Fallout 76 should give Bethesda the wake-up call they have desperately needed for years.
As we all know, Fallout 76 has garnered plenty of backlash. The game fails from both a design and a technical perspective and is beset by controversial business decisions.
Many of the design decisions destroy the ethos of Fallout 76 as a Fallout game. All NPCs are removed and replaced with human characters, which makes the game empty and cripples its ability to provide players an immersive roleplaying experience the previous games in the series, even Fallout 4, provided smoothly. It uses the Creation Engine yet again and as a result pales performance-wise to other AAA games of 2018. That, and the extremely rushed release have resulted in a buggy mess of a game. In addition the game gratuitously uses microtransactions with its Atom Shop and to complement the online gameplay Bethesda has disallowed modding of the game.
Additionally, Bethesda has garnered outrage for many of the decisions surrounding the game. They falsely advertised a canvas bag for the $200 Special Edition and given buyers a nylon bag instead. They refunded those buyers with $5 worth of in-game currency, which angered them further. Bethesda then offered refunds to the buyers of the Special Edition but accidentally leaked their personal information due to a bug in the ticketing system. They then sold Nuka Dark rum for $80 per bottle but used plastic bottles instead of glass. Not only that, but Bethesda has been banning players using cheats or even modified copies of Fallout 76 and forcing them to write essays explaining why cheating is wrong to be unbanned. Additionally, Bethesda has disallowed refunds for digital copies of Fallout 76 and has not put the game on the Steam Store possibly to prevent it from being refunded. Fallout 76 continues to be one trainwreck after another.
What Fallout 76 represents is a turning point for the way Bethesda creates games and how consumers view Bethesda as a company. Until now, most of us have embraced the games Bethesda has created despite them having numerous bugs and having gameplay that is watered down compared to their predecessors. Bethesda incorporated microtransactions with Skyrim's paid mods and Fallout 4's Creation Club; even the horse armor DLC released for Oblivion in 2006 resembles an early form of microtransaction. Modders have been able to enhance the games Bethesda has created, and Bethesda has completely disallowed modding of Fallout 76. All these factors manifested together in Fallout 76 now have provoked consumer outrage towards Bethesda like never before. People simply have had enough of Bethesda's use of flawed game design methodologies and gravitation towards casual gaming trends.
Many things can happen after the impact of Fallout 76 dies down, especially when moving forwards to the release of The Elder Scrolls VI. Bethesda could continue down the path of casualization and continue incorporating modern trends such as microtransactions and early access to the ire (or possible endorsement) of consumers. On the other hand they could take the time to collect themselves and understand why Fallout 76 failed, learn from their mistakes, and start working to resolve some of the issues with their game design methodologies. The future of Fallout 76 itself is variable; as a multiplayer-only game it will only last as long as the online servers continue running.
Fallout 76 gives Bethesda a deep learning experience in what consumers value in their products. Games like Skyrim and Fallout 4 have shown Bethesda that by giving a more detailed presentation and simplifying mechanics the game can reach a wider audience and therefore sell better. The failure of Fallout 76 shows how even Bethesda is vulnerable to consumer backlash and how following unsavory gaming trends and using dishonest business practices can cause fans to turn against them. To complement the notion of the game as a turning point for Bethesda Fallout 76 is in fact a spin-off title and and as a result gives some leeway for experimentation with what works in a Fallout game and what doesn't, as opposed to making it a main series entry instead. Bethesda will not come out of this disaster unscathed but will hopefully learn from their mistakes and ensure that TES VI and any future games they create are the best they can be.
TL;DR Bethesda has for years gotten away with using an outdated engine, numerous bugs, watered down gameplay, microtransactions, and reliance on the modding community. The failure of Fallout 76 forces Bethesda to face each of these problems point blank. Fallout 76 gives Bethesda a far more profound learning experience than Skyrim or Fallout 4 ever will.
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