Game director Firor promises "meaningful and consistent content" with TESO, that can be played solo, thanks to a "flat monthly" fee. Free-to-play 'would mean sacrifices'.
As with 99% of MMOs, the first 30 days are entirely free when you buy the game, and if you want to "continue playing for hundreds of hours more" then it's time to pay.
"We're thrilled that gamers are looking forward to diving into The Elder Scrolls Online and we've been working hard to deliver the game that fans want - one that's worthy of the Elder Scrolls name. Choosing the right business model is part of that. We are going with the subscription model for ESO," Matt Firor told GameStar.
"We're building a game with the freedom to play - alone or with your friends - as much as you want. 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," continued the game director. "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 offers unlimited play for the first 30 days with the purchase of the game. The choice is yours to play as much as you want; hundreds of hours of content, PvP, etc - is all there for you to experience with the base purchase of the game. If you want to continue playing for hundreds of hours more after that first month you'll pay a flat fee for continued, unlimited access to the game."
ZeniMax didn't want to put in free-to-play 'pay gates' between players and certain content.
"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," said Firor.
"The Elder Scrolls Online was designed and developed to be a premium experience: hundreds of hours of gameplay, tons of depth and features, professional customer support - and a commitment to have ongoing content at regular intervals after launch." They aren't dissing alternatives, which are all "valid, proven business models" in the MMO market.
"...subscription is the one that fits ESO the best, given our commitment to freedom of gameplay, quality and long-term content delivery. Plus, 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."
Check out the full interview between Matt Firor and GameStar. The Elder Scrolls Online releases on PC in Q1 2014.