Elder Scrolls Online,  Other Commentary

Some thoughts about ESO+

I haven’t been playing Elder Scrolls Online for very long, but I’ve been on the game long enough that I’ve already been able to form an opinion about the ESO+ stuff. I’m putting this into a separate post since this commentary is not directly related to any playthrough, and I have enough to say here that I feel like it deserves its own post.

Let me be abundantly clear: I’m sick to death of everybody on the planet making their users pony up for subscriptions. The banking software I’m using went to a subscription model for its latest version. Microsoft Office does it. Certain other pieces of software I have on my system do it, like software I’ve got for scanning my drive for duplicate files. Hell, several of the plugins I’m using in WordPress for this very site do it. So do apps on my phone and iPad.

Streaming services do it too, and of course there are eighty bajillion streaming services now, so you have to get a bunch of them if there’s content in multiple places you actually want to watch.

It’s not a question of whether I can afford it–I can, for which I am grateful. Rather, it’s a question of my being annoyed that the capitalistic society we live in is geared around so many providers of software going “let’s try to milk our users for as much money as possible.” Because that shit does add up. And people who are less able to afford this kind of thing than I am are screwed if they don’t have enough money in their budgets to account for buying additional shiny things in whatever software they’re trying to use, whether it’s a game, Microsoft Office, banking software, a streaming service, or what have you.

Also, while I can afford these things now, I grew up poor, and to this day that informs my choices about how I want to spend my money. I am extremely reluctant to pay for a subscription service unless it’s absolutely critical to something I need to do.

How this specifically relates to ESO for me as a player: it means I have a powerful and instinctive aversion to the idea that if I throw the game an additional fifteen bucks a month, then I get access to a whole bunch of shiny things. But if I stop paying, my access to those shiny things stops.

(Also, hi, i’m old, and I remember the days when buying a particular software release just meant you got that specific release. If you wanted an upgrade to it, you paid for the upgrade. I miss that business model. It was a lot more straightforward.)

Now, I’m coming into ESO after over a year and a half playing Skyrim. A game which, let me also be abundantly clear, I’ve loved passionately enough that I’ve paid for Skyrim content four times already–once for the base game on the Switch, once on Steam to get the PC build, once on Steam to get the Anniversary Edition upgrade, and once on the Switch to get the AE there too when it recently dropped.

Relatedly, while I was still playing Dungeon Boss, I threw a stupendously stupid amount of money at that game, too.

The difference in these situations vs. ESO+: it was entirely à la carte. One-time transactions that got me immediate benefits, which could not be then taken away later if I stopped providing money.

As I’ve said in previous posts, intellectually, I am aware that ESO is an MMO and as such, it has to make certain accommodations that a single-player, not-online game doesn’t have to care about. So I am willing to put up with limitations on my carry capacity for now.

In Skyrim, now that I’m able to play the AE on all my gaming-capable things, I can have a staggering number of houses to live in, all of which have their own storage space. And the game lets me carry as many things as I want, with the cost of having to be hampered in movement speed unless I get on a mount.

Morrowind is a lot less forgiving about this. I don’t have a house yet in my Morrowind playthrough, and also, that game does not let me carry an infinite number of things in my inventory. If I go over carry weight, I cannot move.

ESO so far feels more like Morrowind to me in this respect, even though its processing of carrying things seems to be more oriented around “how many carry slots you are allowed” rather than by “actual item weight”. And I actually don’t hate that. It means that right now, on ESO, I have to apply a strategy similar to what I do in Morrowind: i.e., I need to be prudent about which things I pick up. Do I really need another six hide scraps? Do I really need that steel helm dropped by that dire wolf I just killed? Do I have enough space in my inventory that I can get boss loot once I finish the dungeon I’m in?

And I feel like that actually improves my immersion. Because realistically speaking, my character shouldn’t be able to pick up an unlimited number of things while adventuring.

But that said: because Skyrim was the Elder Scrolls game I fell in love with first, that’s the one whose model I tend to prefer. I like being able to amass a dozen different kinds of armor and weapons, and show them off in my character’s living space. I like to be able to switch between different types of gear as whim dictates.

So I can tell right now, even after only a handful of days spent on ESO so far, that additional storage space is the thing most likely to make me want to give the game extra money. But I will strongly prefer doing that on an à la carte basis, i.e., buying a certain number of crowns and then spending those on the additional storage space.

Likewise, I feel like there’s a distinct possibility that once I feel like I’ve adequately explored what areas of the game I currently have access to, I might drop additional money on buying new content DLCs. And since I do enjoy playing the Thieves Guild in Skyrim, there’s a non-zero chance that I’ll want the DLC for that in this game too.

All the above said, I’m not going to completely discount the possibility of ever buying into ESO+. If I find that I want to play this game as long as I’ve played Skyrim, I may well tilt over to the side of “this game is giving me ongoing entertainment and it is worth it to me to pay some money to its ongoing ability to exist.” And right now, even after just the short time I’ve played it so far, I can tell that that possibility is on the board. See above commentary re: throwing money multiple times at both Skyrim and Dungeon Boss.

And let me also be clear on this: if you’re an ESO player and you do feel like ESO+ is worth it to you, great! I’m happy for you! Everybody should play a game the way they best see fit, including how much money they feel comfortable spending on it. All of this commentary in this post is one hundred percent just about me, not about anybody else’s choices in how they spend their money.

