The Elder Scrolls Online director Matt Firor has explained to Eurogamer why Zenimax Online Studios has decided to charge a monthly subscription for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game at a time when most observers consider the business model outdated.
Zenimax raised eyebrows this week when it announced that it will charge £8.99 / $14.99 a month to play TESO when it launches in the spring of 2014 - that's across PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Before explaining the decision, Firor insisted: "this isn't a referendum on free-to-play."
"I play those games all the time," he said. "This isn't like: those aren't valid."
The decision was made for two reasons, Firor said: to ensure monetisation would fit appropriately within the established Elder Scrolls experience, and to fund post-release content.
"When you're in an Elder Scrolls game, you're in a world," he said, explaining the former point. "We don't want players to hit monetisation fees when they're in the world.
"It's like, I go into a dungeon, if I don't have access to the dungeon it pops up a window: you don't have access to this, go buy 50 credits. We didn't want that experience. That's not an Elder Scrolls experience.
"We wanted to do monetisation outside of the game. So, if I pay for a month at a time, I have 100 per cent of the game. I don't have to worry about paying one more cent. I'll never run into a pay gate and I'll be in the world."
"Everyone needs to make their own decisions. We picked the one that we felt matches with us the best."The Elder Scrolls Online director Matt Firor
Explaining the latter point, Firor said: "The other reason is we really want a steady forecastable revenue stream so we can do constant updates. We're working on post-launch content right now, and we want to make sure we're covering all of the new content, which will hopefully be released every month or six weeks, for as long as people want to play the game.
"When I talk about new content, I mean, we're launching with the Mages Guild and the Fighters Guild questlines, but we're going to launch the Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood at some point as part of the regular updates. And those are 15 hours of content a piece. We're talking major new stuff, which is going to be coming out constantly. And the way to do that the best for us is with a subscription."
Firor concluded: "Everyone needs to make their own decisions. We picked the one that we felt matches with us the best."
The Elder Scrolls Online is a huge investment on the part of Zenimax, which owns Skyrim publisher Bethesda.
TESO developer Zenimax Online was founded in 2007, at which time it began creating a new game engine to support the project. Work on the game itself didn't begin until 2009 - so it's been in development for over four years.
The monthly subscription applies to all versions of the game: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Firor said. The team is in talks with Microsoft and Sony about how this will be implemented on console given both companies have online multiplayer paywalls in place.