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Is Elder Scrolls Online Cash Shop Designed as Pay2Win?

With Elder Scrolls Online’s move to being a F2P game occurred a while ago, its cash shop has gone through many updates since then, with each one bringing about more and more new things. As part of this, games also evaluate their feasibility with the current monetization model and work towards ensuring they have a solid flow of income. With ESO’s transition over time, it’s given a pretty clear idea of where the game stands now, and at least the short-term decisions that will be made. So let’s dive in and evaluate it!


P2W Means Unfairness towards Paying Players

First off, understanding what P2W means is important. It essentially breaks down to being when a game shows unfairness towards their paying customers. If you can quickly and easily differentiate the two when it comes to things like PvP (in that non-paying players are at a disadvantage), it’s P2W. Anything that is just visual, on the other hand, is not classified the same, because while it gives some players things others might not have access to, it doesn’t give them an unfair advantage. In essence, it’s the difference between effective items and economic status ones.
Expansions and Their Effect

Expansions to the game, or in the case of ESO, DLC, are present. At this point, there are two additions available: Imperial City and Orsinium. In the case of these two, while they do come with new gear and a lot of other new things, they are not considered as P2W. Despite having a cost and bringing about benefits to those that purchase it, this is akin to expansions on other games – such as World of Warcraft and the like. So despite this setup, what you need to compare isn’t the additional add-ons to the game, but rather two players that are using the same setup and what is available to them as a result. Two players using Orsinium, for example, make a great comparison. One with and one without simply do not.


Do Experience Boosts Count?

Experience is a core part of the game because it’s what helps you level. And there are experience boost potions available in the cash shop. But what is their overall effect at the end of the day? Little to none. All players that are working towards hitting the level cap will get there. Each enemy killed and quest completed pushes you ever so closer to reaching that goal, and while the experience boosts do help to speed this up some, they are not going to make or break the game, nor are they giving one player a tangible benefit over anyone else – think of this as being the difference between nolifing and being a more casual player. Both can eventually hit the same point, it will just take one a little (or a lot) longer. Or you could just chalk it down to someone being a bit better at survivability and hunting higher level enemies to gain slightly more experience.

Are There Game-Breaking Items?

Going through the cash shop, Bethesda has done a great job at keeping items out that would give one player an advantage over another. The closest thing found was the “Crown Fortifying Meal,” which increases max health, max magicka, and max stamina for two hours. Even so, there are items that can be obtained within the game itself that do the same thing, so using the cash shop to obtain these isn’t a necessity.

Past this potion and things like soul gems (for resurrecting, which are also easy enough to snag in the game), all that’s available are things that change looks of gear and other items. Nothing else has a functional benefit, and none of the items actually put one player above another. You could argue, however, that some of the things in the shop (like new crafting styles or mounts) give a socio-economic status, but these won’t affect one player fighting another or anything, keeping it from being classified as P2W.


Is Buying Items Necessary?

This leads us to the answer of the day, which is an easy enough one: “no.” You don’t need to spend a cent on the cash shop to enjoy the game and experience it. The only parts that you really need to pay if you decide you want to take part in them would be the DLC, which opens things like new dungeons and gear sets. But these are not part of the core game and should essentially be treated as separate games, just inter-linked to one another. While games with subscriptions usually offer these for free, F2P and B2P games need to charge for them in order to continue development on new content and keep pushing out even more expansions (or in the case of ESO, DLC). So while these come at a cost, they’re not needed unless you just want them, and they directly help support the creation of more great content to the game. Simply explore what they offer and decide if one, both, or neither are best for you and react accordingly!

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