Originally I was planning on making a blog post today of why it would be better if ESO became F2P, but after seeing the news this morning that the obligatory monthly subscription was becoming optional I've decided to address the pros and cons of the decision.
Note by what I meant for ESO to become F2P was for it to keep the one-time $60 game purchase but remove the monthly subscription to keep playing.
Now even before this was announced there were many rumours and theories floating about that ESO would remove it's subscription all-together as recently they removed the 6-month option without notice, Australian stores were pulling their game cards and console releases (on PS4 and Xbox One which already require a monthly fee to play online) were set to finally be announced (and with a release date set for June 9th you can see why).
Now the ESO community has generally been against removing the subscription, as many were opposed on the subreddit, steam discussions and official forums.
But the ESO community makes up still a fraction of the TES community, even while I myself am a member. This can be seen with the subreddit comparison, the skyrim subreddit has around 230,000 more members than the ESO subreddit, and on the other hand while these subreddits are dedicated to old games the Oblivion and Morrowind subreddits combined have around the same members as the ESO subreddit. ESO also has only 0.7 - 1 million subscribers while skyrim accumulated more than 3 million buyers in launch week.
While I have only played a few hours I find ESO promising and have subscribed for 1 month (mostly for the vanity pet and bonuses), I do not plan to cancel this subscription but to keep it until the P2P subscription is removed in March 17. I still mostly support the removal choice of the P2P subscription.
And while a majority of the ESO community is against the choice to remove the subscription, they do not speak for the rest of the TES community. Our wiki has done a few polls related to this in the past and here are the results:
As can be seen by the most recent poll on the left, many of our readers chose not to buy the Elder Scrolls Online. According to the poll on the right, many of our readers preferred the game to go F2P rather than lower the subscription or not buy the game at all, showing that while they have been eager to play they would not want to pay each month. Even in Kotaku's poll a majority did not want to pay $15 a month compared to those who did.
Many fans of the TES series like the games so because they can play them over a course of many years. I've spent over 2,000 hours on Skyrim over the past 3 years since launch date, and Skyrim remains one of the most played Steam games to this day. I have spent around $100 on Skyrim since launch date (the game and it's DLCs) on my PS3 and only $14 for all of that when I got it on my PC recently. If somebody were to pay $15 a month for Skyrim ever since launch day, it would be $570 alone for all the monthly subscriptions.
Skyrim is not the only exception. My history teacher has been playing Morrowind since it came out and continues to do so when he has free time. He too tried ESO and liked the re-experience of Morrowind on it's mainland but stopped playing as he was far too busy to keep up a $15 subscription since it wasn't worth it compared to how often he played ESO. Many of my personal friends are Elder Scrolls fans, some played Oblivion, some just Skyrim, some even played the older games, but they all chose not to play ESO. It's odd, we were all very hyped and excited, but they figured the monthly subscription wouldn't be worth it to play the game.
Most of that has changed now. With ESO removing it's monthly subscription they said they're once again interested in playing ESO in March. I'm sure the same can go for many TES fans, and I can relate to many of you as I have played practically every TES game availible on PC.
This is where the pros come in. As pointed out earlier the current ESO subscriber amount is minuscle to the Skyrim player amount, Skyrim having over 20 times more buyers. Now that ESO is removing their P2P subscription fee, many new players will join the game. ESO's possibility to go F2P has often been compared to Star Wars: The Old Republic's successful transition from P2P to F2P as they saw a large increase in revenue. Valve has also stated that ever since they made TF2 go F2P, they saw a large increase (over 14 times what they previously were making) in revenue from the game.
This would also bring many new users to the wiki and fanbases. Call me biased, but with more contributors people would recieve more info on the game (i.e. a lot more character info, walkthroughs, etc.) and with more people it would benefit the ESO communities.
For the most part, it is a very good thing that the game is removing it's subscription, but there are also cons.
While now you only have to pay the single $60 USD fee (or $20 if you get it on sale), there is also the risk of upcoming paygates and microtransactions. The game has the Imperial Edition and Palimino Horse DLCs, and that's completely fine, people can purchase them if they want. The ESO community has said that they don't want the game to turn into an F2P game, a main reason being microtransactions. This would be paying money for things they are already recieving/have had plans to recieve in the next updates. For example, paying money for items or paying money to access new areas.
With ESO replacing their obligatory P2P subscription with an optional Premium subscription, it sounds like they're switching from a Pay to Play to a Pay to Win game. While this format has often been accepted on iOS gaming systems, it is very frowned upon by PC gaming systems. An example would be The Mighty Quest for Epic loot which has been recieving bad Steam reviews due to it's Pay to Win system. Another is The Realm of the Mad God; an F2P game after being acquired by a new company it has also recieved bad reviews due to it becoming more Pay to Win. ESO has also said that they will add a store using another currency called crowns (which sounds like the store in Wizard 101) which will offer pets, cosmetic items, and other useful items like potions and soul gems.
In conclusion, while the risk of becoming Pay to Win is bad the removal of the monthly subscription is generally a good thing. The only thing I'd personally want is for the non-premium players is to still have freedom within the game and no major limitations that can only be lifted with the premium subscription (i.e. all future zones can be accessed with no charge, certain mob item drops will be obtainable by only premium players, etc).