Experienced Points: Taking Out Bethesda’s Trash Bag

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Dec 12, 2018

Filed under: Column 101 comments

My column this week details the mind-boggling string of outrageous failures perpetrated by Bethesda surrounding the Power Armor edition of Fallout 76. Specifically, it talks about how this $200 edition of the game promised a canvas bag but delivered something worth far less.

Like I say in the article, a company as big as Bethesda has no excuse whatsoever for making this kind of mistake. Only an idiot would cut this particular corner. If you’ve got a customer willing to pay you $200 for a videogame with some extra trinkets, then you need to make sure that customer is happy. Not because you’re a nice person or you care about the customer, but because this customer is a cash cow and treating them well will allow you to extract more wealth from them in the future. I’m not faulting Bethesda for being rapacious and exploitative, I’m faulting them for attempting to be rapacious and exploitative and being completely shit at it.

It’s easy to look at Fallout 76 and see that Bethesda is arriving two years late to the fad of Day Z clones. Fine. They attempted to jump on a trend and they miscalculated. Predicting the future is hard and I don’t fault them for messing up. But the canvas bag controversy? Market segmentation is Business 101. This is the easy stuff. The obvious stuff. If you can’t get this right then what are you doing trying to run a company?

We can compare this to Valve. Recently they entered the collectible card game market with Artifact. It’s a game where the developer allows you to spend real money for a chance to win virtual goods that cost nothing to produce. Not only is the customer spending actual money for imaginary goods, but they aren’t even guaranteed to get the goods they want! And instead of feeling ripped off, that just gives them a reason to pay the developer even more money for another spin with the random number generator.

I can understand why a company would want to run a CCG. There’s a lot of money in it. We can call it cynical or predatory, but at least it’s competent at being cynical or predatory. You don’t start the game up to discover atrocious art, broken mechanics, a horrible interface, countless glitches, rampant cheating, and regular crashes. Artifact might be a runaway success or a commercial flop, but Valve at least made a real product.

Bethesda has gotten it into their heads that quality doesn’t matter. Their game is broken in terms of mechanics. It’s broken in terms of technology. Their $200 premium goods are shameful Walmart trash. Their customer service is broken and dysfunctional. Their public relations is so bad it’s basically self-sabotage.

Maybe some of the blame for this belongs to us folks in the gaming pressAssuming I qualify as “gaming press”. I refuse to call myself an “influencer”. . Maybe everyone was too indulgent with Bethesda in the past. We humored their bugs and tolerated their habitual re-releases of Skyrim. Fallout 4 was a mess of childish ideas, idiotic dialog, lazy worldbuilding, and frustrating glitches that demonstrated a palpable contempt for the source material, but critics gave it an 84%. Wolfenstein II was showered with critical praise despite being distinctly inferior to the previous game.

Bethesda has been cutting corners for a long time, and they’ve been getting away with it. They’ve become complacent and even entitled. They’ve gotten it into their head that they can toss out a halfhearted attempt at a classic 90s nostalgia brand and sell millions of copies regardless of quality.

It’s my hope that this controversy isn’t just  a moment of cathartic outrage for the fanbase. I hope this creates a shift in attitudes. It seems like the company is deeply dysfunctional. They have incompetent public relations, shoddy art, no QA, infuriating marketing, shameful IP management. This isn’t just a bad manager or a couple of bad decisions. This is a fundamentally destructive corporate culture.

I’m hoping the failure of Fallout 76 gives them a wake up call and makes them uncomfortable enough that they can enact some sort of reforms. I don’t want to see Bethesda go out of business, but I’d rather watch them go out of business than continue to release games as an elaborate form of shitposting.




[1] Assuming I qualify as “gaming press”. I refuse to call myself an “influencer”.

From The Archives:

101 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Taking Out Bethesda’s Trash Bag

  1. Chris says:

    People normally hold contempt for managers, but at this moment it seems that bethesda needs one. Someone who sweeps a broom through the studio and removes the incompetents that only sit there because of age or office politics.

    Talking about not being an influencer, did you ever get offered anything videogame related Shamus? I remember you mentioning something once. It would be funny if someone like EA or bethesda sent you a review code and you just play it nonstop and rip it apart as soon as the embargo is gone for being grossly incompetent.

    1. Kathryn says:

      He did get a review copy of indie game Eschalon Book I, which got the dev at least one sale (me), but that was a while back.

      1. evileeyore says:

        2 sales. I picked it up on Shamus’ word as well. It was a decent little game. I keep wanting to like Factorio, Shamus’ glee over it is infectious, but alas it’s really not my game.

        But despite you and I being influenced by Shamus, he really isn’t an Influencer in the way they mean the term.

    2. guy says:

      We hold contempt for managers because people getting jobs they shouldn’t due to office politics is their manager’s fault.

      1. Duoae says:

        Maybe this is an “American thing“? (Assuming you’re American)

        Usually, “we” hold contempt for managers for being useless or riding on the successes of their subordinates without crediting them.

