Fallout 76's first few months have been rough but don't expect Bethesda to immediately hit the big red (metaphorical) "Go Free-To-Play" button. Many games before Fallout 76 have reversed their poor fortunes (or attempted to do so) by removing their premium price tag and ushering in scads of new players, so it's always something to consider. In this case, a fresh round of speculation was driven by one unusual occurrence: Australian supply shortages.
Multiple EB Games Australia customers noticed the standard edition of Fallout 76 was no longer available in local stores. Combined with the difficulties the game has faced since launch, it was enough to make some speculate that EB Games was clearing out its inventory in advance of a big free-to-play announcement from Bethesda. Kinda jumping to conclusions there, but hey, people are kinda down on Fallout 76 recently. And it was enough to prompt some official comment.
These replies from the official EB Games Twitter account imply an alternative explanation: they're just starting to sell the Fallout 76 Tricentennial Edition - which is a retailer exclusive in Australia - instead of the standard edition.
Hi Andrew,This information is categorically incorrect. EB Games will continue to support Fallout 76 both brand new and preowned, and it remains an active product through both our stores and website. Customers can now pick up the EB Exclusive Tricentennial Edition for $79.95.January 22, 2019
Hey there! EB Games will continue to support Fallout 76 both brand new and preowned, and it remains an active product through both our stores and website. Customers can now pick up the EB Exclusive Tricentennial Edition for $79.95. :)January 23, 2019
If that wasn't enough, Bethesda directly denied the Fallout 76 free-to-play rumors in a Twitter response of its own.
There is no truth to this rumor.January 22, 2019
So it's safe to say that Fallout 76 free-to-play isn't secretly coming together in the background as we speak, with a big official announcement just waiting in the wings. This doesn't rule out the possibility that Fallout 76 will someday get a free-to-play offering, as online games such as Counter-Strike GO, EVE Online, and many others have done in the past. Whatever the future holds in terms of business models, hopefully Bethesda keeps working to make Fallout 76 meet its full potential.
Speaking of meeting its potential, see how the latest big Fallout 76 update changes the game.