In many ways, it’s never been easy to be a Fallout 76 fan. The game was plagued with problems from the beginning and even had PR disasters that went well beyond the virtual world.
However, with the October 23 launch of Fallout 1st, the premium membership subscription for Fallout 76, Bethesda has brought class warfare into this virtual West Virginia dystopia.
What is the troubled history of Fallout 76? Why are two groups of players trying to destroy each other? And what does all of this mean for the future of the franchise? Fortunately, we’ve got the full scoop on everything.
A Troubled Start
When Bethesda announced Fallout 76 in June 2018, the hype was real. Fan love for the franchise was at an all-time high after the single-player adventures of Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. The notion of a multiplayer Fallout game seemed like a dream come true.
Bethesda tried to stoke the hype with some cool pre-order incentives. For example, fans who bought the “Power Armor” edition of the game for a cool $200 were promised themed military-style duffel bags. More than just a branded prop, these would be a real tool for your own rural survival adventures.
Instead, fans got cheap nylon bags. And when they complained, Bethesda customer support promised real bags… and ended up leaking addresses, names, and phone numbers of customers. By the time Bethesda started sending out the promised bags, their reputation was already reeling.
The company also sold $80 rum modeled after the franchise favorite “Nuka Cola.” But this alleged specialty souvenir glass was actually cheap plastic you could barely pour out of.
Taken altogether, fans started suspecting Bethesda was more interested in cash grabs than fan desires.
I know what you’re thinking. Crappy marketing is one thing, but what about the actual game?
On launch, Fallout 76 was a hot mess. PC users had a game that would randomly uninstall itself. And when they did play, it was still full of bugs that the much-vaunted beta testing didn’t catch.
The game also launched without mod support. That may not sound like a big deal, but most Bethesda games launched in a very buggy state, and it took fan mods to make the games playable. Fans couldn’t save this game if they wanted to.
Finally, the actual game is deeply unfun. Very few NPCs, a low carrying capacity… basically, the game felt like a lonely job instead of escapist fun.
Bethesda kept patching the game, but they seemingly created as many problems as they fixed. And the game had a persistent problem with players finding interesting exploits.
Some of these were simple, like some speedhacking that the company “fixed” by temporarily lowering the frame rate (sorry, power users). Others were more serious, such as players breaking into a special dev room to hook themselves up with hacked items. Some of these items ended up on eBay!
This created a nightmare scenario for any online game: there was no longer true balance between players. Assuming, of course, such balance ever existed.
Microtransactions and Macrofailures
The real salt in players’ wounds was the microtransactions. Bethesda charged absurd prices for things as simple as a new power armor paint job. And they didn’t hesitate to sell you items that were already available in Fallout 4, making players feel like they had to pay for what they already had.
The company got pretty low, going so far as to charge for a holiday emote pack that offered no new animation. At this point, you’d be forgiven for thinking the company couldn’t sink any lower to try to get player money.
Sadly, you’d be wrong.
It all came to a head last week when Bethesda announced a subscription service for Fallout 76. The service is called Fallout 1st and costs $12.99 a month.
Players get some extra perks for this extra money. This includes new skins, some monthly credits for the Atomic Store, private servers, and new fast travel options. There is even unlimited space for all of your gear.
This all sounds good… but it has not gone over well with players, and for good reason.
Remember the kind of gameplay experience we detailed earlier? If most players are being honest, it’s barely worth playing such a game for free.
Now, Bethesda hopes fans will plink down about $13 a month on top of any other fees they pay (such as the fee for Xbox Live). And while the new perks are nice, the core game is still a buggy wasteland of microtransactions. It still feels like you are being shaken down for every skin and every base upgrade.
And, with Bethesda being who they are, the whole Fallout 1st rollout has been terrible. Players are having trouble creating private worlds. Instead, randos can still come in, and it appears like the “private” worlds are just recycled from old server worlds.
And the scrapbox to store all of their items indefinitely? That thing is actually eating their most precious gear.
For some players, adding a subscription service to one of the worst multiplayer games ever created was the final insult. And that’s when the class warfare truly began.
Eat the Rich
As you might expect, Fallout 1st players get access to various cool cosmetic items, icons, and emotes. This means it’s easy to tell a subscriber from a non-subscriber.
Users on the Fallout 76 subreddit confirmed that non-subscribers have actually started targeting subscribers in the game.
One Redditor claimed he was “beaten up when I decided to do the Mothman emote [a premium-only dance move] in Vault 51. At least 5 -7 people in teddy bear costumes kept punching me.”
Another Redditor posted, “People are ganging up on Fallout 1st players in adventure mode and grieving anyone with the icon.”
In a now-deleted post, one subscriber called for Fallout 1st players to “assemble” and “build gated communities” to protect themselves from the “piss poor” players who are “targeting” them. Many users responding with a non-subscriber mission statement: “eat the rich.”
This was not an isolated incident, and there are quite a few reports of the “haves” and the “have-nots” clashing in this virtual realm. In their shortsighted greed, Bethesda ended up creating a class divide within their own game. Inevitably, this led to class warfare.
While definitely accidental, the whole thing seems to echo our current zeitgeist. After all, the hit film of the moment, Joker, is about how classicism and resentment leads to violence directed at the rich. So, maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised to see it happen in the virtual video game world of Fallout.
However, the fact that it should happen to this franchise is about as ironic as it gets.
The original message of the Fallout franchise was a warning about capitalism and consumption. Mankind’s focus on resources led to war, nuclear bombings, and a complete change in life as the survivors knew it.
Remember the Vault Boy mascot? He was originally designed as a parody of marketing and what consumers typically respond to. Now, Bethesda non-ironically puts his logo on everything and makes a ton of money selling Vault Boy merchandise.
This once-beloved franchise has now lived long enough to see itself become the villain. On the bright side, maybe Bethesda and Blizzard can keep each other occupied in their race to the bottom.
What do you think of Fallout 76 and the Fallout 1st debacle? Sound off in the comments below!