BY PHANTOM: “The future has not been written” – Bethesda Game Studios
Behold a pale horse, and the name that sat upon him was Bethesda…..and hell followed with him. My riff on the quote from the bible and many movies could be fairly apt when in reference to the practices of Bethesda Game Studios recently. Once, and some may argue still, an industry leader, they could be on a downwards spiral delving deeper and deeper into “Oblivion”.
Fallout 76 has had more than 3 months to recover from what I can only imagine is one of the worst launches in Bethesda Game Studios’s history. Sales figures have been fairly guarded but a few industry sources gathered from different websites seem to suggest that the game did sell poorly in terms of their projections. A few sites opining that Fallout 76 sold 75% – 80% less physical copies when compared to the launch of Fallout 4.
Upon further digging, I uncovered from one source that Fallout 76 didn’t even manage to rise above GTA 5 on the best selling games list of 2018. This is particularly troubling as GTA 5 been around for what seems like forever and is in no way a game many people would rush out to buy at this point in time.
Can Bethesda recover and once again hold the crown for 3D RPGs?
My short answer is yes, with certain conditions attached. They still have other franchises under their umbrella. The Elder Scrolls 6 will be huge for them as will the launch of their newest Intellectual Property – Starfield. Not much of anything is known about these games except that they will both utilise a seemingly upgraded, but not brand new, game engine. Fallout 76 has a new lighting engine which did impress me during my time with the game. This and a new graphics editor will be part of Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6 according to Todd “Skyrim” Howard (clearly his middle name). Unfortunately, his words have become synonymous with the bending or straining of the truth. Just take one look on social media and you will find a dearth of Todd Howard meme accounts mocking his past indiscretions when it comes to bigging up a game. They are a fun addition to the gaming community and have provided me with many moments of enjoyment but there is an underlying truth with them that point towards the fact that the games rarely end up as good as the promises made by Todd.
That being said, there are many other developers who have been known to have similar practices. Of course, it doesn’t mean that this is the correct way to do business. Your product should be able to stand on its own two feet in my opinion and making outlandish claims will only hurt it in the long run.
The fact Fallout 76 sold poorly in comparison to some of Bethesda’s previous titles does not mean it cannot have its place. I have had many interactions with gamers online who have enjoyed traversing the “country roads” of Appalachia and are essentially unconcerned with the issues the game has. Much like The Elder Scrolls Online, I would imagine this game will find it’s audience assuming Bethesda Game Studios continue to support the game. I myself found some enjoyment in Fallout 76 but prefer a story-driven experience with an array of NPCs. As this was, and still is lacking, I have not enjoyed the experience of Fallout 76 as much I had hoped.
I do genuinely believe that if Bethesda continues to support Fallout 76 by updating and fixing bugs regularly, they can have a game that many will enjoy. Throw into the mix some NPC’s and they could be off to the races. I very much doubt at this point that will happen but Bethesda does have a core fanbase who are very loyal at least for the moment.
On the flip side to my argument, I mentioned that Bethesda could come out of this poor part of their history. It could, of course, go the opposite way. For example, if Starfield is released using what is deemed a seemingly newer game engine but in turn looks to be dated and buggy then this will definitely spell trouble for the company. I would say that the reputation for releasing buggy games is one that should be put to bed. They are a triple-A studio with massive resources. The fact they released Fallout 76 in the state it was, astounds me. Vast improvements to their quality assurance processes must take precedence here and the correct amount of time MUST be set aside. If this is not addressed, Bethesda could see some of their loyal fans disappearing over to over franchises or games made by companies who pride themselves on relatively bug-free games.
Moving onto a slightly different angle, I come to my next point surrounding microtransactions. I am not a fan of these in any form. I firmly believe all content should be gained in-game, through play. The fact that you can buy a power armour paint skin etc is beyond my understanding as a games consumer. I want my character to look as cool as the next person but paying for the privilege is disgraceful in my opinion. I have been told by many that “this is the way things are now”. My instant retort and set of questions is why are we now at this point? Are you the problem? Is it the game companies fault? Is it everyone concerned who is to blame, game companies and consumers alike?
The game companies make millions of dollars from selling games this is a fact. They generate huge profits from selling their games. Monetizing them through making your character prettier is a pointless money grabbing exercise that prays on, mainly, younger gamers in my opinion. That said, I haven’t even moved onto what I would consider the more “dangerous” types of microtransactions. The ones that deal with chance/progression. These are abysmal additions to games and in my view vastly decrease my desire to purchase a game which supports them.
You may be wondering why I am ranting about microtransactions. Well, having read some rumours online and coupled with the FACT Bethesda has started to monetize their games through creation club (Fallout 4, Skyrim Special Edition) and the atomic shop I find myself becoming increasingly uneasy that they will and are going to go down the same route as some other game publishers. I find myself thinking that the once great Bethesda Game Studios is now going to turn into a cash-hungry, business focussed machine that’s main concern is a profit line and not award-winning games. I tweeted recently that I felt Bethesda, once a great developer, was like an ageing rock band, they had some superb hits or albums showing immense talent. Games such as Oblivion, Fallout 3, Skyrim are considered their high points, Fallout 4, Fallout 76 seem to have taken a downturn especially in the case of Fallout 76. The ageing rock band are past their best and are now churning out games that fans aren’t happy with but still seem to purchase due to their unwavering loyalty. It’s like the band have partied too hard back in the day when things were good and are now going through the motions, or worst yet, not even doing that.
Some movie aficionados may have also spotted my reference to “The Terminator” movies in my title. The overarching sentiment here is true I genuinely hope Bethesda get back to creating the types of games we all know they are capable of. After all, “The future has not been written, there is no fate but what we make for ourselves”. True words that Bethesda could take heed from, considering the landscape of recent games they have released and the possible elements they choose to include in them in the future.
I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings and very much look forward to your own perspectives on Bethesda Game Studios.