*The following is the sole opinion of the writer and not of KeenGamer as a whole
While many are hyped for Fallout 76, unafraid of the unpredictability of hype train destinations, the game may not be doing so well on the PR front. Recently, we learned that, in their wisdom, Bethesda have decided not to release Fallout 76 on Steam. Another instance of developers trying to angle in on a particular audience, while unconsciously chopping off their nose to spite their face, not too dissimilar to Rise of The Tomb Raider. That is – sticking with a smaller audience on Xbox for a year while simultaneously telling all PS4 Lara faithfuls to sod off. Perhaps, in Fallout 76’s case things aren’t quite so insulting. However, to wave goodbye with a smile to the PC audience of Steam, asking them to cook up yet another set of digital login deets just to play one game… is kind of insulting. That massive Steam audience on PC will already have a Bethesda flavoured sour taste in their mouths. Now, it has been confirmed Fallout 76 will contain microtransactions.
Now let’s slow things down a moment before your internal dialogue starts rattling off again. All it takes for that to happen is, of course, seeing a headline about a hyped upcoming game, ended with the words “will have microtransactions”. It’s worth bearing in mind that a vast majority of high profile game announcements from events in the last year have been, well… a bit of a fickle bitch. After the release of Battlefront II, it's like game developers have cottoned on to a free positive reaction if they tell everyone “with free DLC updates” as they have for The Division 2, Battlefield V and so on. Anything to stay away from the dreaded eye roller – the microtransactions. It’s been almost a year since Battlefront II now, and that’s a fair old while for the gaming audience to begin getting used to a new angle (if not still predatory, just less vocal about it) from the reactionary games industry. It has indeed become less and less fashionable to mention microtransactions to a gaming journalism furore that’s really only just now dying down. The only thing to potentially reignite that debacle is to take a beloved franchise… and tell people microtransactions will be in the next one where they weren’t before.
Is Hines going for the “no news is bad news” kind of angle? Has he ever spoken to Sean Murray? Or been exposed to the hilarious lies of Peter Molyneux, a man who told us we could plant trees and watch them grow in Fable? Regardless, this is Fallout. The question as to whether or not the existence of microtransactions will work to Fallout 76’s detriment remains unanswerable of course, until after the game releases. All Fallout 76 DLC will indeed be free and the microtransactions will be for cosmetic items only. Hines makes sure to state that there is no pay-to-win element in Bethesda’s plans. All of this is part of the effort to “make Fallout 76 last forever”. I think that may be a bit of a stretch, considering how Bethesda’s staff, contrary to popular belief, are just mortal human beings. Although, in this push to make the game last as long as possible, to fund that dream Bethesda will have to fall back on the whales, the credit card stealing children and plain morons who see fit to spend real money on a virtual pink hat.
Who knows? It will probably work because, unfortunately there are a lot of those people out there, supporting this pointless money-go-round the industry seems so insistent on. Getting back on the topic at hand, it’s interesting to think about how the presence of microtransactions will affect the Fallout feel. Will all these cosmetic items of every colour variation in the spectrum lead to Fallout feeling more like Fortnite? Will Bethesda go for the all too alluring appeal of “silly” in their cosmetic items that has clearly worked so well for Epic Games? Or will they genuinely apply the effort to create hundreds, maybe thousands of cosmetic items and effects that genuinely fit with the universe of Fallout? The sceptic in me was already worried about the total lack of NPCs in this game. I’m now also worried about the answer to this question. The “silly” route would be easier, lead to a faster profit and worst of all – make Fallout silly! Its fans will fund this and, not to be a doomsday prophet, but it could be a weird, fan-ending messed up evolution of its original self that asks for death like that messed up Sigourney Weaver clone in the fourth Alien film. Perhaps Bethesda officials have taken the time to pay attention to a game that stays away from this nonsense so well – Warframe. Probably the only microtransaction fuelled title that doesn’t have a caste of people out there, whos sole purpose in life is to hate it. Digital Extremes must be doing something right.
What tends to grind my gears is this alternate reality of the games industry that refuses to come into existence. While the excuse is utter bollocks, many a AAA developer will tell you that they need these corporate money holes for the pouring of cash in their games because they need to recover the cost of the development in the first place. I get it. Families need to be fed, studio lights need to stay on so we mortal ground walkers can get the next game they make… Why don’t they just make a good game? At the risk of echoing YouTuber, It’s A Gundam, here, why don’t they just put more effort into making a genuinely good game with a great story and functional yet surprising gameplay mechanics? You can be sure Fallout 76 will have neither – its a Bethesda game. It would seem the industry has learned nothing of the customer satisfaction masterclass from CD Projekt Red on the arrival of The Witcher 3. Again, later, on the arrival of Hellblade from Ninja Theory. Those titles are so adored that people trade them in, feel regretful about their decision and buy the product again. Several times over. That is a preferable way to make money for a long time. As opposed to the ongoing moral questionability of diverting the skills of a talented team into a frame of thought that argues for playing on addictive personalities for profit and longevity.
What do you think? Will the mere presence of microtransactions in something like a Fallout game be enough to turn people off it? Does it have any real clout to say it will “last forever” with any real confidence?