First, and best know, is never enter a land war with Asia.  Second, and only slightly less known, is never go up against the TES fandom when money is on the line!

By now, we've all read or heard about the subscription plan you'll need to play ESO - and if you haven't then be ready to scream in agony.  ZeniMax announced a while back (I'll omit the sources as they're all over the forums and in a news article on the front page) that they'll be using what has become the "classic", if not outdated, subscription business model.  This means you'll have to buy the game for $60.00 - which will include the first month for free - and then pay a subsequent $15.00 each month following.  Their hope is to avoid the "paygates" that other games have instituded.  The was this reads to me is 100% free expansions, but I'm sure that's not what is going to happen.  In Guild Wars I bought the game and played it free of charge, then when the expansion came out I had to buy the new part to play on the new content.  This is what I feel they mean when they say paygate simply because of their other statements of wanting to constantly be adding content to the game.  Does that make $15.00 a month worth paying?  Not on it's own, no.

ZeniMax has made a lot of promises about the game, and so far seems to be living up to them.  At the very lease, they're trying really hard.  Does that mean I'll pay the equivalent of three brand new games each year to continue playing one?  Not on your life!  So what would it take to get me back on the ESO bandwagon?  Well, before I answer that let's also add the newest news of the business model; microtransactions.  That's right, folks!  ZeniMax is making you pay monthly AND adding an optional cash shop.  Now this part doesn't come as a huge surprise, Blizzard is even adding a cash shop in-game for WoW.  Cash shops are nothing new, and dev companies have been slowly integrating them into the games, even ones not free to play, for some time.  So this was coming one way or the other.

What I think hurts the most is that you already pay so much money to play online.  Let's look at this from a console gamer's point of view (using rounded and average numbers to show examples).  You bought your console for around $400.00, then you have internet at, let's say, $50.00 each month.  So in your first month you paid $450, not counting any deposit if you didn't already have internet.  Now you have to pay monthly for your console-based online services, this we'll put at just $10.00 for the example.  So here you are, $460 in the hole before you ever buy a game, so you get ESO brand new and it's brought you to $520.00.  You get one month free, but that one month is going to go by eventually, so the next month you have to pay for it at $15 - plus your internet and your online services.  In two months you've paid a total of $605.00 just to be playing ESO on console.  And that's assuming you don't have extras added onto things.  I don't know about you, but that's a bit of money.

PC/MAC gamers might have it worse if they have to make any upgrades to their systems in order to play ESO.  Personally, my computer will handle it fine, but not everyone is so lucky.  Some people might need a new processor or more RAM or a better graphics card, these things can cost up to $500+ on their own.  And if you want to upgrade a MAC, you just end up buying a whole new MAC!  There's two or three grand out of pocket.  Now to make this arguement fair, I'll say this about the desktop gamers; we usually pay a lot anyway.  So you can take upgrades and things out if you really want to, but the fact remains that we still have to pay for internet and the game and the monthly fees.  So the question then becomes, do I want to pay every month for a game when I have so many free games at my fingertips thanks to the massive interest in B2P and F2P markets?  That answer is simple, no I do not.

I made a vow after I left World of Warcraft this last time to never pay for a game monthly again.  It's a bit rediculous in my opinion.  I saw no need for it with the way the industry has gone.  So I offered a suggestion for the current poll on the front page, would you still be playing the game?  The answers are simple; Yes, No, If the price drops to $5, or Just wait for it to go free to play.  And I'll be honest, I'm not at all surprised with the outcry so far (as of 8/26/13) of fans saying free to play or not at all. 

There is one reason, and one reason only, that I would break my afore mentioned vow.  If ESO turns out to live up to the promises ZeniMax has been making for it and they drop the price.  I wanted so badly for ESO to be Buy to Play, but now it can't make that leap backwards.  At this point, they've given such an ellaborate response to why they went Pay to Play that if they back down completely they'll be viewed as liars and lose the respect of their fanbase (mostly right now we still seem to respect them, we're just not happy about it).  If they made a compromise, however, they would be seen as appeasing their fanbase and still trying to meet their own needs as a company.

What I think would be easy is to keep the cash shop, so long as it has quality items that are non-game-breaking, and drop the subscription to $5.00/month.  I would be happy to go without one new game each year as opposed to three, and I'll most likely see something in the cash shop that I want.  They could put mounts, cosmetic pets, dye packs, cool eyegear, even tattoos.  Anything that makes your character unique, without making them godlike, would be a great thing to add into microtransactions.  If these things can be done, then I'd be more than willing to consider buying ESO again and making the reversion back to monthly fee gaming.

Something else to consider for some, myself included, is the need to have two people playing these games.  That is why F2P and B2P are so amazing to me.  My fiance wishes to play these games.  So if I have to buy two consoles or keep up two gaming quality computers, I'll be broke before I get around to buying ESO. 

I'm going to close this out with some basic numbers, again rounded and averaged for ease of example.  What is better, ZeniMax:

  • 1,000,000 possible customers that two thirds drop out of after you announce the fee (making you $4,500,000 each month)
  • OR 1,000,000 possible customers that you win back by announcing a drop in the monthly fee (making you $15,000,000 each month)?

Whether you add microtransactions from the cash shop or not, it feels like an easy answer.  Compromise or not, backing out or not, good game or not . . . the success of ESO all hinges on it's business model and the fan's willingness to pay for the game.  Sure, they'll offer lesser fees if you subscribe for multiple months at a time, but the average gamer doesn't do that because the average gamer isn't sure if they'll be able to afford to pay all at once the month it comes around. 

In today's economy where even two income households need both people to work two jobs, how can we be expected to pay so much for something that can be done for less?  This is not the economy of early WoW, the customers are better informed.  There are more adults playing games than ever before.  There are more women playing games than ever before (and let's face it, women are smarter than men!).  There better informed gamers about the game industry and it's standards than most of America is about voting!  Wake up gamers, stand up with me and cry out!  Let your voice be heard and let the dev studios know that you know!  If you don't HAVE to pay for it then why the hell should you shell out of the cash?  I'm not paying one septim more than I have to for anything that anyone puts out.  I don't care if it is in my favorite franchise ever, if it isn't worth it then it simply can't be justified.  Go to the forums, write a letter, type a vigorous email, call customer support, do something!  You have a voice, you need to be heard.  Don't let this blunder pass by unfought, ZeniMax is going up against one of the largest, oldest and most fervant communities in the gaming industry . . . let them feel the weight of that.

A couple of things to note is that User:Alduin1996 is writing a draft of a letter to ZeniMax regarding how we as a community feel about this, it is located here.  And User:Timeoin wrote a rant as well located here.  Finally, if you're as upset about this as the rest of us seem to be, then feel free to rant about here, Peter Hines Twitter account.