Last year, I waited a little while before I jumped on the Fallout 76 hate train.
I took several days to play the game, and I really tried to like it, but in the end it was obviously a rushed, unfinished game spun out of a cancelled Fallout 4 mode that was clearly trying to capitalize on both the Battle Royale genre and the endless thirst of Bethesda fans for something new to play after so many years of nothing.
However, things were looking up. For a little while.
I’ve had some good conversations with fans of the game in the intervening months about some of the positive changes made to the game in patches.
Then, at E3 this year, Bethesda announced some exciting things were coming. Most notably, a brand new expansion called Wastelanders which would add real NPCs and proper quest lines to a game that so desperately needed them.
Unfortunately, it all came crashing down again about a week ago. And this week it got way worse.
Last week, in a quiet blog post that didn’t get much attention, Bethesda delayed Wastelanders into next year. They also mentioned that private servers were coming, but eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that this was mentioned as a “purchasable” feature.
The reality turned out to be even worse than I could ever have imagined, as this morning Bethesda announced Fallout 1st, a new recurring subscription for Fallout 76.
For $13 freaking dollars a month or $99 dollars a year, you can get some stuff that no one should have to pay for.
The option to play the game with friends only and the ability to store as many items as you’d like should not be premium add-ons tied to a recurring payment in a game that already cost users $60 at launch, and still costs up to $40 today when not on discount.
That’s my opinion. You’re free to disagree.
Fallout 76 is already a game laden with numerous micro-transactions but lacking in real new content, something that was supposed to change with NPCs.
I could almost see the justification for turning Wastelanders into a small one-time paid content pack that included private servers and a stash for free as part of the deal, like a classic expansion. Then you’d at least be paying to compensate for the development effort of writing all that dialogue and hiring actors to record it.
But the features added in this new membership, and the relatively high price of the subscription compared to every single other service in gaming and video streaming, expose this as nothing but a blatant profit grab in an industry already rife with this sort of thing.
It’s so strange to see a company most-known for their gripping, value-packed single player narratives reduce themselves into doing the bare minimum in an online space and charging users out the nose for it. At least when Rockstar went for the same gambit, they made sure the production values and content were at the top end of the industry.
It’s even weirder that this is happening two days before The Outer Worlds comes out, a game that is by all accounts Obsidian doing the Bethesda single player formula but better, and available optionally through Game Pass…a subscription which costs just $9.99.
I don’t get this at all. I felt sympathetic to Bethesda when they had to push Fallout 76 out last year in order to meet their contract with Microsoft for a console bundle…but all my sympathy dried up when I saw how empty and backwards the game was.
To now add a paid membership to the game is one of the most audacious, baffling business moves I’ve ever seen a major video game company make.
Perhaps fans will really take to this and will be willing to pay for these features. I’m certainly not a big fan of the game at this point, so maybe I’m just not the target audience. I’d hoped to dive back in when Wastelanders launched, and I’m still curious to see how that new content turns out.
I fear that before I have the desire to check the game out again, this paid membership will only further erode an already-frustrated audience. From the reactions I’ve seen online, I think that‘s very likely.