Elder Scrolls Online: Pete Hines says sub model only fails if you’re ‘not getting your money’s worth’

The Elder Scrolls Online

By on April 1, 2014 at 8:49 pm

The Elder Scrolls Online launches this week, and despite some very positive feedback from beta tests, Zenimax Online’s decision to use a subscription model instead of being free-to-play still  gives prospective players pause.

We caught up with Bethesda’s Global VP of Marketing and PR, Pete Hines, who explained to us that the decision was reached mutually by Bethesda and Zenimax together.

“It would be fair to say it was a mutual decision,” said Hines. “It wasn’t like they decided it, and we didn’t mandate it. There was a lot of conversation around it.”

“I worry about it,” admits Hines, “but I worry about everything. That’s my job, to worry. But I think it’s the right decision for the right reasons.”

“What’s going to determine whether or not it succeeds or fails is not really tied to what anyone else has done, it’s tied to ‘do we make a strong enough argument for the value that you get for your fifteen dollars?’. If we’re providing the kind of content people want to see where they’re like ‘This is awesome, I’m having a blast, this new stuff is totally worth it and I’m having fun’, then the subscription totally works. If we’re putting out stuff that doesn’t make a case for it then we have a problem on our hands and we have failed to meet that value proposition.”

“But I would argue that other games that have or haven’t succeeded with this: it’s more about that, not the model itself. It’s about ‘are you giving me my money’s worth for what you’re asking me to pay?’ If yes, then they don’t have a problem with it. If no, then they have a problem with it.”

I put it to Hines that $90 — in Australia, at least — was a hefty price to pay just to see if you’d like to pay even more in the future, but he explained that didn’t see that as an issue.

“If you don’t like the game, of course you’re not subscribing to it,” says Hines. “You get the game, you get your first month without having to pay for a subscription to see ‘is this thing a thing I like’? If your approach that you want to take is that, for example, you love Skyrim, you played it for 125 hours, but after three or four weeks you were done, then you can do the exact same thing in Elder Scrolls Online.”

“You can buy it, play the hell out of it for four weeks and go ‘Eh! I’m done. I did everything I wanted to do, I did a bunch of single-player stuff, I did a bunch of PVP, and now I’m out.’ Then you’re out. The subscription is irrelevant. The initial purchase is exactly the same as any other PC game because you don’t have to pay for the subscription until your 30 days is up.”

Hines wouldn’t be drawn on the subject of a free trial, something that other high-profile MMOs, like Warhammer Online, implemented far too late. He argued that it was far too early to start discussing the need for incentives, saying that it was “all hypothetical”.

“If there are ten million subscribers after a month, then a free trial is not something I have to worry about because I have ten million people who are playing the game. If I have just ten people playing the game, then that’s a different scenario and we’d have to do something, because there’d only be ten people playing the game.”

“In between there are literally a billion different possibilities to be managed and figured out. Right now our focus is on one thing, which is make the best game possible.”

The team at Zenimax are “pretty agile” if things need to change, says Hines, but he’s confident that they won’t have any major surprises. His voice takes on a slightly weary note as he explains the sheer amount of testing that the game has been through, and how they continue to learn more and more about the different types of players playing their game.

“I don’t see us learning something that’s like ‘we never saw THAT coming!,” says Hines. “We do so much testing.”

“But I don’t know. I think it’s TBD.”

The Elder Scrolls Online launches on Friday April 4.

20 comments (Leave your own)

“If there are ten million subscribers after a month, then a free trial is not something I have to worry about because I have ten million people who are playing the game…”

Hahahaha 10million, Nice one.

 

I played the Closed Beta and liked it quite a lot. The experience was however marred by a lack of Aussie Servers… which impacted the gameplay later on when dodging attacks became an issue ~level 10. Also with the multiplayer it lost some of the feeling of yourself as a part the world that Skyrim had.

Frankly I’d be lined up outside if it was a singleplayer game.

At $15 a month with the initial buy in price of $90 for the base edition… plus micro transactions… Plus projected expansions each 6 months… It really does feel like ZeniMax is trying to quadruple dip. That’s $270 in your first year without even buying a horse, or likely end of year expansion. Mounts being a late late game item for non microtransaction peeps, but pretty much required to traverse the world efficiently.

