The Elder Scrolls Online got a whole lot more contentious last week, when it emerged that the game would be available for a monthly fee - on top of what you'll pay for an Xbox Gold or PSN+ subscription.
Speaking to OXM at Gamescom, lead gameplay designer Nick Konkle and Bethesda Softworks marketing boss Peter Hines discussed this eyebrow-raising turn of events, revealing that Bethesda is trying to persuade Microsoft to make the game available to non-Gold subscribers.
Down for release in early 2014 on Xbox One, PC and PS4, the Elder Scrolls Online will be available for a standard high street price plus $14.99 a month in the US and £8.99 a month in the UK (we've yet to come across pricing details for other regions). According to Konkle, the development team has opted for a subscription model because it wants every player to have access to the same content, and because this is necessary to ensure proper post-release support.
"What's cool about having a subscription model for us, is that firstly we don't have any gates on the content - Elder Scrolls is very much a game about going wherever you want to, and if you're randomly running into artificial [obstacles] where you have to pay, it just doesn't feel right," he explained.
"The other thing is to do with maintaining a team, that can offer super service and put out content at a very high clip. If you want to do that, you really need to plan for it in advance and also maintain a really large team of people."
Hines added that "when we say content, we mean meaningful stuff, like new areas of the world, new factions, bigger meatier stuff. Not a couple of new weapons, or some new outfits, though we can do that too.
"We can do that stuff plus a lot more, stuff that's more 'Elder Scrollsy', not trivial. We could do it daily if we just wanted to throw a dagger out the door, we could just say 'here's today's update', but that's not what Elder Scrolls is about."
Subscribers can look forward to a "constant stream of goodies", in the words of ZeniMax Online's Paul Sage. "The more frequently you update, the more the players like it," he observed a week or two back. "Players are more engaged. I think it is an issue of trust in a lot of ways. They know there is going to be a lot of new content coming in."
As to the possibility of making the game's online offerings available to non-Gold subscribers, Hines reminded us that Gold is a service, the benefits of which aren't specific to any particular title. "We feel like most people such as yourself currently pay that subscription not to pay a game, but to play all games online.
"So in that sense, when I'm playing Call of Duty online I don't feel like I'm paying my monthly Xbox Live sub for Call of Duty - I'm just paying it because that's a thing that I do, and whatever game I'm playing at the time is the one that benefits.
"Having said that," he went on, "we have been in talks with Microsoft about that very thing, and seeing whether or not there's any room to change their minds about that, for folks who are only playing The Elder Scrolls Online and don't want to pay for an Xbox Live Gold subscription, just to pay for the Elder Scrolls Online.
"The answer right now is that's the way it works, but it's something that we're aware of and we keep pushing on, to see if there's something that can be done. We'll let you know if there's movement there."
We've seen little to indicate that Microsoft will allow people to play games online without a Gold subscription, but there's pressure from developers and, of course, players on this front. World of Tanks boss Victor Kislyi has argued that killing subscriptions on Xbox is "the future". What do you think? Would you rather play a freely available game with unsightly monetisable bits, or fork out for a sub and access everything without additional fuss?
Check out our Elder Scrolls Online race guide for more on the nuts and bolts.