        However, I don’t think that “we” hold contempt for managers at all. We hold for contempt for any bureaucracy which stifles creativity and progress. There’s also the issue of which management level you’re speaking about. You could, theoretically, call a CEO or CTO or whatever a “manager”. It’s technically correct because they are ‘managing’ resources and people but they’re not what I would reference when speaking about a manager.

        For me, lower management can be inept or good. It usually matters little. Then there’s middle management (in a large corporation, this would be the plant/production managers) which need to be competent and also working together (if there are rifts between these personnel then your company is in real trouble!). Then there’s upper management. These are people who manage teams of managers across sites and have a direct input on the direction of company-wide resources but who don’t directly have people doing work for them. Finally, there’s the ExCom (or Executive Committee) – some of who (or all) will be drawn from the upper management. Again, these people need to be working together without difficulties between themselves otherwise there will be serious operational problems.

        Now, managers that are not good enough (aka suited to the role) will tend to place bureaucratic obstacles in the way of advancement because either a) they don’t understand the problem/solution or b) they want to resist the change for whatever reason suits them. This also extends to hiring subordinates that will support their weak infrastructure. Managers that cannot take being questioned or challenged will tend to do this sort of thing. However, this behaviour would have existed in the person long before they became a manager. That’s office politics and it’s completely divorced from being a manager or holding a managerial position.

        I know people who have these tendencies who aren’t managers but who utilise the power of unions in order to put these bureaucratic obstacles in the way. They’re low-level but they still have the same mentality. Mostly because they’re selfish and unable to empathise with other people’s positions (IMO).

      2. Taellosse says:

        We hold contempt for managers because bad ones are really obvious, the problems they cause can be all out of proportion to their individual significance, and nearly everyone has some personal experience with at least one.

        The thing is that good ones are often easy to miss, because a common quality of them is seeming invisible from the outside – a good manager’s largest job is making sure the people working for them can do their jobs in such a way that their natural talents are best utilized.

  2. Karma The Alligator says:

    Thank you for covering that, I really wanted to hear your opinion on the controversy.

    The funny (or sad) thing is that I knew 76 wasn’t going to be great when they had their beta testing 2-3 weeks(!) before release on their own buggy launcher and limited to people who pre-ordered, but I really didn’t think the whole thing would end up being that bad.

    Like you, I really hope this is a wake up call for the gaming community (both makers and players).

  3. Lino says:

    My favourite part of the article has to be the last sentence!
    “Even EA knows better than that.”

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Me too.

      Seriously. Bethesda. You have work at being worse at PR than EA. What was your next plan, send all the people who complained a free bag* filled with shit?

      Overall though, I’m just flabbergasted at the incompetence and lack of respect for the consumer displayed by Bethesda…

      …and saddened that they felt they actually could do so. In other industries this kind of fuck-up would end the company that did it….but a lot of people will still buy the next Bethesda game.

      *A nylon one, naturally.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        “a lot of people will still buy the next Bethesda game”

        This is why Bethesda does the things it does. :)

        1. guy says:

          I think they’ve gone too far this time. Multiplayer Fallout with microtransactions wasn’t popular to begin with, the nylon bag is outright false advertizing, and the support ticket issue moves beyond annoying into the realm of a data breach allowing identity theft.

          If Elder Scrolls 6 is single-player I will consider buying the standard digital edition.

      2. Taellosse says:

        It’s really hard for a large and successful company to kill itself with a single incident, even an egregious one. That’s just not how it works. But the thing is, this kind of behavior doesn’t result in single incidents – it metastasizes as the cavalier attitude spreads through the corporate culture, infecting everything they do. Slowly but surely, they keep doing things that alienate their customers, and they keep shedding sales as a result. It doesn’t happen all at once, but it’s death by a thousand cuts.

        This is why EA has to keep buying popular development studios to survive – as their culture infects their acquisitions, they lose those loyal fans, and have to kill another well-liked studio and wear its skin for a while. I expect they’re on the hunt for another right now – Bioware’s skin has gotten rancid, and won’t last them much longer.

  4. Infinitron says:

    Yep, I’ve been saying it for years. Bethesda has been an AA dev masquerading as an AAA dev and now they’ve finally been caught. Emperor, clothes, etc.

    1. GM says:

      what does AA and AAA mean? and is indie one A?

      1. PPX14 says:

        AAA just means the top end high budget blockbuster games / and the big studios that make them, like EA, Ubisoft etc (Battlefront, Assassin’s Creed, Doom, Witcher 3, Mass Effect Andromeda etc)

        I also wondered this a few years ago and was told there is no naming scale of A,AA,AAA, triple A just stands alone and means the big name stuff.

        Now, people have retroactively adopted the name AA to mean mid-budget highly polished games like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, and other games (e.g. with good graphics) that don’t seem indie enough to be indie but aren’t big enough to be AAA.

        Which is funny because I’m pretty sure that’s how so many classic games and studios of the past would be considered – isn’t that pretty much what a huge section of (at least PC gaming) was until the 360/PS3 era? Things like Freespace, Thief, Deus Ex, that sort of thing?

