So The Elder Scrolls Online launched last week Friday for everyone after being available for a week before that to people who pre-ordered the game. Having played a bit over the weekend, I can say that it’s looking pretty good, delivering a definite Skyrim-meets-MMO type of vibe as far as aesthetics, quests and combat goes.

Interestingly, Bethesda went with a subscription model for the game, meaning people need to pay $14.99 every month if they want to keep playing. On the box, it says that the first 30 days are free, though, and therein lies the problem that has the Elder Scrolls Online community up in arms.

The first 30 days of game time are only “free” if you opt for one of Bethesda’s payment plans, which requires a credit card. It’s not a matter of “play for 30 days, decide if you want to play longer and then sign up for a subscription”, it’s a case of players being forced to choose their subscription before they’ve had sufficient time to decide whether they want to pay to play longer.

What’s worse, is that the verification charge that is billed to your credit card is not just a single dollar, as is done by most online services, it’s the full subscription amount. So if you choose to pay monthly, you’re charged $14.99 right away, or if you choose the 6-month plan that costs¬†$12.99 per month of play, your once-off verification charge will be $77.94.

Sure, the charge is reversed eventually (it is just done to verify your credit card is legit), but that’s just the problem – it happens eventually, not right away. The final insult is that without choosing a subscription plan, players can’t log into the game, even though they have “free” game time owed to them.

A possible workaround for people who don’t have credit cards or who want to avoid using them altogether is prepaid time cards, but at the time of this writing prepaid time cards for The Elder Scrolls Online aren’t widely available anywhere, not in brick and mortar retail outlets or online.

The online community is rather miffed about the issue, to put it mildly, and have been voicing their concerns/outrage on the game’s official forums,¬†but thus far Bethesday/Zenimax haven’t put out any sort of official response to it all. Isn’t that just lovely?

Update: We’ve just gone through the process of adding a subscription to our review account, which connects to the European TESO servers, and the credit card used wasn’t billed anything at all. In fact, the “Add a subscription” page said the charge would be 0.00 EUR, and that billing would commence at the end of the free period.

Thus, this fiasco business appears to be a North American issue. We’ll keep you posted should a charge come through later.