‘It’s not how you launch, it’s what it becomes’
I think it’s safe to say that Fallout 76 did not meet anyone’s expectations. Fans were severely disappointed in Bethesda’s latest entry in the once proud series, the game undersold at retail, there was a myriad of customer service issues, and above all, the game wasn’t well received. Did Bethesda know its attempt at a live-service game would be met with such negativity? It turns out it did, at least according to Todd Howard.
In a recent interview with IGN Unfiltered, Howard, director and executive producer of the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series said, “We knew we were gonna have a lot of bumps. That was a very difficult development on that game to get it where it was…This is not gonna be a high Metacritic game. This is not what this is.’”
He detailed that notion further by saying, “You know that a lot of people might say ‘that’s not the game we want from you.’” We were ready for…a lot of those difficulties that ended up on the screen. We knew, hey look, this is not the type of game that people are used to from us and we’re going to get some criticism on it. A lot of that is very well-deserved criticism.” With a statement like that, you’d almost assume Bethesda was ready to give up on Fallout 76. It turns out that growth was part of the initial plan.
“It’s not how you launch, it’s what it becomes,” Howard asserted. The first step of that change was the release of a roadmap for content updates. Then there have been things like balance tweaks and bug fixes, new game modes, and major content drops. “It’s really turned around. It’s a fabulous game with an incredible community.” I’m not sure everyone agrees with that, but Bethesda is far from letting the game die.
I think it is incredibly presumptuous to assume your community will support an obviously rushed game just because you plan on updating it. Sadly, this appears to be the latest trend in the gaming industry. Massively hyped projects come out and flop, but later get turned around by big updates that fundamentally change the core experience. No Man’s Sky is the most notable example, what with it’s “NEXT” update transforming the game into something enjoyable. I’m happy Bethesda hasn’t given up on Fallout 76 (mostly for the fan’s sakes), but it would have been wise to delay the title and avoid all the backlash than rush it out to make the holiday season.
At least Todd Howard is willing to admit the company screwed up. Making any game is difficult and I can’t imagine how hard turning a traditionally offline, single-player experience like Fallout into a live service was. It would have been better for everybody if it released in a polished state, but it seems it will get there one day. Hopefully, Bethesda pays mind to these lessons, lest they repeat the mistakes again.