The $15 question: Bethesda will “continually work to prove” Elder Scrolls Online sub is worth it

That subscription: the gargantuan semi-aquatic swamp monster in the room.

The Elder Scrolls Online is out now; here’s our Elder Scrolls Online review.

Short of a frenzied in-app purchase adventure, you’re not going to spend more money on a game this year than you might on The Elder Scrolls Online. Its full-price box comes with the industry-standard 30 free days, but beyond that you’re travelling Tamriel on your own dollar – 15 per month, to be exact.

Bethesda’s Pete Hines expects players to “warm to” ESO’s cost once they’ve taken the game’s continent from its highest peaks – but is keen to reassure that Zenimax Online will earn that asking price over and over through “continuous” and “meaningful” updates.

“That is something we’re going to continually work to prove, that you’re getting value for that $15 per month,” Hines told 3news.

That value’s going to come from two places: continual, granular improvements, and major content updates.

“They won’t be little things,” said Hines. “They’ll be regular, consistent, meaningful updates for the game that are the kind of things that players want to see.

“Whether that’s a new zone to play or a new feature that players want to see – maybe someone wants there to be a Dark Brotherhood guild they can go to with their Argonian, that’s something we can add. That content can come in all different shapes and sizes.”

Hines pointed out that story content doesn’t end when characters reach level 50. ESO’s races are divided between three broad regions, and each player unlocks the other two regions once they’ve reached the end of their own alliance’s story.

“You can’t go to level 51 but you can still level the character up by continuing to improve what that character is good at,” he said. “You can take that character all the way through an alliance, start to finish, then take them and start a different alliance as a level 50, fighting not level 1 stuff but enemies that are appropriate for your level, unlocking cool new stuff you can only get to by doing that.

“There’s three alliances to play through, each of them hundreds of hours of gameplay, plus you have PvP, plus there’s the new content that we’re adding.”

ESO’s steep price of entry, then, represents a “value proposition” that players will only begin to recognise once they’ve spent a good deal of time crouch-jumping about Daggerfall and its environs.

“We want it to feel like a AAA game and we want to have AAA support, and a subscription will allow us to do that in a way simply wouldn’t be able to with a pay-once proposition,” concluded Hines.

Bethesda are asking players to lay down upwards of $60 in the expectation that their faith will be rewarded. It’s a tough sell, and an unusual one in this age: more or less the opposite approach to MMOs like Lord of the Rings Online, which lock off later content behind paygates.

Do you think it’ll work for them? Will it work for you?