    No, in other word the conversation tires me, and trying to bring you around to my pov is utterly futile.

    I trust no further justification of my comments, when yours are as equality non-definative, is necessary.

    #36 9 months ago
  37. orren

    @Tormenter “I trust no further justification of my comments, when yours are as equality non-definative, is necessary.”

    If your statements were non-definitive then we wouldn’t have this conversation.

    The whole issue is your definitive statement “subscriptions are dead”. Because you are in no position to make that claim. At best, you can offer an opinion, which would have been fine. I’d disagree, but i’d leave it at that.

    #37 9 months ago

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