The MMO market has changed since unveiling the project, and the "ability to trust or believe" what the studio has to say is hampered by things Bethesda "had nothing to do with".
The climate has shifted further away from subscription and more toward free-to-play. Star Wars: The Old Republic has adopted F2P and Guild Wars 2 launched with it.
"One of the things that we understand better", said Pete Hines in an interview, "is the extent to which we need to answer to things that have nothing to do with us." People make a lot of presumptions about what Bethesda should or shouldn't be doing, which puts a real strain on trying to communicate their message with The Elder Scrolls Online.
"Because several somebody elses before us said X,Y or Z, as a result anybody's ability to trust or believe in what we're talking about is in some way affected by things that obviously we had nothing to do with..." he continued, adding that "that is the climate" of MMOs. "That's why we've really emphasised that the next thing has to show what it is we're planning to do, so that we're not talking about it as a reaction to those things."
Bethesda is yet to announce what type of model TESO will be adopting and they're unlikely to unveil that news anytime soon. Free-to-play has been a significant boon to MMOs that at first used subscriptions to drive the game, but server populations started dwindling. One radical success story was The Lord of the Rings Online which made the switch and saw revenue soar. ArenaNet's Guild Wars 2 launched entirely free-to-play to lucrative sales.
"So you can look at something like horse armour," Hines says. "The reaction to horse armour wasn't just about price; it was more a lesson on when you're going to ask somebody to pay X, do they feel like they're getting Y in exchange. If they don't feel like they're getting their money's worth they're going to bitch."
"So it's not about the amount of money; it's about are you giving them really good value for what you're making them pay for. That's not an Elder Scrolls specific philosophy; I think that's a philosophy for us across everything, whether it's a game or DLC or an MMO or whatever. We have to make sure we're providing enough quality for what you're paying for, whatever you're paying for, so that the customer feels satisfied that, 'I got good value for my money.'"
Check out the full interview between Pete Hines and GamesIndustry.biz.