There have been a number of massively multiplayer online role-playing games released over the last few years. Unfortunately, many of them have come and gone, or started as a subscription-based MMO, only to change to free-to-play (F2P) months later. It's come to the point where some believe the MMO market is done, and if you're not World of Warcraft(WoW) or some other big brand, you won't make any waves. Luckily, The Elder Scrolls is a powerful brand, but how will ESO stack up to the other games in the genre? Let's take a quick look.
While games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic, TERA and Planetside 2 are doing well using the F2P model, ESO will use a subscription-based payment plan. Following in the steps of World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV, anyone who wishes to play The Elder Scrolls Online will have to purchase the game, then spend $14.99 per month after the initial 30-day trial period.
Based on sales of the traditional Elder Scrolls titles, the first few months should be littered with players. As long as the developers maintain a steady flow of content, there will be a player base for the game. Would it be larger if the game was F2P? Of course, but that doesn't mean it won't flourish as a subscription title. Even if we assume WoW is an exception, Final Fantasy XI still has over 300,000 subscribers nearly a decade after it was initially released, and Final Fantasy XIV is performing even better as it approaches its 6 month celebration.
The PC is the traditional gaming platform for MMORPGs. However, several games found success in the console market, such as Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy XIV, Everquest and DC Universe Online. The main difference is that all of these titles are available for platforms with a large install base. ESO will launch on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One just a few months after its initial PC release.
In addition to being on brand-new consoles with a limited user base, you won't be able to play together with players on other consoles. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of the game will be restricted to their own individual servers, while PC players will be grouped together with Mac owners. This is par for the course, as DC Universe Online has similar restrictions, but it's also F2P. Both subscription-based MMOs, Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV offer cross-platform play. FFXI allows PC, PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 owners to play together on the same servers. FFXIV allows PC, PS3 and soon PS4 owners to play together.
While The Elder Scrolls has a significant fan base on consoles, it will be interesting to see how many of those fans are willing to pay a monthly fee to play ESO. It's safe to assume that the PC version will have the largest player base, but with the combination of a subscription fee, no cross-platform play and the smaller installed base of the next generation consoles, it's tough to say the console versions will have a solid player base. Here's to hoping the early adopters come out in droves on both next generation consoles.
The Holy Trinity
Games such as WoW are fairly rigid in the Holy Trinity system. However, Guild Wars 2 is on the other end of the spectrum with a fairly open-ended system that virtually ignores the Holy Trinity. On the one hand, you have classes that fall into very specific roles, while the other offers the freedom to play almost any role at any time. The Elder Scrolls Online will fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.
You won't be able to simply play any role at any time, but many of the classes in ESO can be considered hybrids. You can play them as high-end DPS classes or as tanks. Some classes allow you to play the role of a support healer, or shift over to a DPS role with damage over time spells.
The way ESO is approaching the Holy Trinity is refreshing. You can still play each class as a specific party role and never deviate, or you can use the skill tree system to customize the class to your play style. It's a system that should appeal to RPG enthusiasts and gamers in general, and something fitting of the Elder Scrolls namesake.
Read up on the ESO classes here.
Player vs. Player
In the old days, PvP in WoW was huge. There were tournaments left and right, and it was a big part of the game. These days, the PvP in WoW isn't as much of a focus, but it's still there. Meanwhile, you take a game like Final Fantasy XIV, in which PvP wasn't even available when the game launched, and even after it was added, it seems to be a secondary activity.
The Elder Scrolls Online will take the middle ground. There's a separate PvP section of the game where players enjoy an all-out battle between alliances. There will be a deep system of rules and strategy going on in PvP that isn't seen in other MMO titles. In addition to the standard large-scale battles, players can shank other players while they're performing standard quests in the PvP area. There's even a level of economic warfare to be had when you factor in walls and buildings that can be destroyed and rebuilt to fortify defenses.
It's too early to determine how big the PvP in ESO will be, but it's safe to assume it will be bigger than PvP in Final Fantasy MMO titles, while having less of a focus compared to PvP in World of Warcraft. At the very least, if you're looking for some player vs. player action, it will be available.
Check out the full Elder Scrolls Online PvP breakdown.