It could easily be a $300+ a year habit :/ For something… that… they didn’t even bother with servers here.

There will be defenders but… you have to admit ZeniMax come off as greedy.

Me… I can’t even get close to justifying that kind of expenditure.

 

I guess it’s pretty much the same argument as with every other MMO that decides to use a subscription model.

I gotta say however that when I compare ESO to other subscription MMOs right now, I feel like I’m getting a lot more out of it.

It’s good fun so far.

 

Going to let you all in on a little tip.

Like every MMO before this and after this will fail miserably to meet what WoW brings to the table.

It will tank just like the TORtanic.

 

I can’t even think of one MMO that failed because it was a sub model…. they all fail because they arent finished and/or designs arent conductive to actual multiplayer fun outside of zerging things.

 

On the upside, if you do play it is important to note that the quality of players in a buy-in MMO environment tend to be a lot better than their free MMO varieties…

 

“If there are ten million subscribers after a month, then a free trial is not something I have to worry about because I have ten million people who are playing the game”

start worrying then.

“Right now our focus is on one thing, which is make the best game possible.”

If that was your goal, then its already a failure.
its not even close to the best game possible.

you should change the goal to “make a mediocre copy of the gameplay of pretty much every MMORPG since EQ1″, then you’d be spot on.

under the elder scrolls facade its just a rift/neverwinter .etc style mmorpg, nothing new or revolutionary much less “best game possible”.

 

I can’t see myself subscribing … playing through the free month then im out … unless end game content is amazing.

 

stryker3216:
Going to let you all in on a little tip.

Like every MMO before this and after this will fail miserably to meet what WoW brings to the table.

It will tank just like the TORtanic.

SWTOR is doing better than most MMOs out there, just sayin…

As for the rest of the comments, if you play ESO for what it is, a “lite” Elder Scrolls Online Version, then it’s fine.
Once they add lots of content, player housing, etc etc… it will be an even better MMO.

 

I don’t do subscriptions so they were never going to have me as a customer. Doesn’t help that all the MMO’s i’ve tried i’ve hated (WoW) or found boring (Neverwinter). Firefall was pretty good though, lots of promise but my friends won’t play anymore so I don’t get to play that. :( (I can’t enjoy MP games unless I play with friends)

 

All they had to do is add coop and multiplayer to skyrim – how we have this monstrosity that is not an mmo and not a proper elderscrolls game – it has no
true fan base.

See you guys in Black Desert Pearl Abyss or Everquest Next….

neither of which look as clunky and ugly as this monstrosity.

 

“You get the game, you get your first month without having to pay for a subscription to see ‘is this thing a thing I like’? If your approach that you want to take is that, for example, you love Skyrim, you played it for 125 hours, but after three or four weeks you were done, then you can do the exact same thing in Elder Scrolls Online.”

The difference with Skyrim is that, after playing for a solid month, you get to keep the game and can forever go back to it whenever you wish — *WITHOUT PAYING MORE CASH*. I know a great deal of people, myself included, that clocked in the majority of their Skyrim hours long after the initial purchase-and-play of the game.

The sub-fee’s aren’t really the issue though, it’s the fact they’re crossed with a high box price AND micro-transactions. If they had only two of three of those payment methods, people wouldn’t complain (well, maybe still the box price), but as it stands, TESO appears to be nothing more than a cash grab for a polished, yet sub-par MMO. And no marketing explanation is going to change that.

Personally, I’m already barely willing to pay $90 for great single-player games such as TES, GTA, or more recently, Dark Souls. An MMO has to be incredibly impressive and immersive to get me to pay the prices ZMOS is asking. And even then, a game with sub-fee’s is only a maybe purchase for me.

I must admit though, I’m a supporter of the F2P + Vanity micro-transaction items model. If I’m enjoying a game, it’s almost guaranteed I’ll throw money at it anyway.

 

The only reason why TOR was successful as an F2P title is because of the IP. Same goes with Star Trek Online. Everyone knows these MMOs should have rightfully failed, but they didn’t because they come with a pre-installed fanbase.

