I'd like to take a moment to analyze the Atom Shop part of today's article, with a particular emphasis on how it interacts with reward systems and camp building in the game:
"We love that there are so many types of players within Fallout 76, and one of our primary goals is to reward everyone, no matter how you play. This includes our approach to earning Atoms through Challenges and the types of items to unlock with them in the Atomic Shop."
The problem with the Atom Shop isn't strictly how we earn Atoms. It's that for anyone who isn't an endgame legendary gear grinder, the number of interesting cosmetics/plans earnable in game (camp and crafting) dries up before too long. A regular player will probably have found most of what the base game offers in a matter of months, which isn't a long time when you've created a game you want to last for years and years to come.
Essentially, you had a good start and then nosedived with the reward system, putting the vast majority of new content rewards behind the Atom currency. This is a bad move. Most games I've played will continue to add new fun earnable rewards in game– crafting and camp stuff included– and sell truly 'premium' items on their cash shop. Instead, Fallout 76 has added very little to deepen the crafting or camp building experience of the base game, and instead adds basic items like stairs and wall variants to the cash shop, things many people are requesting because they should have been in the base game at launch.
I can't speak for others but this is possibly the most annoying part of it all for me. It feels like you don't respect your most committed playerbase and view them as little more than a means to fund the game, so you talk about tinkering with how Atoms are earned without at all acknowledging how the shop itself is affecting the in-game reward tables and economy.
"Our approach to these items at launch was to keep them purely cosmetic. But after looking at all the data, it became clear that to consistently deliver content that keeps Fallout 76 fresh and exciting for all, we needed to rethink our approach to the Atomic Shop."
This basically supports what I just wrote. You're acknowledging here with your comment about data that you need to 'rethink' your shop approach specifically in order to fund the game. And while I support that, and I do understand it's a persistent game with a dev team that needs to be paid, I think you need to also understand two big issues with this logic:
- Your content updates have really *lacked* the last while, so I can't exactly say they've kept the game feeling 'fresh and exciting', unless of course you're a diehard Battleroyale enthusiast (because it's probably the most enduring update you've delivered)
- You're basically using the Atom Shop as your primary reward update mechanism, and so it feels rather bad to hear that that's still not enough to keep your team funded, and it truly worries me to think that you may be continuing to treat it as your primary new reward tap while *also* adding more pay for convenience
"While we had many ideas on what to add to the Atomic Shop, one of the ways was the direct result of the community’s feedback. We heard from many of you who wanted items with some real utility. Starting in April, we began adding items such as Repair Kits, Scrap Kits, the Collectron Station, and a working Refrigerator. These have since become the most popular category in the Atomic Shop. We’re also still working on all the previously announced items and new cosmetic categories."
I have a *very, very* hard time believing you based your decision to implement pay for convenience due to 'community feedback' or player demand. It was NOT hard to scrap or repair in this game, and you're telling me that a lot of players were actually asking you for scrap kits? Who are these nonsensical players? And they were willing to pay for them?
I'd also like to note that new cosmetic 'categories' don't seem to be a serious problem to me, because you already have a decent variety– but you have a lot of mediocre cosmetics added to those categories. So what will more categories matter if your Atom Shop is still interfering with baseline reward progression in-game and serving up things like a wooden spool table or some mundane wallpapers to cover up the walls? (something which was only needed because the initial walls you gave us were few in number and ugly in appearance… kinda seems like we were set up to fail on that one).
This may be the worst part of this article IMO. It reads an awful lot like spin and strikes me as disingenuous. But I won't claim facts, this is just my view.
"We want to create an Atomic Shop experience where players feel good about spending their hard-earned Atoms. To make the system more fun and engaging for all players, we plan on reworking parts of the Challenge and reward system next year to be clearer, more fun, and more impactful for all types of players."
I can't say much about this part, because I'm not sure what 'clearer' and 'more impactful' mean. I will say that your Atom challenges are some of the most mundane and tedious I've seen in a game. So I suppose you have the highground on that one– anything new you make will almost be guaranteed to be better than the current system. xD
"Of course, players can also buy Atoms, and we’re careful with everything we add to not upset the game’s balance. Our main objective is to avoid a situation where players can spend money to gain a competitive advantage or make the game worse for other players. Even more so, we want systems that allow players who do choose to buy Atoms to make the game better for others, not just themselves. With these principles in mind, we make careful decisions about the items we offer to keep it fair for everyone."
While I absolutely agree that avoiding P2W is a great thing, I feel sad that this is a 'main objective' for you. It should be a foundational premise of the shop in any game with a box price, not an objective. This reads a lot like "we'll try to keep our word, but no promises, ok?"
So these are my thoughts on your Atom Shop review. I really think you folks need to look at what it is and what it delivers and how that affects the gameplay and *especially* the reward system in Fallout 76. Right now I truly believe your Atom Shop is impeding fun for players, and I'm not sure why it has to be this way from your point of view. I would happily pay a sub's worth and possibly more if you would just start updating the baseline rewards in-game much more often (especially camp and crafting stuff), and treat the cash shop how it should have been: A place for premium rewards, not a place to buy some Walmart looking chair or a simple metal staircase or numerous recolours/reskins.
Right now it doesn't feel like the Atom Shop is rewarding everyone, and after reading your update, I don't think that's going to change. It sounds like your plan is to reward the laziest element of the game and continue to expand the number of ways this shop impacts our sense of immersion and our rewards. I can't say that makes me particularly happy.
Final thought: My most cynical view of this article is that it's basically Bethesda finding a way to prevent us from calling them out in the future. Like 'It's going to continue this way but now you can't say we lied'. :/
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