Is it Too Late to Play Elder Scrolls Online?

It’s hard to believe that the Elder Scrolls Online has been around for 5 year now, and it seems like only yesterday we were playing the beta, wondering what the future held for ESO. 5 years is a long time to be playing an MMO, and this tends to create a wide separation between veterans and new players. This happens because, bluntly, new players have years of content and knowledge to catch up on, and this can be quite intimidating. In fact, the most frequent question I am asked is, “Is it Too Late to Get Into Elder Scrolls Online?”.

In this article that is the exact question we will aim to answer. However, I am going to assume that if you’re reading this then you already have mild interest in the game, so we won’t discuss what makes the game fun to play.

Is it Too Late to Play Elder Scrolls Online?

Anytime you jump into an MMO after it launches you are essentially the “new kid on the block”. This is a tough position for anyone to be in, and this is before you take into account how a game is performing, and where it may or may not be in its life cycle. Nobody wants to join an MMO that’s on its way out, investing time and money into something that won’t last. So, before we jump into whether or not you should try out Elder Scrolls Online, let me give you some information on MMOs in general that you may not be aware of.

The MMO Life Cycle

All MMOs have a similar “Life Cycle” that they inevitably follow (unless they are WoW), and Elder Scroll Online is no exception. The game is just over 5 years old now, as mentioned above, so players maybe wondering how much longer its got in the tank. Let’s take a look at this Life Cycle so we can pinpoint just where ESO falls.

  1. Game Launch
  2. Large influx of players
  3. Game plateaus
  4. Player Base declines
  5. Subscription ends
  6. Resurgence of Player Base <—————– ESO is here
  7. Player Base plateaus
  8. Player Base declines
  9. Game goes F2P
  10. Resurgence of Player Base
  11. Player Base Plateaus
  12. Player Base declines
  13. Server consolidation
  14. Further Player Base decline
  15. In-game store becomes focus of the game
  16. Player Base dwindles further
  17. Servers close

To give you some comparisons of MMOs: Lord of the Rings Online launched in 2007 and went Free-to-Play in 2010. Rift launched in 2011 and went Free-to-Play in 2013. Star Wars the Old Republic launched in 2011 and went Free-to-Play in 2012. Wildstar launched in 2014 and went Free-to-Play in 2015. This means that games are going Free-to-Play faster and faster on average, or are simply being created as F2P from the very beginning.

Lord of the Rings Online launched in 2007 and became free-to-play by 2010.

Elder Scrolls Online was released in 2014, and if I’m being totally honest, I’ve been anticipating F2P to come for two years now based on the averages. Just looking down the list you can see that even after 5 years Elder Scrolls Online is still hanging tough, and this is partly because of the frequent content Updates that it gets. But it is also because of some quick thinking by the Zenimax development team, adding many quality of life improvements with each Update, and I’ll cover these in the next section.

ESO’s Evolution & It’s Golden Age

The Elder Scroll Online released with an extremely rocky launch, and the game had a major identity crisis that lead to bad reviews. Many players tried the game once and then never came back, and I see many players now asking if it’s worth the return to check out what’s changed. In this section I’d like to show you what’s been added to the game since launch, which is a very extensive list and might blow your mind a bit. I’ve not included DLC content that was added to the game here, but simply quality of life improvements:

  • 12 Man Trials added to the game. These are essentially “Raids” that have Normal and Veteran difficulties.
  • Guild Traders added, allowing players to buy from Guilds they are not a part of
  • Guild Heraldry added, allowing players to represent their Guilds visibly
  • Armor Dies added to the game
  • 2 and 4 piece Set Bonuses added
  • Pledges (Dungeon Daily Challenges) added to the game
  • Dungeon Finder added to the game
  • Crafting Writs, allowing players to gain xp from daily crafting quests, as well as materials and other special items
  • Justice System added allowing you to commit crime and be punished if caught
  • The Champion System added, allowing for progression after reaching max level (50)
  • Tamriel Unlimited (Removal of the the Subscription Model)
  • Sets Dropped now match your level, previously these had fixed level ranges and did not scale
  • ESO released on Consoles
  • New Crafting Material tier added for Champion Level 150/160 gear
  • Several new Skill Lines added based on new Guilds
  • Assistants that allow you to manage your items on the fly
  • Can now murder citizens and punished if caught
  • Veteran Ranks removed from the game
  • Personalities added to the game
  • Console text chat added, previously they only had voice chat
  • One Tamriel (Players can now play with any player of any faction ,and level, in any zone except Cyrodiil)
  • Witches Festival, and other Holiday Events added to the game. These are now about 6 times or so a year.
  • Player Housing added to the game
  • Warden Class added to the game
  • Transmutation added, allowing you to change the Traits of equipment
  • Jewelry Crafting added
  • 2 Handed Weapons became 2 Set pieces instead of 1
  • Werewolf was overhauled
  • Necromancer Class Added
  • Guild Finder Added