        1. Thomas says:

          There used to be a lot of ‘AA’ studios. They all folded at the start of the PS3 generation as the market became too brutal to survive.

          Now we’re finally seeing a little bit of a renaissance with cheaper development tools and more diverse ways to sell a game

          1. PPX14 says:

            Thank goodness, and by the looks of it, mid tier prices to match too!

      2. PPX14 says:

        So yes, if the naming were to be continued, that would probably make A mean Indie. Or maybe B.

        Probably comes from the credit rating naming in the financial world – AAA rated loans, AAA credit rating for countries etc.

        1. Thomas says:

          Jim Sterling was complaining about someone trying to make ‘Triple I’ a thing for big name indies.

  5. Daimbert says:

    Yeah, that’s the thing: if you put out extra or collector’s editions, you had damn well better give those who buy them what you promised, or else at least acknowledge it right away and make it up to them somehow, because it’s the extras in the editions that make them want to buy the game. I used to pre-order games or buy collector’s editions to get soundtracks. I’d be angered if they didn’t appear and was annoyed and disappointed once when the soundtrack I did get — for Catherine, I think — wasn’t all that great (didn’t have very many songs on it).

    Just now, I bought the more expensive version of the Persona dancing games that included the P3 and P5 versions, as well as a digital download for the P4 game for the PS4. I already own the P4 version for the Vita, but wanted them all in one place. And I got some DLC that’s mostly uninteresting to me to boot. People will indeed pay more for games if you happen to slide things into the game that they want.

    The saddest thing is this: giving out physical items that you can’t simply download is indeed one of the ways to fight piracy. If I want something physical, I actually have to buy the thing at least once and can’t pirate it. This risks people deciding that they don’t need to actually buy physical games themselves, which is one step closer to pirating it. Sure, the Fallout game probably can’t really be pirated, but what about the next game? If customers don’t trust that the extras they’ll get from buying the game will actually be delivered, then they’re going to have less reasons to actually buy the game. That’s the LAST thing any gaming company should want to do.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      Yeah, that’s the thing: if you put out extra or collector’s editions, you had damn well better give those who buy them what you promised, or else at least acknowledge it right away and make it up to them somehow, because it’s the extras in the editions that make them want to buy the game. I used to pre-order games or buy collector’s editions to get soundtracks. I’d be angered if they didn’t appear and was annoyed and disappointed once when the soundtrack I did get — for Catherine, I think — wasn’t all that great (didn’t have very many songs on it).

      The worst part for me are the apologists going “it’s just a bag”. No, it’s not just a bag, it’s why people paid $200.

      As for me, the one collector’s edition I bought was Disgaea D2, which came with quite a few extras and the OST. Unfortunately, the OST wasn’t complete, and that made me reconsider any other collector’s edition (in the “I’m going to look twice before buying now” way).

      1. Daimbert says:

        There’s an attitude that I don’t understand at all going around where the presumption is that there are people out there — often called whales — that are willing to spend lots of money on collector’s editions and extras and lootboxes and the like who don’t care whether they get anything for that money, but at best want to do it to show how much money they can spend. I think there are vanishingly few of these sorts of people. Yes, there are people who will spend more money than, perhaps, the average fan, but almost all of them want to get something for that extra money. So, if they wanted to get that unique branded bag, that’s what they paid that extra money for. So, no, it’s not just a bag at that point. You can argue that they shouldn’t have wanted to pay that much extra money for the bag, but when they didn’t get what they were promised saying “It’s just a bag” really misses the point.

        One almost credible argument would be to say that they got lots of other things for that money and the bag was really a minor part of the overall edition they bought. Even if true, those defending Bethesda really have to acknowledge that they didn’t give them anything like a reasonable replacement for something they promised to give them, no matter how minor a thing that might seem to be.

        1. guy says:

          Well, there are people who gamble enormously large sums of money for various reasons. But there’s a much larger set of people who are willing to spend a fixed, moderate price to get something extra.

        2. Scourge says:

          No. You got it wrong.
          Whales are different from these people that paid for the collectors edition. The thing with the CE edition was false advertising. If you buy a bundle of a computer that says you will get an i9 Core but you find out that you only got an I5 then you have the right to be pissed. Same Principle here.

          Whales are something entirely different. Whales spend so much money so they can be on top of the curve. So they can be in the top 5 of the game and pwn everyone else below them.
          They will buy those lootboxes to upgrade their gear to +10. They will spend lots of money to have the newest and most well trained characters. They will spend money to have access to the very special dungeons where only the rarest of loots drops with a 1 in 100 chance that allows them to craft the Super Uber weapon of Awesomeness with +23 more attack than their normal stuff. They will pay money to have more fights per day when the fight amount is limited because they only need a few more wins to rise up in ranks.

          Whales are competeting between each other, but foremost they need normal people to defeat. Those that will not spend any money. Those that will not pay to advance. Just so they can feel better about their spending because it was worth it.

