Now that we know Elder Scrolls Online will be a pay to play game (requiring a monthly subscription of $14.99), a new topic has been trending on all the forums. Will ESO go Free to Play (F2P) after a couple months like Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR)?
There is one aspect of Elder Scrolls Online that could affect the subscriber base, the same issue that caused subscribers to stop paying for SWTOR.
People stopped playing SWTOR for many reasons, but the biggest and most detrimental one was the lack of “end game”. SWTOR’s End Game was very lack luster. You reach level cap and hit an imaginary wall. Once you completed your personal story line in SWTOR, the overall story arch was finished. There was no lead in to what was happening in End Game story lines, no hints as to what you’re supposed to do from then on. You go through the game with this incredibly epic story line and at the end of it you feel like you’ve accomplished something, you feel satisfied that your time was well wasted. The Operations, the Structured PvP, the Flashpoints all seemed like filler items for us to do. You don’t feel connected to them, and therefore have no real desire to complete them.
World of Warcraft has one of the best End Game experiences, which is one of the reasons it has remained the largest MMO. WoW offers players multiple ways to spend their time within Azeroth. You can do Pet Battles, Heroic Dungeons, Gather Materials for crafts, dailies, a simplified version of End Game raids (Looking for Raid), PvP Battlegrounds. All of this can be done solo, all of it has been tied to the overall storyline (more so in recent expansions). While leveling I’m learning about what is happening throughout the world, when I hit level cap, I’m informed and prepared to take on the threats that have been invading my home world. You feel connected to everything in the game, everything that you’ll do at end game is connected to your leveling process. When you hit level cap you’re not stuck not knowing what to do, the story continues, it progresses as the game is developed.
World of Warcraft is now starting to experience a subscriber loss, this isn’t due to the game being unfulfilling, it is due to the game beginning to show its age. The game is almost 10 years old, and still has 7.7 million subscribers. Even with the development team producing new content every 2-3months they are still losing players. All games have a life span, and WoW is starting to near the end.
This is where I’m scared for ESO.
MMOs need to be designed from an End Game perspective, nail down the concepts of what players will do at end game and then focus on the leveling experience. As of right now, the game is less than a year away, and we know very little about what we can expect from End Game other than the “concept” (word concept scares me even more) of Adventure Zones, and Cyrodiil which will contain a tri-faction battle for the Elder Scrolls and the Imperial City.
But Garbrac, you say, the leveling experience needs to be enjoyable otherwise people won’t play. You’re right it does, and it is important and should be focused on, but only after the team has solidified their concepts for End Game. As much as the leveling experience is important, it in no way compares to the importance of what the player will do at level cap. Think about all the MMOs you’ve played, how long did you play it for? A few months, a year, maybe even several years. Even if you only played the game for a few months, the leveling experience in time played is only a fraction of the time you spent at level cap. I played World of Warcraft for nearly 8 years. The time I spent leveling in that game is maybe a few months’ worth of time. Guild Wars 2 I played for under 8 months (with the occasional login now and then to see what is new) and the level experience took me under a month, 1/8th of my total time.
With Zenimax putting so much emphasis on the leveling process, I’m sure we’re going to get a top notch Elder Scrolls experience throughout the that process, but what about End Game? We know Molag Bal is the primary antagonist and we know our character is the “soulless one” who is prophesized to deter Molag Bal’s plans. However what we don’t know is: will this all take place in a personal character storyline (similar to what we experienced in SWTOR)? Or will it be the primary focus for End Game (similar to World of Warcraft)
As I said there is only one area of ESO that will cause people to unsubscribe and that is the lack of End Game. We need to be connected–if Molag Bal is defeated within our own personal storylines, is End Game going to be that side aspect of the game that has no real presence. If Elder Scrolls Online can provide me with continuous End Game, a progressing storyline, and most importantly a reason to login every chance I get, then I am more than happy to pay $15 a month for the entertainment, nay, the enjoyment of spending time in the world they are providing me.