ESO Has My Favorite Business Model

And here we see Sotha Sil’s greatest creation hard at work: The Cash Extraction Engine!

I don’t like subscription games. It’s what has kept me out of World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV since those games launched, even though I think they’re both great games that I know I would have a lot of fun in. I like the freedom to play whatever I feel like right now, and a subscription ties me down to one title for at least a month. And yet, I just reactivated my sub for a game that’s buy-to-play with a fully optional subscription, and not in a “well, you can play without paying a subscription, but we’ll penalize you so heavily you won’t want to” kind of way like, say, Star Wars: The Old Republic. That game, as you probably guessed from the title, is The Elder Scrolls Online.

First of all, yes, I realize the irony of the fact that I wrote a month ago about ESO’s lack of stickiness, and now I’m still playing. I’m still annoyed at the lack of an auction house, though my Khajiit has recently discovered a proclivity for… acquiring certain items at a…discount, so I’ve finally earned enough money for a small house! I’ll be sure to post screenshots when it looks presentable. The other factor is that I was pointed to a great guild, The Loreseekers (run by the guys who do the podcast of the same name), and have finally been healing some dungeons with them.

Anyways, back to ESO’s business model. First of all, I love that a $15 subscription gets you $15 of cash shop currency. I don’t think I’ve ever bought crowns outright, because this is such a good deal. Yes, a lot of games give you a free stipend of currency for subbing, but ESO is the only game I know that gives you an amount equal to the subscription fee. Sadly, this has the effect of making most of the cosmetics in the cash shop way overpriced ($30-$40 for a mount? That’s more than a DLC! And totally woth it to ride around on a dwemer spider) because the loyalists who subscribe all the time have piles of crowns sitting around waiting to be spent. But hey, it’s still a good deal even still.

The second reason I love this subscription model is because of the crafting bag. I have played more hours without the crafting bag than with it, and, once you can afford a few bank and inventory expansions, it really isn’t that bad. You simply make room in your bank for most of the material types, avoid picking up the myriad cooking and potion ingredients, and decondtruct your gear and deposit materials every time you go through a town, and you’re fine. Nothing out of the ordinary for someone who’s played (MMO)RPGs for any length of time. But inventory management is the single thing I hate most about RPGs. In games like Torchlight 2 and Skyrim I actually install mods to make my inventory bigger so I don’t have to deal with it. So if I can pay $15 a month and pick up any crafting material I want and not have to worry about it, I’m happy to do so.

The final perk is access to all of the DLCs. It’s sort of like renting the DLCs, as I’m happy to play them while my sub is on and ignore them the rest of the time. You could also think of it as rent-to-own, since you could just sub until you have enough crowns to buy the DLCs permanently, but at the rate they’ve been cranking out DLCs, it’ll take a while to pay for them all (not unlike rent-to-own property).

I promise I’m not getting paid to advertise for Zenimax. I’m just really happy with their business model; if it didn’t include lockboxes it would be perfect. Speaking of which, if they thought giving me free lockboxes for daily logins and Twitch drops would make me entice to buy more, they’re sorely mistaken. After opening probably twenty of the things I’ve gotten mostly junk (potions, food, and poisons), a couple of super ugly hats, and one outfit that I wouldn’t have paid for, but since it was free I guess I’ll use it. I’ve converted almost all of it to crown gems, which I have to admit is a nice feature, but I haven’t yet found anything particularly tempting to spend the gems on.


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