          That is how whales operate. That is why Free 2 Play Browser games lure in normal people with ‘You can attain everything normally’- Yes you can. It will take a shit ton of time, more time than most people are willing and able to spend, and so they keep the masses that can be defeated by the Whales so that they will stay.

          because without the reinforcement of winning over those ‘lessers’ than they are, they would quickly abandon ship and go to another game and take their money with them. That is why F2P Browser games are so desperate to attract ormal people. So that the Whales don’t leave. Because when you are on the top, why keep spending money?

  6. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    “the story caught on and enraged a lot of people who weren’t even affected by it.”
    Well I think it’s hilarious! Fallout 76 brings me a lot more joy than Fallout 4 ever did!

  7. Galad says:

    Oh, yes, you’re understandably disgusted and appalled at any possible comparison between you and the droves of annoying little shites on youtube that call themselves ‘influencers’, however were you to have a very positive opinion on a game, that would count as a pretty high opinion in my book, and probably in many other people’s books, so you still influence opinions :)

    On topic, I’ll probably be getting Doom Eternal heavily discounted, if at all. Now it’s only a matter of remembering this for like two years until it comes out and gets to that point :>

    1. Fizban says:

      Indeed. There are many things about games I have taken for granted as well known for years, because Shamus talked about them until there was nothing left to say- and yet, plenty of people still don’t know jack about DRM, for example. It’s a little eerie when you realize how much someone on the internet has effectively written your opinions (as in, you agreed after reading what they wrote).

      About the only youtube I reliably watch is ManyATrueNerd (I’ll catch up with Spoiler Warning once in a while though). Jon gets invited to all sorts of fallout and total war stuff, and I’m pretty sure he’s (uncomfortably) repeated the word “influencer” regarding at least one trip or con. And he’s definitely a major fanboy, critical of problems in his favorites but ultimately heaping praise on them in a way that those publishers clearly appreciate. I think he could do with a little more self-awareness, but then it is the major series on those favorite games which fuel his channel, so toning it down wouldn’t exactly be a winning play. And genuine exuberant enjoyment is nice to have around.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Same with “taking things for granted”, a friend recently mentioned that Jim Sterling did a video on DRM that I should watch, and it was almost word for word what Shamus has been saying for years (for that matter I think Sterling might have done a similar video in the past) but apparently for many people this is a new and revolutionary stance.

        Also, @Galad, could we maybe not use terms like “droves of annoying little shites”?

    2. Vinsomer says:

      I can see why Shamus doesn’t like being called an ‘influencer’. After all, if that’s your title, then that’s your primary purpose. To influence. That may be how companies see people like Shamus because that’s how he can offer value to them, intentionally or otherwise, but it’s certainly not how he sees himself.

  8. ccesarano says:

    I’m wondering if part of what makes Fallout 76 such an insult to so many is the inability to mod it. I remember frustratingly getting into arguments with people that labeled Skyrim, Oblivion, Fallout 3 and 4, etc. as “great” games because of what the mod community can do. I always found that horrible because you’re effectively celebrating the developer that can’t make a functional game rather than the people that fix the game for free. Now, you can’t mod Fallout 76, so who is going to “fix” it for you?

    No one, and now everyone is stuck with the Bethesda that existed since Morrowind, perhaps earlier.

    1. Daimbert says:

      No … not Battlespire level!

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I’d contrast Skyrim/Fallout/Oblivion to games like Rimworld and especially Factorio. The Bethesda games are technically moddable, but from what I’ve read, it’s all reverse-engineering the binaries (and doing code injection), flags and scripts that make the quests, and figuring out the formats for the art assets. Rimworld is easily moddable (for simpler things) because most of the game is contained in config files (XML), and can read normal image files like PNGs. Factorio goes one step further, in that they have official APIs to hook up your own compiled code to the game, instead of needing code-injection.

      1. Milo Christiansen says:

        Actually, Bethesda games have a very nice set of official mod tools that are based on the tools they themselves use. The third party tools are just helpers to make certain things easier. Things like the script extenders do use code injection, but the other stuff is all using official methods.

        Interestingly, the mod tools contain semi-disabled functionality for version control and other tasks that are of interest for a dev with a large team but not modders, and they have all kinds of other little things that scream “cleaned-up internal tool”.

        In short, don’t bash them for the one thing they get consistently right.

      2. Agammamon says:

        The Bethesda games are technically moddable, but from what I’ve read, it’s all reverse-engineering the binaries (and doing code injection), flags and scripts that make the quests, and figuring out the formats for the art assets.

        Not at all. BGS releases (usually about 6 months after the game’s release) a modkit that is a cleaned up version of the tools *they use themselves* to make the game. Its a pretty decent set of tools and very powerful.

        ‘Reverse engineering’ is something people do to see how Bethesda did it and learn how to do it themselves. But once you know how to use the toolset its not hard to make quests. Worldspace modifications, item modifications, getting things into the world (or into vendor inventories) is pretty easy.

