ZeniMax Online General Manager Mat Firor confirmed with GameStar that the upcoming MMORPG The Elder Scrolls Online will not have a free-to-play model. That's surprising given that Rift, Star Wars: The Old Republic and many others in the genre attempted the subscription-only path and seemingly failed, adding the F2P model. However Firor believes The Elder Scrolls Online will have a fighting chance, and based on our hands-on during E3 2013, we might have to agree.
"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," he said. "Going with any other model meant that we would have to make sacrifices and changes we weren't willing to make."
Like all other subscription-based offerings, The Elder Scrolls Online will come with 30 days of free play after purchasing the game. Customers will have access to everything the virtual world will have to offer, and then have a choice to continue on with a flat monthly fee once the trial expires. Additional information about discounts and whatnot will be revealed at a later date, he said.
"The Elder Scrolls games are all about allowing the player to go where they want, be who they want, and do what they want," he said. "We feel that putting pay gates between the player and content at any point in game ruins that feeling of freedom, and just having one small monthly fee for 100% access to the game fits the IP and the game much better than a system where you have to pay for features and access as you play."
Firor went on to add that the decision to go with a monthly subscription model has no reflection on the team's opinion of other online game revenue models like free-to-play, buy-to-play and so on. They're proven models, but the subscription-based version is the one that works best with The Elder Scrolls Online. It's a premium experience backed by professional customer support.
"Players will appreciate not having to worry about being 'monetized' in the middle of playing the game, which is definitely a problem that is cropping up more and more in online gaming these days," he said. "The fact that the word 'monetized' exists points to the heart of the issue for us: We don't want the player to worry about which parts of the game to pay for - with our system, they get it all."
Firor added that the team is already working on content that will be rolled out once The Elder Scrolls Online goes live. This content will include new skills, quest lines, zones, dungeons and more – this is in addition to end-game content and the Player-vs-Player portion. An exact release schedule hasn't been etched in stone, but the team is shooting for a four to six week period between each content release.
Pricing details will be provided later, but the company plans to charge $14.99 per month, and cheaper rates for customers who choose to buy multiple months. Game time cards will be supported as well as a variety of other payment options.
UPDATE: The Elder Scrolls Online will have a cash shop too for "fun stuff".