Should The Elder Scrolls Online go Free-to-Play?

by Rachel Baker on July 18, 2014

IGN looks at the pros and cons of the opening up subscription games to free-to-play games. This is a really interesting article and one worth your time reading if for no other reason than you know the challenges for the gaming company.

The question at the core of the debate that needs addressing is why a developer or publisher would want to move from the predictability offered by a recurring subscription to the uncertainty of a free-to-play model. Consumers merrily argue for such changes, but what’s in it for the manufacturers? According to Hartsman, it’s an issue of accessibility. In the days when MMOs were young and online gaming was very much a niche habit, subscription fees acted as a mutually beneficial contract between gamer and developer. These days, however, with so much choice out there it’s more important than ever to offer the flexibility that enables communities to form.

“Back when online games were young, people would go online and make online game friends in their games,” he explains. “When you’re in a subscription game, the barrier was you had to get one person to subscribe to the game and then they’d play, make friends and stick around. What we’re seeing these days is as more people are coming online and more people are playing, people travel in packs. They want to play games with their friends. When they travel in packs like this, you need the lowest barriers possible in order to get the biggest success.”

In essence, the removal of subscription fees allows you to maximise the number of evangelists you have for your title. Hartsman, who oversaw Trion Worlds take first Rift and more recently Defiance over to the free-to-play model, confirms what many people have long argued: making these changes in an intelligent way can indeed lead to massive jumps in revenue. The example often held aloft by those arguing for transition is The Lord of the Rings Online, which Turbine reported had its revenue triple following the decision to remove the subscription fee. It wasn’t a fluke, by the sounds of things, with Harsten echoing that not only did Rift’s revenue stream more than triple, but it’s sustaining at a higher level too.

Should The Elder Scrolls Online go Free-to-Play?

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