The Elder Scrolls Online kicked off the new year with a little controversy. Kotaku columnist Superannuation Tweeted that The Elder Scrolls Online has a $200 million budget, then quickly deleted it.
If true, this would make The Elder Scrolls Online one of the top three most expensive games to develop ever, below the $265 million Grand Theft Auto V and roughly tied with Star Wars: The Old Republic. Of course, there’s no way to know if this is true unless Zenimax reveals the numbers, but that hasn’t stopped columnists, like Forbes contributor Paul Tassi, from taking the opportunity to declare the upcoming game a “disaster.”
Tassi’s column speculates the combination of a huge budget and a monthly subscription fee will lead to failure.
“I’m not sure if it’s arrogance, the idea that people love the Elder Scrolls so much they’ll pay $60 for a box copy and $180 a year to play TESO, but it’s bad business sense at the very least. It’s not only subscription fees that are becoming out of fashion, but the very concept of huge budget, AAA MMOs in general. I thought SWTOR was the final object lesson any other studio would need to scale back whatever future plans they had for their own expensive MMO attempts, but it appears that lesson didn’t sink in for TESO, and they may end up paying the price for it,” Tassi wrote.
Zenimax responded to Tassi’s question about the budget saying to “keep looking” for a statement that may or may not come in the next few days, and pointed him to this interview with Zenimax General Manager Matt Firor explaining the benefits of the subscription model.
“The Elder Scrolls games are all about allowing the player to go where they want, be who they want, and do what they want. We feel that putting pay gates between the player and content at any point in game ruins that feeling of freedom, and just having one small monthly fee for 100% access to the game fits the IP and the game much better than a system where you have to pay for features and access as you play. The Elder Scrolls Online was designed and developed to be a premium experience: hundreds of hours of gameplay, tons of depth and features, professional customer support – and a commitment to have ongoing content at regular intervals after launch. This type of experience is best paired with a one-time fee per month, as opposed to many smaller payments that would probably add up to more than $14.99/month any way.
And it’s important to state that our decision to go with subscriptions is not a referendum on online game revenue models. F2P, B2P, etc. are valid, proven business models – but subscription is the one that fits ESO the best, given our commitment to freedom of gameplay, quality and long-term content delivery. Plus, players will appreciate not having to worry about being “monetized” in the middle of playing the game, which is definitely a problem that is cropping up more and more in online gaming these days. The fact that the word “monetized” exists points to the heart of the issue for us: We don’t want the player to worry about which parts of the game to pay for – with our system, they get it all.”
The questions about the budget may shake out in the next few days, or they may not, but the overall question of whether The Elder Scrolls Online will succeed will only be answered some time after the game’s April 4 release date.