Zenimax is banking on the IP alone being enough to convince people. However the problem with that is TES fans have never gone outside of a single player experience before and therefore have certain expectations, they’re not expecting micro-transactions or being tethered to a subscription. I can see it doing more to alienate their fanbase than it doing any good.

And Peter Hines has no fucking idea what he’s talking about. You’re not a game developer, stop acting like one you PR pleb.

The only reason why he has 10 million people playing atm is because its the initial surge MMOs get at release, TOR had it just the same.. and then they lost those people because they hit end-game and got bored. I see the same happening here. I guess it goes to show just how out of touch Zenimax are with the rest of the games industry, mostly because they’ve had things good for too long. Bout time they get bitten I say, hopefully then we’ll see their products improve. To me they’ve become very lazy and undeserving of the $99 asking price for this game.

 

For the sake of discussion->

Way back when, WoW also had a full box price and subscription fee. It was also a lot smaller back then (prior to any of its expansions). Was it therefore also not able to justify those costs? Keeping in mind it released before things like micro-transactions were around in any genre.

My opinion in regards to MMO’s is that WoW changed everything. People played games before it, but they didn’t have an MMO – and i liken that to having a crack addiction. They played WoW, they played it for a long time, and then they got bored of it – but they didnt stop playing MMO’s – they looked for something else, and found it wasnt as sweet, or was the same game with a different paint job.

All of these MMO’s have a certain level of hype which bubbles up then explodes just prior to release, where i bet the amount of sales that go through several hours before release are mind-boggling.

People want to play the new thing. They NEED their MMO fix. But nothing since WoW has sated them – not even the mighty Guild Wars 2 which was touted as being the second coming of Jesus.

Everquest Next is about the only thing on the horizon that i think can provide the level of excitement people are looking for – and with its voxel landscape, innovation as well. The whole Landmark link to it is nothing short of pants moving IMO.

This same level of hype will be repeated for…..god I’ve just gone blank on its name….the other in development MMO that looks almost identical to WoW…anwyay it will be the same – it’ll come, it’ll be hysteria, and then it’ll pass – again.

 
James Pinnell

nekosan:
I can’t even think of one MMO that failed because it was a sub model…. they all fail because they arent finished and/or designs arent conductive to actual multiplayer fun outside of zerging things.

You’re missing the point. The sub model tanked the game because it didn’t justify its value. Free to play games give players the ability to learn and play at their leisure thus do much better in the long run at pulling and retaining players.

Slapping a $15/month mandatory fee *just because* will never work for most games since there is always something fairly similar which is cheaper or free.

 

local servers or gtfo. The game plays like ass with overseas latency. More than happy to shell $15 a month for that.

 

Marcus Dunn: god I’ve just gone blank on its name…

You mean Wildstar.

 

probits: /month mandatory fee *just because* will never work for most games since there is always something fairly similar which is cheaper or free.

In all fairness I would probably pay if they bothered to have decent OCE servers.
Despite the quadruple dip of Box Price, Monthly Sub, Microtransaction, 1/2 Yearly Expansions.

Even then I’d wait it out till they’ve sorted out some of the bugs. That first month is always a **** storm.

 

Marcus Dunn:
For the sake of discussion->

Way back when, WoW also had a full box price and subscription fee. It was also a lot smaller back then (prior to any of its expansions). Was it therefore also not able to justify those costs? Keeping in mind it released before things like micro-transactions were around in any genre.

WoW was not a lot smaller when it launched with vanilla. Most people do not play the old content at all and skip it as fast as they can to get to max level.

Therefore only the current expansion really makes up WoW. Back in vanilla the amount of content it had compared to say MoP now was literally a world of difference. The game felt way bigger back then than it does now.

 

The difference is that EQ1, UO and WoW all had unique aspects beyond just the graphical representation of their worlds that made them what they are.
TOR and ESO aren’t unique, they are just the same game with different graphics.

they aren’t next gen, so they are competing in an already well established and well worn segment.

Being unique justifies extra cost to the player, thats the difference.

 
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