        The limits are that Bethesda doesn’t provide an exporter for models to the most commonly used 3d modeling programs – especially for navmeshes (which makes allowing NPC’s to wander around new worldspace edits difficult before FO4 which removed the need for navmeshes) – and they only use a small subset of Papyrus’ scripting commands, necessitating the use of the Script Extender for the more ambitious mods.

        If you just want to edit an item’s stats – its harder than a game where those are broken out in text files, but pretty much every other editing function is easier than in any other game.

    3. Gethsemani says:

      I think Fallout 76 is “an insult” (not quite what I’d call it, I’d use the word disappointment) to a lot of discrete fanbases that comprise the greater Bethesda fanbase. The modders/mod users are certainly a highprofile clique, one that often plays Bethesda games solely because they can mod stuff in or find mods other people made that improves the game massively in their taste. But there are other cliques, like the single player crowd who like Fallout because it is a massive single player game that they can enjoy in their own time and pace and who doesn’t want someone else coming in to rush them or interrupt their process. Then you have the immersive gamers, those that play the game to get immersed in the game world, who loves to find easter eggs, environmental storytelling and just enjoying the feeling that they are in another place. They certainly don’t like Fallout 76, because the immersion dies pretty quick when xXx1337Killah69XxX shows up, blasting pop music through their open (low quality) microphone while styled in the most obnoxious and immersive breaking way possible.

      Bethesda’s success has largely rested on their ability to bring in many kinds of fans and catering to their particular tastes while allowing for mainstream appeal of their games. Fallout 76 is such a particular game in what it tries to be, a persistent multiplayer RPG, that several of Bethesda’s fanbases don’t find the thing they want in Fo76. So either, Bethesda is tailoring this game to a particular type of their fans or they misjudged just how much appeal a Bethesda-Game-as-Multiplayer would have to their fans.

    4. I’m wondering if part of what makes Fallout 76 such an insult to so many is the inability to mod it.

      I don’t think the quality of Fallout 76 rises high enough for that to even enter into people’s minds. The other games “fixed” by mods still had a lot of intrinsic quality to them. I don’t see 76 as having that characteristic. Even if you fix all the bugs, it’ll still be garbage. You’d be much better off modding Fallout 4. (Or even the Fallout 3 games. I’m not seeing a lot of evidence that even 4 was an advancement on the capabilities front.)

      1. Karma The Alligator says:

        People do want mods for 76 if only because some of the bugs in it are carry overs from FO4, where mods had gotten rid of them.

    5. Water Rabbit says:

      Nexus Mods would disagree with you.

    6. Nessus says:

      “I remember frustratingly getting into arguments with people that labeled Skyrim, Oblivion, Fallout 3 and 4, etc. as “great” games because of what the mod community can do. I always found that horrible because you’re effectively celebrating the developer that can’t make a functional game rather than the people that fix the game for free.”

      Sounds like that’s because you’re only thinking of mods in terms of “fixes”, which are only a tiny minority of the mods for these games. The majority are expansions: stuff that adds new locations, items, missions, story and characters, even entirely new gameplay mechanics.

      Even if these games were satisfyingly bug-free and “finished” on release, people would still be championing them for their moddabilty. What you should be taking away from those arguments is that the sandbox factor these games enable with through mods is such a huge asset that it can and does dwarf the base game for many, regardless of the base game’s technical qualities or lack thereof.

      But even when it comes to “fixes”, perfection is an infinite ceiling, and subjective, so even a theoretically bug-free and finished game can be improved endlessly and to taste. And with a giant open world game, there’s opportunities for such everywhere. The length to which these games can be modded allows one to turn their worlds into something that can be much more complex, immersive, and “real” than anything that’s been made by finite dev team.

      What the Bethesda games in particular provide is a substrate that’s not only easy to work with, but also an attractive starting point (i.e. there’s just enough there to provide an engaging framework, but not so much that adding or tinkering feels like a violation of the story or characters). Each game is a genre setting sandbox. This is why Starfield is getting lots of interest, despite Bethesda’s crumbling record of late: a space-opera themed sandbox would be AMAZING.

      But for my part, at least, you’re half right, in that Fallout76 offers none of those things. I know for my part I would never be interested in a Fallout or Elder Scrolls game that wasn’t moddable, regardless of how technically finished it was.

      I mean, I tried ESO, and although it was way more technically polished than the Bethesda ES games, (and basically everything F76 fell so appallingly short of), it just didn’t engage me the way Skyrim or New Vegas has, and that was directly due to the limitations imposed by the lack of mods. I still play Skyrim and New Vegas from time to time as sort of digital national parks, but after those first 2 months or so, I’ll probably never reinstall ESO.

    7. Sartharina says:

      If I could mod Assassin’s Creed or Shadow of War to let me play as a naked muscular lion-woman (or man) wielding a mighty two-handed battleaxe, a pair of daggers, or slinging spells, I’d probably leave the Bethesda games behind forever. But I can’t.

      The Elder Scrolls games get by with so much because the developers have massive mod support that allows people to build their own game and tweak it to almost exactly what they want. It allows you to literally be whatever the fuck you want, doing whatever the hell you want, with no obligation to do ANYTHING the developers want to walk you through.

