Bethesda director Todd Howard recently stated in an interview that the company knew the launch of Fallout 76 would be problematic, but that they were “ready” for the backlash. Speaking to IGN’s Ryan McCaffrey, the two discussed issues that sparked backlash from fans, from the release of broken game content and the subsequent poorly handled Public Relations.
When the game was released after months of hype, critics assailed Fallout 76 for being riddled with bugs, unstable servers, and banning players for accessing areas that were “off limits” through no fault of their own. Worst of all, the game felt bland and without purpose in a series molded by its open-world exploration of post-nuclear wastelands. There was also the mishandling of the collector’s edition bag as the icing on the cake.
Speaking candidly, Howard described the difficulties nearing launch, particularly in the form of player expectations, “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.”
Howard continued by stating that Bethesda did not anticipate Fallout 76 to receive high review scores. They are certainly right about that, as the Metacritic PC score currently sits at 52 out of 100, the PS4 score is 53, and the Xbox One score is 49.
A recurring theme discussed by Howard in the interview was that innovation in games is often ill-received as players expect one thing but instead receive another. More appropriately this should be considered a misstep on Bethesda’s part to properly communicate with consumers. Decades of releases in the Fallout series have conditioned fans to expect a certain type of game alongside a high level of quality. Stating that innovation is always going to be difficult to accept when first presented feels like a rather lame excuse.
In many ways, the justification parallels the current situation with Anthem, where rumors circulate that Bioware management blames fans for the failure of the game, when in fact there are a trail of promises made by the company that have been broken. Without proper communication on the part of developers, consumers cannot be blamed for anything. So too does this apply to Fallout 76. Innovation will always be welcome in principle, so long as it is not propped up as an excuse for the mismanagement of a project.
Still, the future looks bright. Bethesda’s MMO The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) was considered all but a failure at launch, and has since become a great success with over 8.5 million players and new content releases.
Howard went on to state, "It's not how you launch, it's what it becomes.” With E3 a week away, there is no doubt that Bethesda is will bring its best and brightest.
Will Fallout 76 bounce back from this rough start? We like to believe that it will, with ESO as the prime indicator that things can improve over time.