The Elder Scrolls games have always strived to deliver – largely with success – expansive, open, fantasy worlds and the ability to explore them in your own way. For me, this epitomises the function of video games in my life: the ability to temporarily leave the day-to-day troubles of my life behind and enter a crafted world full of wonder.
Several times while I was playing Skyrim, I caught myself actually saying (yelling?) out loud “Wouldn’t this game be even more awesome if it was an MMO?” So when The Elder Scrolls Online was announced, I was struck by a severe case of “the hypes”. This condition, which affects every gamer at some point, is marked by symptoms which include tunnel-vision, episodes of mania, and in my specific case a wee bit of mouth foam. Thankfully, two weeks ago I rid myself of this illness. If you are still affected by the particular strain of the hypes that was induced by The Elder Scrolls Online, read on.
The Elder Scrolls Online costs around $90 to buy. To buy the basic, physical edition you’ll pay $89.95 from EB or $88.00 from JB Hi-Fi. Digitally, it’s $89.95. This fact, taken alone, is fine by me.
There’s a $15 (AUD) monthly subscription fee. Okay, so here’s where it starts to go ever-so-slightly downhill. Isn’t the monthly sub thing pretty much dead? I mean SWTOR, Neverwinter, Guild Wars 2, Rift, and LOTRO are all games that are subscription-free, whether they started that way or not. Granted, most of these games include some kind of optional subscription plan that allow you to pay monthly to access all of the content. That’s fine. I like having that choice and so do most players. And you know what, for a top-quality Elder Scrolls MMO, I’ll pay full price up front and then pay again each month. I might grumble something about Guild Wars 2 while I pay, but I’ll do it. After all, I’ll be getting access to the full content right?
There are microtransactions. Now just stop right fucking there. Are ya shittin’ me? Here’s the deal: either it’s free each month and you can nickel and dime me for things I want and occasionally need, OR I pay a sub fee each month so I don’t have to put up with that crap. You can’t have it both ways. If I’m still playing this game a year after launch, I’ll have paid $270. It’s insane that I could pay this much and still have content or features that I have to pay extra for.
To play as the Imperial race, you’ll have to buy the “Imperial Edition” for $119.95 (AUD). Unbelievable. This point taken alone would be justification enough for me to boycott this title. Alongside the others, it’s kind of upsetting that a company I previously held respect for is employing these gouging tactics.
If you want to play it on Xbox One, you’ll need to pay for Gold. This isn’t such a big deal, as Gold isn’t really an optional service so it’s not really an “extra” cost. At least Sony worked out a deal for the people that might exclusively play TESO for a month or two. For me, it’s more about the principle of it.
I view this scenario in the same way that I view those cafes selling toasted ham and cheese sandwiches for $16.50 at the airport. It’s an utterly shameless and insulting cash grab and everybody knows it, but they’re going to get away with it because they can. Those airport cafes have one important advantage over Bethesda/Zenimax though: at the airport you really don’t have any other option. In the case of The Elder Scrolls Online, there are plenty of other options and many of them will be better and cheaper. So I think I’ll take my business elsewhere.