      They’re pretty much THE video game adaption of Dungeons & Dragons for PC. Except there aren’t 4 other players sitting around me judging me for wanting to be a naked snow leopard man cleaving demons with a massive axe.

  9. Darren says:

    I think it’s especially bad for them releasing Fallout 76 the same year that Red Dead 2 came out. Yes, Rockstar’s open world games aren’t doing exactly the same things as Bethesda’s, but from a customer point of view it’s a pretty subtle distinction. Red Dead has tons of quests, loads of voice acting, a massive environment, and arguably more complex mechanics than anything Bethesda has put out, and is more polished than any title from Bethesda that I’ve ever seen. Setting aside the atrocious working hours, which simply weren’t necessary to achieve that quality, it’s a Goofus & Gallant-like study in contrasts.

    1. Ivan says:

      Well, they were necessary to achieve that quality, in that timeframe. Just, I’d say that that quality wasn’t necessary to achieve. I imagine you probably meant to mean that, cos the alternative suggests the Rockstar workers were incompetent/lazy, as well as overworked.

      1. galacticplumber says:

        Crunch is horribly inefficient in the long term to the point it’s debatable in some circumstances you’ll get more output for not doing it. Also better output. It’s not that the workers are incompetent. It’s that all-time crunch is a stupid idea pedaled by stupid people.

        1. Darren says:

          And if the tales of people coming in on the weekends to sit around and look busy despite not being able to accomplish much without their full teams available are true, Rockstar was getting even less out of its 100-hour work weeks.

      2. Darren says:

        I’m saying they could have achieved the same level of quality if they had just been willing to delay things. But it was clearly possible to deliver the product with a high level of polish; they didn’t just dump it out into the wild and say, “Well, you’re gonna get some bugs in a big game like this.”

    2. Sartharina says:

      Nah. There’s a pretty fucking huge difference between being forced to play as John Marston or whichever named po-faced and overdressed cowboy they chose to stick you with, and being a self-made half- or completely-naked Conanesque barbarian (Or whatever the fuck else you want to be) stomping through the world.

  10. Joshua says:

    My thoughts on hearing about the controversy were “Isn’t this illegal bait-and-switching”, and “can’t they get sued?”

    Literally promising one thing with a picture, sending you a clearly different and inferior product, and then actually saying in writing, “Sorry, sending you what we promised was too expensive (despite that’s the reason you paid so much for it), so we’re giving you something cheaper instead and no, we’re not going to do anything else about it”. It’s just begging for a legal response.

    It’s like going to a Porsche dealership, paying $200k for a car, and they give you a cheap little Hyundai instead because an actual Porsche was too expensive for them, i.e., their profit margin wasn’t as high. Unbelievable.

    1. Hector says:

      Probably, yes that is the case. Bethesda realized they were in a serious jam of their own making and finally reversed course on the bag issue. It only took massive, repeated public humiliation, lost sales, and the threat of lawsuits for them to act.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      This. This is exactly what baffles me the most about the whole thing. This is not the first time some kind of “collector’s edition” came with goods that people considered sub-standard but in most of those cases the goods provided have generally fallen within the parameters of what was promised. In this case they clearly do not, and in a way that violates the most basic legal rules that govern customer-seller relationship in most countries. Bethesda is not a small company, they are not a new company, they or whoever currently owns them must have some kind of legal department and seeing how their business is selling a product someone in that department should be familiar with these rules on at least some base level!

  11. Bookwyrm says:

    I’m not faulting Bethesda for being rapacious and exploitative, I’m faulting them for attempting to be rapacious and exploitative and being completely shit at it.

    All I’m hearing in my head is Frozone: “We look like bad guys! Incompetent bad guys!”

    1. Hector says:

      I recently saw Todd Howard’s ridiculous talk extolling / introducing Fallout 76. Apart from being filled with “creative” interpretations of facts, the game that released us not only a cash grab, its an obvious and insulting cash grab. Todd implicitly mocked people for complaining about bugs, then released the bug guest Bethsoft title since Battlespire. There was a lit of self-satisfied snark which looks like empty hubris now.

  12. Fallout 4 was a mess of childish ideas, idiotic dialog, lazy worldbuilding, and frustrating glitches that demonstrated a palpable contempt for the source material, but critics gave it an 84%. Wolfenstein II was showered with critical praise despite being distinctly inferior to the previous game.

    I automatically dock ~10 percentage points on metacritic now for a AAA release, and I dock 15 if it’s something I expect critics to pretty much automatically go extra-gaga over like a new Grand Theft Auto or Elder Scrolls game. It’s not quite linear, because if the new game scores 98% even so, then it’s probably at least “pretty good”. (That is, since you can’t score 109%, I have to sort of scrunch the top end up a bit. Still, you can see the effect; Grand Theft Auto 5 is probably a really good game, but rather than the 97 it currently has, I expect it would really be more in the low 90s. It has a lot of problems.)

    Or, alternatively, I give indie games about a 10 point bonus on Metacritic.

