The Elder Scrolls Online 's three-way tiff over whose posterior claims the Imperial City's throne perfectly befits the franchise's massive lore background. To join in, though, players will need to pay a subscription fee on top of purchasing the disc or downloading the upcoming MMO. Producer Bethesda and developer ZeniMax have both come out in defense of that debatable decision . They argue they can provide heavier content thanks to a bigger budget, but it's still an interesting choice given the rise of free-to-play gaming. Speaking to GameSpot (opens in new tab) , Bethesda Vice President of PR Pete Hines claims a monthly fee exists to help bolster ESO with richer, "significant" content updates.
"[F2P] just seems like a lesser game, and we're not going to make a lesser game that might be more palatable," Hines says. "We want to do the version that we think is the best game and the coolest experience. And that means putting a lot of people and a lot of content creators towards having stuff that comes out regularly; every four weeks, five weeks, six weeks. Big new stuff that you want to do.
"We're also very confident in our ability to support it with content," he continues. "And not content of the magnitude of, 'It's a new month, here's a new sword or here's a funny hat,' but content that is real and significant and it feels like regular and consistent DLC releases."
Hines believes ESO's more focused appeal to certain kinds of players—Elder Scrolls buffs and MMO fans, specifically—justifies the lowered player count from a subscription fee.
"We're not trying to make a game that everybody who plays games will automatically buy," he says. "It's a certain kind of game. There's no shooter elements. There's no aliens. It's a massive, 'Go where you want, do what you want' game that we think offers the kind of experience that's worthy of a subscription."
The value of a subscription fee is often difficult to define in a genre as prone to changing expectations as MMOs. The challenge here is for ZeniMax and Bethesda to follow through on their pledge of quality from the extra money they take in. A set update schedule sounds fine on paper, but post-release studio rearrangements and sales performance are sometimes all it takes to widen the gap between content patches. That's something to keep an eye on after ESO's April 4 release, but for now, invites are currently underway for the beta's last weekend stress test event (opens in new tab) .