I am just not yet ready to commit to ESO+ yet personally. We will see what happens as I continue to play.

As Angela Highland, Angela is the writer of the Rebels of Adalonia epic fantasy series with Carina Press. As Angela Korra'ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series. She's also an amateur musician and devoted fan of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music.


  • Erin Schram

    I grew up middle class rather than poor, but my parents grew up during the Great Depression and I imprinted their frugal habits. I buy ESO Plus à la carte. Amy is similarly frugal, so she gains her annual ESO Plus subscription as a birthday present from me.

    Really, I am buying a banker assistant (https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Online:Assistants) on a layaway plan. When my characters wander around the landscape gathering resources, they quit and head into town to deposit them into a bank when their inventory is full. Summoning a banker to deposit the gathered ingredients in the field is much more convenient. I already purchased crow banker Baron Jangleplume on the EU server, and now I am saving up for another banker on the NA server.

    A banker assistant costs 5000 crowns, 4500 if I wait for a sale, which I will. Fifteen hundred Crowns cost $14.99, though sometimes ESO has a sale. In contrast, a one-month subscription to ESO Plus costs $16.10 and gives me 1650 crowns. So I go for the benefits of ESO Plus while saving up to buy a banker. One of those benefits is transferring my bank inventory of crafting supplies to a craft bag, so instead of buying three consecutive months of ESO Plus, I buy ESO Plus for one month whenever my bank inventory is overcrowded and spilling into my character inventories, once every three or four months.

    Hm, 44 dollars for a banker assistant is pretty expensive. But I will summon the assistant a few times each day.

    The other benefits of ESO Plus are permanently dyeing my characters’ new costumes and visiting DLC zones such as Clockwork City and Southern Elsweyr. But the chapter content is so big that I have not finished it, so visiting DLC zones is barely on my agenda except for a love of exploration. In fact, I haven’t even finished the main quest in Summerset yet. My character Emmy Noether Chain was running that quest, got distracted onto the Psijic Order questline, and the Elsweyr chapter was out before I returned to Summerset. Emmy and Josajeh bonded over their common Redguard heritage (smile). I should finish the Summerset quest before your Playthrough Posts become spoilers. Not that I mind spoilers.

  • Cync Brantley

    As I’ve already discussed much of this with Anna directly, for the sake of anyone else reading this, I just wanted to mention it here, from the point of view of a long-time (and also, not young) player. I feel so strongly about mandatory subscriptions, that when ESO first premiered with that model, it was a complete deal-breaker for me. Granted, the reviews were terrible, and I was involved with a different (mobile) MMO at the time, so might’ve decided not to play it anyway. But – deal-breaker. I absolutely refuse, unconditionally, to even try a game that has a required subscription.

    Three years later, after “One Tamriel,” there were some reviewers saying ESO had changed enough it might be worth looking at – but most significantly, the subscription had been changed, and was no longer mandatory. So the four of us in the household started playing, in 2017.

    We played without subscriptions, but several times a year, they had a free ESO+ trial. We were very suspicious of that at first, expecting it to require credit cards, and that it would auto-renew unless we cancelled it, but that’s not how it works. No credit card required, no strings; it’s just a free trial. We found it very helpful to fill our craft bags with materials, dye our costumes and hats, unlock things from DLC zones and dungeons (all of those stay unlocked, except jewelry from Summerset and Antiquities from Greymoor – whatever leveling you achieve stays, but you can’t do those when you don’t have the DLCs.)

    I still don’t like a pay-to-win model, so I appreciate that they make a subscription to ESO worth paying for, for the convenience, but it’s definitely possible to play without. What you get for the subscription, is primarily convenience. And the free ESO+ trials make a huge difference, for people who never pay for it, by giving them the opportunity to unlock things, earn things, and try out DLCs to see which of them might be worth buying with crowns, if they decide they might want to. Or just playing that content during the free trials enough that they feel they’ve done what they want with it, and don’t feel they need to buy it. I appreciate options.

    ESO+ is definitely worth it, for people who can afford it, and play a lot. Three of us subscribe all the time now. Erin, who posts here frequently, doesn’t. He makes the most of the free trials, and usually gets the subscription about once every six months, so he spends $30/year subscribing.

    One more thing that’s really important. A lot of people who choose not to subscribe all the time, make use of the crowns that come with the subscription when they DO subscribe, to buy DLCs, so they get permanent access.

    Don’t buy crowns. ESO+ costs $15 for a month, comes with 1650 crowns, and you get a lot more for your money along with it. Spending $15 on crowns will get you 1500 of them, and nothing else. That’s a big reason why people who don’t do ESO+ regularly, still do it sometimes, like Erin.

    Anyone who subscribes to ESO+ temporarily – as soon as you have subscribed, cancel the subscription, so it won’t automatically renew. Technically you can cancel at any time before it comes up for renewal, but if you do it right away, you won’t have to worry about forgetting. (Certain types of payments don’t auto-renew anyway.)

    Given all of that – I understand and respect Anna’s reasons for not even accepting the free trial right now. It’s not right for her, and that’s fine. (Also, there really is a lot going on for a new player. Minimize the overwhelming!)