Elder Scrolls Online subscriptions justified, Pathfinder Online’s Ryan Dancey says

The Elder Scrolls Online

By on January 10, 2014 at 7:05 am

Subscription models are both falling in and out of favour in the software world. They’re becoming more and more common on mobile devices and for productivity tools like word processing, graphic design and anti-virus software, which is the opposite route they’ve taken in gaming. More and more MMORPGs have abandoned their pay-to-play business models, although some, including the upcoming Elder Scrolls Online MMO from Zenimax, have stood by the practice.

Ryan Dancey, the chief executive officer of Goblinworks, makers of Pathfinder Online, believes it’s the right choice. In a guest editorial on MMORPG, he takes issue with a Forbes.com editorial where ESO‘s subscription model was panned as “increasingly outdated”. “It’s even harder to estimate how much revenue is being generated from microtransactions (MTX) but it is extremely difficult to imagine that the revenue even approaches 50% of the amount being paid as subscription fees,” Dancey says.

He goes even further by making some predictions of his own, which includes the staggering belief that around US$100 million is being spent by Western gamers (Australia/New Zealand, North America, Europe, Russia) on MMORPG subscriptions. “People like the ease of not having to worry about paying to play a game every time they log in,” Dancey explains.

“They like the idea of paying a known, fixed price and not feeling required to “pay to win” when they play.  Subscription services are extremely commonplace: cell phones; cable/internet service; Hulu; Netflix; health clubs, etc. are a common facet of everyday life.”

I’m always fascinated when developers come out and talk numbers. It’s a great editorial although it’s a couple of pages long and it does get particularly dry. It’s also worth noting that a lot of what Dancey says is based on his estimates; nothing is set in stone. Food for thought nevertheless, though.

Source: Thanks, VG 24/7!

27 comments (Leave your own)

The term “out of touch” is thrown around alot these days … but this guy pretty much embodies it.

An MMO sub is the same as a sub to Netflix guys !

“I’m always fascinated when developers come out and talk numbers”
I’m always fascinated when they openly admit they don’t know the numbers they’re making opinions based on and then go ahead and make those opinions anyways as if they are informed or mean something.



Sure, it’s guesswork in this case. But it’s still infinitely more interesting than hearing developers talk about platitudes and concepts that never end up making it to final release. At least delving into the world of dollars and cents has a touch of reality to it. It is, after all, a business.


I’d rather pay once. Otherwise I can’t really play the game for more than a year withou spending tons of money unnecessarily.


It’s interesting, yes. But essentially, players are still paying what developers think they can get away with. He admits subscriptions probably make at least double what microtransactions would. That means subscriptions are about twice as much as they need to be. Yet as long as players are willing to pay that much, they will remain at that level. Charge what the market will bear… If ESO fails hard though, it could be one of the last MMOs to walk out the gate with a subscription.


Going to be really interesting to see this one turn into a train wreck. It sounds like Bioware with TOR all over again.


How many other MMOs have launched with subscription models only to be forced to go f2p with mixed results? Pretty sure that’s what’s going to happen here.


The reason TOR tanked was not because of it’s subscription, but because the game was far below what people were expecting. For a $350mil dollar budget game, it’s was a pile of trash.


How many bad subscription MMO launches are we gonna get before they realize it’s a bad idea?



Why is it a bad idea? explain to me why a subscription is worse than a micro transaction F2P where you have to constantly pay to unlock all the content?

Nasty Wet Smear


Why is it a bad idea? explain to me why a subscription is worse than a micro transaction F2P where you have to constantly pay to unlock all the content?

I don’t think the fact that Idea B is bad makes Idea A not bad.



Thats …. a good point. While I agree subscriptions have their problems, I just think the F2P and Freemium models are horrid. You can easily end up spending more than you would a sub game, (ie it’s easier to spend more if you have the gambling personality, i.e SW:TOR and their buyable packs).

My favourite method of all is the EvE model. Pay a sub, if you earn enough money in game in that month you can a buy a PLEX off of someone and your next month is free. It’s just so good.


what fools
didnt work for starwars
wont work for elder scrolls


If i’m having fun i am happy to pay a sub.All these f2p cashgrab games that have been released lately (Tor,Neverwinter etc) are real turn offs and give the feeling of having no soul.

Constant cash grab marketing/tactics just dont work on me. I like to escape when playing a rpg and not be reminded of realworld capitalism greed.

I’m hoping this game goes well and stays sub based for years to come.


I think subscription is miles better if you have the game that justifies it. I doubt ESO will justify using up space on my hard drive let alone any AUD.


what fools
didnt work for starwars
wont work for elder scrolls

Yeah but you could also say,

Worked for WOW,
Will work for ESO.


I love Dancey completely ignores the ever-so-small factor of if the game in question is even any good in the first place. In this title’s case, it will be lucky to last 6 months before trying to beg players back with free-to-play nonsense.



WoW for a while has been a very well polished machine. It did very poorly at it’s launch but it made it through due to people having a lot of patience and not having a wide range of alternatives to go to for the same kind of gameplay.

That is no longer true in this day, I believe if games do poorly at their launch people jump off and go to a different game as we saw with SWTOR and many other games since.


matty: Yeah but you could also say,

Worked for WOW,
Will work for ESO.

Except that Blizzard is an established studio
Zenimax Online is not. Even if they do say they’re working with Bethesda they’ve historically produced mediocre multiplayer titles versus Blizzard which were known for producing the best multiplayer titles.



There were alot of choices back when WoW came out, You had Star Wars Galaxies, Everquest 1, Ultima Online, Asheron’s Call, Istaria (called Horizons then), Dark Age of Camelot (probably missing some) as the main choices, then you had a lot of smaller ones like Meridian 59 and The Realm etc.

There were plenty of Choices back then too, it was WoW that was the underdog where most of the MMO gamers were eyeballing it just like everyone is eyeballing ESO (I’m one of them by the way, I just don’t think it’ll be very good).


All the best [both in terms of gameplay and return on investment] MMORPGs have been subscription.
All the worst ones have been “F2P” and then there is a massive mix of each in the middle.

subscription had nothing to do with TOR being bad and everything to do with it having bad gameplay.

Last I heard Everquest 1 still running today and still with a subscription even with its 2nd gen MMORPG gameplay and 1st gen MMORPG graphics.

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