Catchy title, right? I dare you to read it and not channel the ancient ghosts of good “Rage Against The Machine” songs. For our younger readers, they were like Lincoln Park with more motives than money.
It’s also a fantastic introduction to a game I’m calling: “They want what for it?!”. Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an unfair introduction to Bethesda’s newest release: Elder Scrolls Online. After all, it packages the legendary graphics, amazing landscapes, and immersive gaming experience that Bethesda has accumulated over the last 12 years with a completely new MMORPG adventure.
It’s something fans have been asking Bethesda for since the introduction of MMORPG’s. With every subsequent board meeting, the new guy, Fred, eyes some new online game of medieval garbage charging players $10 bucks a month to storm the gates of Mian Tillerioff and says:
“We could do that Jim”, and everyone there gives him a condescending look before returning to painstakingly designing the left buttock cheek of the troll that appears once in that dungeon north of Winterhold. It finally seems, however, that it’s Fred who gets the last laugh.
This month marked Bethesda’s plunge into the abyss. For many years, the world of MMORPG has been dominated by Blizzard’s World Of Warcraft, which in the wake of it’s massive money feeding spree, leaves enough scraps for lesser games to survive off of. Yet, if there’s one contender well suited enough to take on the iron-crushing grip of WOW, its Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series. A fact they are deftly aware of.
In fact they were so confident that success was a mere formality that Bethesda launched Elder Scrolls Online with the average starting price of $60 AND a $15 monthly subscription fee. If you’re a fan of numbers such as myself, you might note that it equals a yearly cost of $240 for the first year and $180 going foreword. After three years, you would have amassed enough in online fee’s to afford a cheap used car, or a high-end 5.1-surround sound system.
Of course, that number isn’t entirely fair to our console gamer friends. After all, they also have the cost of yearly subscription fee’s to access online content, so add an extra $50 if you’re a PS4 or XboxOne gamer.
That $240, or $290 respectively, gains you access to the world of Elder Scrolls Online. Of course, it gets one character on one system access. I hope you were not naïve enough to believe you could manage several characters from one account, or one character from several systems. That’s for amateurs. You also can’t expect Bethesda to be generous enough to allow your PC subscription to carry over for your XboxOne or PS4. No, if you would like to enjoy Elder Scrolls Online on multiple platforms, you will be doubling the cost.
So for me, an avid PC enthusiast who also enjoys occasionally sitting in my living room to be a tad social while I play my single player games, the yearly cost for two subscriptions to Elder Scrolls Online would be $530. The cost is literally more than my console, two controllers and a year PSN membership.
So the question is, should Bethesda be given a hard time for the costs associated with playing Elder Scrolls Online? The answer is a confusing yes and no.
WOW has certainly set precedent by charging a monthly $15 fee, but they remain one of the few, if not the only. While Elder Scrolls Online looks to be an impressive start for Bethesda, it is not WOW yet. WOW is limited to PC. It also set standard when it premiered, offering a gaming experience that had truly never been done. Free copies were given out, discounts for longer memberships were awarded as it blazed a path for future MMORPG’s. Even today, WOW allows free to play until a certain level cap.
Bethesda has an excellent track record for making beautiful games, but it is untested in the field of MMORPG’s. It will be attempting to build it’s own empire on the mountain of bones already established for it. More than that, Bethesda is going to hop on top of the pile charging the same monthly fee as the biggest dog in the yard, the industry standard, and scream “We deserve this”.
But, the truth is, that they don’t yet. Elder Scrolls Online, no matter how impressive, is bound to borrow game mechanics from existing MMORPG’s. The comparisons will be inevitable. There is no longer a field left to revolutionize. It does not have the built in fan base that WOW has acquired over the years and the new pricing structure is bound to alienate plenty of their existing customers. Bethesda is the new kid on the block, and their naivety shines thorough in their pricing structure. Further, it asks you to have blind faith in a company known for the gaming bugs they seem to miss in every title.
The most common expression I hear when I talk to people about Elder Scrolls Online is “I’m just going to wait a few months and see if they lower it.” Why? Because a video game should not cost as much a year as a brand new cellphone purchased off contract.
Bethesda had many options to alleviate the higher cost. They could have charged less initially for the game, reduced the monthly, or even allowed multiple accounts for those who wished to play over different platforms. Yet, their too busy climbing to the top of the mountain to dethrone WOW, claiming that it’s where they’ve belonged all along. Meanwhile, the majority of those who are interested in the game are patiently waiting for it to get knocked to ground so they can just play.
So no, technically speaking, Bethesda had every right to go nuclear with pricing right from the start, but they are incredibly naïve for doing so. Only the future can tell if the move will pay off and I’ll go into the record books as one of the great naysayers, or if the pricing structure will crash and burn so hard that they can only hope people are willing to pay a fraction of what they once asked for Elder Scrolls Online.