It was only a matter of time, if recent reports are anything to go by. With EB Games and other retailers pulling copies of The Elder Scrolls Online from shelves, speculation was rife that the disappointingly received MMORPG was finally moving to a free-to-play model. Bethesda Softworks has finally revealed that The Elder Scrolls Online is not only going free-to-play, but will also be available on PS4 and Xbox One worldwide on 9 June, the console release being consistent with the current PC release, which is good news for potential buyers.
Retitled The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unleashed, the removal of a traditional MMO subscription service doesn’t mean that Bethesda haven’t included alternate revenue streams in order for the title to continue receiving support and content. While all existing PC players will transition automatically to the new F2P system, anybody wishing to play this updated release on PC or console will still be required to purchase a copy at full retail price, much like the Guild Wars series. To complement this, Bethesda is also taking a cue from the model employed by Funcom with The Secret World by including a store which will sell cosmetic and ‘convenience’ items, as well as optional add-on content whilst still providing players who elect not to spend further access to regular content and gameplay updates.
But wait! There’s still more! ESO:TU will also include an optional subscription model dubbed ESO Plus which will provide players who front up a monthly fee with “a premium membership service, providing exclusive in-game bonuses, a monthly allotment of crowns to use in the store and access to all DLC game packs while a member.” PC players with active subscriptions by 17 March will automatically transition to the ESO Plus program.
With so many options to choose from, it seems as if Bethesda are catering to the widest audience possible, although how successful this move will be remains to be seen. History is encouraging however, as seen through the continued success of Lord of the Rings Online, The Old Republic, The Secret World and many other MMO’s after transitioning to a F2P model.