    I dunno what the reason for this is. It could just be a natural reaction to the extra polish that AAA games generally have; no indie game can afford to produce thousands of brand new textures for a 3D game, or hours of motion capture, etc. But one does wonder if 5-8 of my 10 points is subtle bootlicking so they get the next review copy, or outright payola. Especially those YouTube “personalities”; not only do I have no particular reason to trust their ethics, I can’t help but notice a lot of them are young enough that I don’t expect them to fully understand all the strings that come attached to the payola.

    1. djw says:

      Bootlicking and outright corruption are certainly possibilities, but I wonder if another factor is concern that they will look foolish if their review is an outlier.

      If most of the reviews are released at about the same time then they don’t get to look at other reviews to calibrate. Instead, they must guess roughly where the other reviews will land, and place their score accordingly. Information about the publisher must factor into that guess. Note that this process could be running in the background, rather than be a conscious decision.

      1. John says:

        I think every experienced reviewer must know by now that fans of a game or series will get mad at him if his review is insufficiently glowing. If other, more favorable reviews exist then they’ll point to those as they accuse him of “bias” and other thought-crimes. No one enjoys that. So I guess what you’re saying is possible, but I don’t think there’s any way for us to know for sure. I think it’s more likely–or perhaps I’d just prefer to believe–that game reviewers are usually swayed by the same sorts of things that sway game players.

      2. Water Rabbit says:

        I think a large amount of reviewers have time to do a through review that is of any real value. So they play a couple of hours and write at the same time and gloss over anything that is only mildly annoying.

        1. Thomas says:

          Fans get carried away as much as reviewers. Dragon Age: Inquisition was loved at launch and Fallout 4 was a genuine pop culture phenomenon with Reddit flush flattering posts. The same for MGSV.

          Everyone gets caught up in hype. Reviewers just fail to rise above it (and the ones that do get punished – people don’t like having their bubble burst)

      3. Kestrellius says:

        Wait, so, review consensus is a result of [i]acausal bargaining[/i]?

    2. Tektotherriggen says:

      Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Pharma illustrates how this can happen, without anyone involved doing anything immoral or unethical. Translated from a medical context into games, it goes like this:

      Start with lots of different game websites, all with individual preferences due to the people they happened to hire. Some like big budget AAAs, some like single-dev indies, some like the mid range. Their review scores reflect this, because this is their honest opinion based on their tastes.

      Now, a big publisher wants to advertise their massive new online FPS. They could pay for a banner on WeLoveQuirkyIndies.com, but who wants to spend kilobucks on an advert right next to a review that says the game is utterly stupid? Better to advertise on a site where the reviewers love advanced graphics and game feel, and always forgive dumb plots. The upshot is that the AAA-loving sites get more advertising money, which means they can invest in self-promotion and grow. The reviewers that like small games get left with advertising from publishers with tiny marketing budgets, so they grow slowly or go out of business.

      You end up with a world dominated by inflated scores for AAA games, without any bribes or other corruption. Not saying there is no corruption in real life, but you can’t solve the problems just by eliminating deliberate bad practice.

    3. evileeyore says:

      “I automatically dock ~10 percentage points on metacritic now for a AAA release…”
      I ignore reviewer scores on Metacritic and only pay attention to the audience scores. The audience is usually spot on, the gaming press is a sack full of [EXPLICATIVE DELETED].

      Except Yahtzee. He’s always been a straight shooter.

  13. tremor3258 says:

    The bag thing is a fascinatingly broad example of systematic PR and management failure. There was no reason for it.

    The unforced error that gets me worse, from the outside, is people spotting bugs that were in community fix mods for Fallout 4 and weren’t fixed in 76. They more or less had fixes handed to them and couldn’t be bothered.

    1. ThricebornPhoenix says:

      While playing Fallout 4 I found several bugs that go back at least to *Oblivion* (the earliest Bethesda game I’ve played). I’m sure most of those have been patched multiple times by modders. I think a couple were also fixed by Obsidian for New Vegas.

      1. Water Rabbit says:

        There are bugs that go back to Morrowind in Fallout 4. It also appears from some of the footage I have seen they are still present in FO76.

        1. tremor3258 says:

          Okay – seriously?

          I’m irritated at Creative Assembly for some of the things they’ve introduced in patches but at least when they set up a state that destroys your game 100 turns in, it didn’t exist before the last patch…

        2. Ciennas says:

          What bug was in Morrowind that’s in F4? I’m curious now.

    2. modus0 says:

      It’s even worse in the context of Skyrim Special Edition. They didn’t bother fixing any of the remaining bugs from regular Skyrim, even though the Unofficial Patch existed and at the least, could have been used as a reference to identify serious bugs.

  14. Dreadjaws says:

    Maybe some of the blame for this belongs to us folks in the gaming press

    Crack open the comments section of any article about Fallout 76 and you’ll find people defending the game, claiming that the people who complain are “entitled” while they are having a lot of fun with the game. So trust me, the consumers are just as much to blame as the press. They also find ridiculous ways to excuse these practices. Whether it’s because they feel the need to justify their purchase or because they just have really low standards, they will fight people who complain about the game.