None of these things were part of the game at launch, and it’s easy to see why the game wasn’t quite so good back then. It was hard to play with your friends, you couldn’t do Dungeons with players of other Factions, and there was no Dungeon Finder. And on console, for a period of time, you couldn’t even communicate via text, making things worse.

Now anyone can play with anyone, and Level and Faction are not important. Players can do any Zone they wish in any order, maximizing the potential to play with others, friends or not. Equipment and Sets are now much better than ever before, and Zenimax continues to revamp and improve these with every major Update, including Elsweyr.

Elsweyr & Elder Scrolls Online

Elsweyr, the third Expansion for Elder Scrolls Online is releasing on June 4th on all platforms. Expansions are now a once a year occurrence for ESO, and with them come some very very good deals on the game. For instance, right now you can purchase the Elsweyr Digital Standard Edition from the Elder Scrolls Online Store for 59.99 USD, and this will come with the base game, Elsweyr and also the other two Expansions: Morrowind and Summerset. These Expansions are otherwise a few thousand Crowns each in the Crown Store, which is roughly 70 USD by themselves. You simply won’t find a better deal than this until next year’s Expansion, so I strongly recommend this edition if you like what you see of the game.

However, if you aren’t interested in shelling out that kind of money just now, you can also pick up the base game for around 19.99 USD. In addition, there are often sales on the game that go as low as 9.99 USD, like the one on Humble Bundle just the other day. This is next to nothing for a game that gets constant Updates, and almost all quality of life improvements also effect the base game. It’s a very low risk proposition at this price.


Elder Scrolls Online is defying all expectations by continuing to sell their game at retail, and hang on to/expand their player base. Zenimax’s commitment to frequent content Updates has won Elder Scrolls Online countless MMO of the Year awards, and is even starting to convert WoW players over to the Tamriel side of things. Whether you’re looking for a new MMO to play, or you’re a returning player who was disappointed at launch, I highly recommend this game.

It is, of course inevitable that the game will become F2P at some point, and begin its gradual decent into to mediocridum. However, at the rate that ESO is going, I don’t expect this to happen for several years, and I do believe that we are right smack in the middle of its “Golden Age”.

Right now is the best time to be playing the Elder Scrolls Online, so if you are really wondering whether or not it’s too late to get into, the answer is a resounding “No”.

Stay tuned for more ESO Builds and ESO Content through out June as we dive deeper into Elsweyr! You can also learn all the biggest changes with the latest expansion in Elder Scrolls Online Elsweyr: 6 Biggest Changes

You can also stop by the Elder Scrolls Online wiki for further info.


Senior Editor at Fextralife. I enjoy gaming, playing and watching sports, cooking yummy food, watching a good movie and hanging out with Fex.

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One comment on “Is it Too Late to Play Elder Scrolls Online?”

  1. Nahztek-Shadowpath says:

    I bought a CE on launch and my PC could barely play it. Finally got into it about a year and a half ago on PS4.

    I had a great time with it but had to quit due to late night impulse buys when working on my houses…
    I think I spent about 300$ on that game in a few weeks just in the item shops. It was very apparent that they saved anything really cool looking for the real-money market. Most things acquired through the game look generic. Yet items in the shop look awesome. Not cool.

    Sure, you can save gold and look for deals at the auction for some stuff, but not everything.
    It wouldn’t be so bad, but they constantly update the store with new, cool stuff that I want. It’s just way too much, especially in a game from a franchise known for players collecting items.

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