Why The Elder Scrolls Online needs a monthly subscription fee

The Elder Scrolls Online will justify its monthly subscription fee through regular and significant updates, Bethesda vice president Pete Hines told GameSpot, defending the company's decision to require a traditional subscription for its upcoming massively multiplayer title.

Describing the traditional business model as a "value proposition," Hines said the company plans to use user subscriptions to help fund these regular updates.

"We feel pretty strongly about the support we're going to have for the game and what you're going to get for those dollars," Hines explained in response to a question of why The Elder Scrolls Online was not pursuing a free-to-play model. "We're also very confident in our ability to support it with content. 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."

Comparatively, a free-to-play model would limit the number of developers the company could afford to continue creating new content.

"We want to do the version that we think is the best game and the coolest experience," Hines continued. "And that means putting a lot of people and a lot of content creators towards having stuff that comes our regularly; every four weeks, five weeks, six weeks. Big new stuff that you want to do."

According to Hines, Bethesda is aware that a subscription fee will limit the number of those interested in purchasing the game; However, the company is aware it is developing for a niche audience regardless.

"We're not trying to make a game that everybody who plays games will automatically buy," he elaborated. "It is a certain kind of game. There's no shooter elements. There's no aliens. It is 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."

Last August, developer ZeniMax Online Studios announced The Elder Scrolls Online would require a $14.99 subscription fee each month. At the time, general manager Matt Firor explained the subscription model fit the open-world experience ZeniMax wants to offer.

Firor said that the decision to require a "flat fee for continued, unlimited access" will allow the studio to forgo "sacrifices" that other pricing models would force.

"We're building a game with the freedom to play alone or with your friends as much as you want," he said. "A game with meaningful and consistent content - one packed with hundreds of hours of gameplay that can be experienced right away and one that will be supported with premium customer support. Charging a flat monthly (or subscription) fee means that we will offer players the game we set out to make, and the one that fans want to play. Going with any other model meant that we would have to make sacrifices and changes we weren't willing to make."

The Elder Scrolls Online is set to launch on April 4 for Windows PC and in June for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Currently the game is in closed beta check out our video preview for a first look.

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