While Fallout 76 utterly failed as a service game at launch, Bethesda will use those hard-learned lessons to help shape the game's future.
Bethesda isn't ready to give up on Fallout 76 yet. The game was made as a passion project, and an online-based Fallout is something that the studio always wanted to do. In fact, every new Fallout game gets internally prototyped as a multiplayer game. But of course microtransactions and grindy engagement mechanics wormed their way into the game (as they always do) to transform it into a messy, frustrating, tedious affair. It's not over though. Things are going to change and Bethesda's in for the long haul.
In a recent interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Bethesda's Pete Hines talks Fallout 76 and how it'll evolve over time. "I appreciate there might be folks who are tempted to throw up their hands and [call it quits], but that's just not how we're wired. We believed in it. The fact that it didn't go the way we expected and it had issues that maybe we should have foreseen and should have planned for doesn't mean we didn't believe in what the game was and could become."
Hines also says that none of the team who made Fallout 76 actually worked on The Elder Scrolls Online. This was a massive mistake. If anything, the team at ZeniMax Online could've helped BGS avoid an incredible amount of grief because they've already gone through these growing pains.
Everything will be taken to heart. All of the feedback, the reviews, the YouTube videos, all of it will fuel change for the game. At least theoretically. So far Bethesda Game Studios has made some big shifts for Fallout 76, including its huge new Wastelanders expansion that adds NPCs (which are always planned, apparently) and a new chaotic 52-player battle royale mode.
"We by no means consider ourselves done. There are lots that we want to do, but the game is making improvements and coming out with cool stuff that people seem to really take to," Hines said.
The exec also says that Bethesda's vision for Fallout 76 just didn't work. In our review, we emphasized that the game would never do well on the market and wouldn't ever actually be fun until the studio made drastic changes. Those paradigm shifts are apparently in the works, and it all starts from direct player feedback.
"Fallout 76 does feel very much like ESO, where you have to make changes and pivot. That game underwent some pretty fundamental changes. We realized that this game can't succeed with the way that we envisioned. We have to change and listen to what players are saying. Bethesda Game Studios has taken a page out of that notebook and said 'Well alright, we're going to continue to listen and figure out what people want more of.'"
The bigger question here is: Why would they give up?
Fallout 76 could be transformed into a money-printing machine with the right know-how, and Bethesda Game Studios doesn't have any other projects out right now. ZeniMax definitely wants that extra bit of cash that Fallout 76 could offer and BGS could use it to help fund its ambitious new projects like Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI.
Sure Fallout 76 isn't really in hardcore active development as it once was. Most of BGS' internal studios are now working on the aforementioned new games while the live team figures out new content and updates. Yes, content will be slower, and yes, Fallout 76 will still be a messy product that needs much more attention, care, and balancing, but it could become something lucrative if Bethesda puts in the effort.
Whether or not this plan actually will work remains to be seen.
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