More ‘Elder Scrolls Online’ Free-to-Play Move Evidence As Retailer Pulls Game From Shelves

Did we just receive another sign that The Elder Scrolls Online is going from a monthly subscription-based game to free-to-play? A report Thursday indicates that one major Australian retailer is pulling the game from store shelves.

Kotaku AU is reporting that EB Games sent out a directive to all of its Australian stores to send back all copies of The Elder Scrolls Online to publisher Bethesda Softworks. This includes not only the physical copies of the game, but pre-paid subscription cards as well.

An update to the Kotaku report and MCV Pacific reveals that the EB Games directive was part of a stock recall that also included The Evil Within and Destiny. However, only the excess stock for those games is being sent back to their respective publishers. All stock of The Elder Scrolls Online is being sent back to Bethesda.

The Elder Scrolls Online (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

This comes on the heels of developer ZeniMax Online pulling the six-month subscription option for The Elder Scrolls Online, as I previously reported for Inquisitr. The only subscription options for the MMORPG left are for one-month and three-month.

As previously mentioned, a MMORPG move from subscription-based to free-to-play typically begins by cutting out the longest subscription option. Combine that with the reveal that one retailer is pulling all copies of the game off shelves, it looks more and more like The Elder Scrolls Online is heading free-to-play.

ZeniMax Online has not shared subscriber numbers for The Elder Scrolls Online. A SuperData Research report (via VentureBeat) from October suggests the active current subscriber base is around 1.2 million. Estimates from mid-2014 have the game at around 772,000 active subscribers (via VG247).

The Elder Scrolls Online subscriber base is not at the level of World of WarCraft or even Final Fantasy XIV (which has the benefit of being on PC plus two PlayStation consoles), but still pretty strong. That base is expected to grow with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One releases that were delayed to 2015 due to the massive amount of changes coming to Update 6 that introduces the Champion System and Justice System.

The Elder Scrolls Online (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

A free-to-play console release also has significant revenue potential for Elder Scrolls Online. A GamaSutra interview with Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley reveals that DC Universe Online sees PlayStation 4 players spending far more money than PC players.

“The PS4 has been monetizing amazingly well — between 3 and 3.5x the monetization rate of the PC,” Smedley said. “Seeing that kind of difference in pay rate between the PC and the PS4 is really astounding — it shows there’s a real market there.”

The Elder Scrolls games are undoubtedly popular among console gamers. Whether they can accept the difference in the MMORPG spin-off remains to be seen. What do you think? Sound off in the comments below.

[Images via The Elder Scrolls Online]