When I first heard about the online installment of the Elder Scrolls series, I was ecstatic. I first heard about it late 2012, after getting into Guild Wars 2 and MMORPGs in general. To me, having Elder Scrolls translated to an online experience seemed fantastical. I was in love with the worlds of Oblivion and Skyrim, and the idea of having them played in the style of a game like Guild Wars 2 lead me to believe I should have just gotten this tattooed to my forehead.
Animated tattoos are a thing, right?
As time went on, my excitement increased. I knew with utmost certainty that I would purchase the game and put hundreds of hours into it. Utmost. Certainty.
Introducing a scrubscription.
August last year was when my excitement took a dip. Bethesda announced that the game would have both an initial price, and a monthly fee to continue playing. This worried me, because why would The Elder Scrolls utilize such an archaic pricing structure? I, as well as a large portion of gamers, hate the idea that if we stop paying, we lose access to the game we paid money for.
Matt Firor was quick to defend the decision with this quote I just happened to have on me.
When you’re in an Elder Scrolls game, you’re in a world,” he said, explaining the former point. “We don’t want players to hit monetisation fees when they’re in the world.
We wanted to do monetisation outside of the game. So, if I pay for a month at a time, I have 100 per cent of the game. I don’t have to worry about paying one more cent. I’ll never run into a pay gate and I’ll be in the world.
Arguments about scrubscription fees being monthly pay gates aside, I can sort of understand what he’s saying. A monthly pay cycle means they can forgo charging for DLC like they have in past games of the series, and they don’t need to worry about other monetisation options like an in-game cash shop…
The in-game cash shop.
Oh. So despite having a scrubscription fee, there’s also a cash shop. This was the next nail in the coffin for me. It was defended at the time as just being name changes and other such things. However apparently in the store at the moment there is a horse you can buy with real money and an upgrade to the Imperial Edition which we will talk about in a minute. To get a basic horse with in-game currency will set you back 17,000 gold. Now in perspective, a few YouTube reviewers have said that after three weeks of playing the game with friends they only have around 4,000 gold. Assuming gold scales with level, we’re probably looking at a few more weeks before you obtain the gold for the most basic of horses. So including your free month, you’re paying another fifteen dollars to keep playing and then EVENTUALLY, MAYBE, get your horse.
So you could spend almost two months saving up all your gold to get a horse so you don’t have to crawl to every area, or you could throw some more money at the game and skip all of that.
Alternatively, you could buy…
The Imperial Edition
This was the thing that made me literally say “No. Nope. Fuck no. God dang it. Fuck off. No.” Basically, you could preorder The Elder Scrolls Online as a regular game, or as the Imperial Edition. I like special editions of games because I like getting things like figurines and art books. What does the Imperial Edition come with? Check check check it out:
I see an art book. That’s awesome! I see a statue for the antagonist of the game, which is even better. That statue can sit next to my Duke Nukem bust I got from Duke Nukem Forever! There’s even a map for the world, that can go on the wall next to my Skyrim map!
That was what I said, until I read the features on the right. The exclusive digital content includes a cosmetic pet, which I am absolutely okay with. When it comes to paying real money for things in an MMORPG, I love cosmetics. It’s the best way to support a developer without getting an advantage that makes a game “Pay To Win”. Guild Wars 2 has a lot of cosmetics you can buy, and hell I’ve bought a fair few of them because they make my characters look fucking awesome.
Next, you get the Rings of Mara. These are rings you and a friend share. You perform an in-game ritual (I assume), and then whenever you play together you get an experience boost. I’m not 100% okay with this, but it’s not terrible and I assume it takes up a ring slot on your character that eventually gets swapped for an upgrade.This tool ends up being good for casuals.
Now we get to the stuff that made me boycott this game. First I would like to remind you if you read this far, that this version of the game is twenty dollars more than the standard edition. I assume if you buy the standard game and want to upgrade through the in-game cash shop it will cost the same.
The first insult is you get a mount right from the start of the game. Sure, you still apparently have to buy it from a stable, but you know how much it costs? One. Fucking. Gold. One gold and you have the horse that standard players have to grind fourteen thousand gold for. So that’s the first thing. However, that is in no way as much of an insult as the final feature of the Imperial Edition. At least in regards to horses you can get one without paying if you grind long enough.
People who buy the Imperial Edition get access to an exclusive race. If you spend twenty dollars, you get the option to play as the Imperials, who get to play as either alliance. To clarify, every other race is restricted to a specific alliance similar to how World of Warcraft was split between Alliance and Horde. If you want to play with a friend you either need to restrict yourselves to the few races allowed in the same alliance, or buy the Imperial Edition and laugh at your friend as you gallop away to the next quest on a horse while he is forced to walk for five minutes to the same location.
Exclusive content is in no way new to games, it’s in fact something that happens a lot. However, it directly contradicts promises from the developers that there will be no pay gates in the game bar the scrubscription fee. You can’t say that, then turn around and say “By the way you need to spend extra money if you want all the races in the game.”
From what I’ve seen, there’s a lot of people who quite enjoy the game, to which I say “That’s awesome!”. However with the above points and the problems I’ve heard about the game have brought me to completely boycott Elder Scrolls Online, at least until it inevitably becomes free to play.