No game has fallen harder in recent memory than Fallout 76—a game with technical issues, a lack of compelling storytelling, and that launched in a generally unfinished state. Although it’s been the butt of many jokes, Bethesda has made some effort to make it better. A roadmap for 2019 has been revealed, detailing many new features for the online shooter over the coming year. Will this be enough to turn things around, though?
Before getting into that, it’s important to note that Fallout 76 did actually sell well, according to November, 2018’s NPD results. It managed to take the number four spot that month, beating Nintendo behemoth Pokemon Let’s Go! and even Madden NFL 19. This is important to note, because it could point to a few different things. For one, it could prove that maybe most of its player-base is actually enjoying the game and we only hear about the loud group of players who dislike it, without accounting for most of the community.
Sure, the game’s community has dropped off since launch, but that isn’t unusual for an online game.
According to Fallout 76’s Steam stats, the game averages around 12,000 players on any given day, which is a massive drop-off compared to its peak of 471,955 players. Again, these are the game’s Steam stats, so things on the PS4 could be slightly different. Nonetheless, it gives us a good idea of how drastically the player-base has fallen. (Correction: Fallout 76 is not on Steam. The Steam numbers that we had mistakenly looked at were for Fallout 4. Some trophy stats from Sony may still prove a small playerbase on PS4 though.)
When tying that back to the roadmap that Bethesda has released, things are definitely looking up. It revealed plans for three major expansions over the course of 2019, Wild Appalachia, Nuclear Winter, and Wastelanders. These expansions are to contain many things, like more quests, new features, and seasonal events, to name a few.
Bethesda is in an interesting position, because the developer has the task of striking a balance between staying on the community’s good side and maintaining profitability. On one hand, it would probably be much easier to completely cease support for Fallout 76, move on to another project, and never speak of it again. But that might hurt the company in the long run. But maybe not. It doesn’t seem like there is much interest in Fallout 76, when looking at the average concurrent players. Clearly, the company has deemed it worth their time to support, but at what cost?
I’m not sure how much of Bethesda’s resources are being utilized to keep up with Fallout 76 and how expensive that is to maintain, but maybe it would be best if the company just threw in the towel. Even if Fallout 76 improved and was deemed to be the comeback game of the year, would that matter? Maybe. But think of a game like No Man’s Sky, one that launched in a somewhat similar state. It wasn’t broken, but it sure did leave a bad taste in players’ mouths.
Even after delivering on all of the original promises and turning things completely around, I don’t know that the general consensus for No Man’s Sky today is as positive as it could have been. Sure, it’s a great turnaround story, but the initial release is irredeemably tarnished. That idea applies to Fallout 76, too. The community will pretty much always remember Fallout 76 as a broken, unfinished mess, even if things are turned around.
However, from a developer’s point of view, there isn’t much choice but to continue supporting the game as a sign of good faith to the fans. Can you imagine a company releasing a statement in which it completely gives up on a game of this caliber? “Yeah, Fallout 76 was a mistake and we’re going to move on, everyone. Sorry about that.” As much as Bethesda might want to do that, there is no way that would fly. The brand would be severely impacted by that and any future projects would be met with much skepticism. Well, more than they are now.
Bethesda is strange, because the company makes enjoyable games, but many of them seem to have been developed in a vacuum. As in, Bethesda doesn’t appear to take into consideration what other developers are doing, much like 2015’s Fallout 4 when compared to something like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Even when going back further to 2011’s Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there are signs of feeling outdated when compared to Batman: Arkham City, L.A. Noire, or Dark Souls, all of which came out that same year.
When addressing the question of whether Fallout 76 can make a comeback, it’s quite clear that, sure, it can. The roadmap shows that Bethesda is in this for the long run. The game should be vastly different by this time next year, which is great. But simply making a comeback doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a beloved game that most players come around on. The damage has been done, and Bethesda is sort of stuck working on this game just to bring it up to an acceptable level. The idea of releasing an unfinished game, while not uncommon, is hurting the ecosystem.
Maybe more developers need to take a page out of Apex Legends‘ book, in which there isn’t any build-up or high expectations, making for the perception of a less disappointing product. If Fallout 76 had just shown up on the PlayStation Store one day, it would have probably been more positively received, even if the quality had remained the same as it is now.
However, being presented as this grand offering that severely lacked in many departments was a sure-fire way to disappoint fans. Something has to change. These upcoming content drops for Fallout 76 do bode well for the game and Bethesda is committed to making it great, which is a positive thing.
The issue is that, even best case scenario for Fallout 76 is probably disappointing in the eyes of fans and Bethesda, themselves. A year after the game’s release, we might see headlines that read “Fallout 76 Is Good Now,” but when competing against Fortnite, Apex Legends, Call of Duty, and whatever other big games explode in popularity at that time, it will still be tough sell.
This should be a learning experience for not just Bethesda, but other developers and publishers, as well. The games industry is changing and the way games are developed and marketed needs to change with it. Let’s cross our fingers that Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI will not disappoint.
As for now, it looks like you’ll be able to enjoy a much-improved version of Fallout 76 that will continue to evolve throughout the year.
What do you think? Do you think Bethesda should just give up on Fallout 76, or do you appreciate that they’re trying to make things right? Let us know!