    …it sounded like they were excusing their bait-and-switch tactics …

    I think calling it “bait-and-switch” is too forgiving. This is flagrant false advertising. They advertised something and delivered something else of quantifiable less quality. It’s not a case of hiding problems or having stuff open to interpretation (like the quality of the game itself, or that other game’s Collector’s Edition, that advertised a physical flask as a bonus item and it turned out to be just a unusable prop), it’s a clear-cut affair. And it’s 100% illegal. They didn’t cave in because they realized their mistake. They did it because they realized they were in real danger of legal repercussions that no lawyer could save them from.

    This is what’s most important to remember. Bethesda wasn’t being just incompetent, they were literally stooping to crime because they were completely sure they were so invincible that they could get away with it. And it took people actually standing up and threatening legal action to get them to stop. That is what we need to remember the next time they show us a shiny new trailer, or the next time they joke about their games being full of bugs instead of actually doing something to correct it.

  15. guy says:

    I think the lesson of Battlefront 2, Diablo Immortal, and Fallout 76 is that buyers are not mindless sheep just because they buy EA, Activision-Blizzard, or Bethesda products.

    It turns out we actually understand the concepts of skinner boxes and market segmentation and shoddy QA. And then we decide how much to spend.

    So the Fallout 76 bag controversy enrages me even though I never buy collectors editions with physical objects. People bought those bags because they were willing to spend $140 on a canvas Fallout bag, not because they have a compulsion to empty their bank accounts. Bethesda chose to defraud them; why wouldn’t they defraud me?

    And their QA issues were a running joke because they were funny; most of them didn’t block quest completion and involved various hilarious moments like punching a Deathclaw into space. But the support ticket system is a critical data security issue.

    “The customer is always right.” Don’t ever think you can trick them.

    Meanwhile Artifact is a digital CCG and Valve made Richard Garfield lead designer. If I didn’t already have far too many games I’d certainly check out a CCG from the deisgner of Magic the Gathering.

    1. Water Rabbit says:

      To be fair, I think most people bought the collector’s edition for the Power Armor Helmet. The bag was secondary to that. Still no excuse for the bait and switch though.

      1. guy says:

        Honestly I heard “multiplayer Fallout” and “can destroy other people’s bases” and just totally checked out so I have no idea.

        What I will say is that Ubisoft and EA’s madness has spread to Bethesda as well; they have forgotten customers hold all the power in this relationship. We have let them get away with bugs and lootboxes and the like, but they exist because we allow it.

        1. trevalyan says:

          Judging by the hard bombing of multiple AAA titles, they will end because we demand it.

          Or have a shareholder revolt. Can’t decide which is worse for them.

          1. galacticplumber says:

            I mean… One is turbulence and the other is OVER.

  16. J Greely says:

    To me, the sad thing about the bag bait-and-switch is that 10 seconds of Google found at least half a dozen vendors who sell custom-logo canvas duffels for under $10, in a variety of sizes and colors. I’m sure Bethesda’s marketing team could make a few calls and get a better product at a better price than J Random Websurfer, so the fact that they didn’t says something not-so-nice about the people who signed off on the dollar bag.


    1. default_ex says:

      Your grossly overestimating the cost of those bags. I have seen places where I can order a box of 500 with any design for $50, that’s $0.10 each. Stores like Meijer and Walmart offer similarly sized bags for $1 each with their logos. Some stores will give you a bag for free if you purchase a certain amount of goods from them. That’s what got to me with this whole thing, those aren’t particularly expensive things. Yet they decided to pull this crap with a remarkably high price associated with it.

  17. Cilba Greenbraid says:

    Bethesda’s logic is painfully easy to follow: “We deliver games that are far, far less than what we promised and suckerscustomers buy them up by the millions and come back for more, so why spend an extra million dollars delivering the bag we promised?”


    Separate thought: it’s interesting how Bethesda is one of numerous companies selling high-end goods and/or services who make the blunder of treating their best customers poorly, while most of the companies in the retail and hospitality industries are paralyzed by the exact opposite blunder: trying far too hard to please their worst customers, who rationally they should be happy to make their competitor’s problem. (For more details, ask anyone who works in retail or hospitality.)

    1. guy says:

      Well, “the sqeaky wheel gets the grease”; companies are far more concerned about people who complain because they’re likely to leave. I spent a couple years regularly visiting the Denny’s on my campus and being annoyed because it was late and there were staff in the kitchen but no one on the register. Then one night I’d had enough of this and I held up my watch, set it to the timer mode, and pressed start.

      From then on people came to the register in a timely fashion and I got free cookies.

  18. Ciennas says:

    I posit a conspiracy theory: This game is so very rushed, bare minimum, and obvious, that I suspect that this is a form of internal rebellion.

    I can’t fathom something released like this otherwise.

    I’m well aware of the other potential reasons, but I can’t help but picture someone from Zenimax coming in, and making all kinds of requests for the game, only to have them met precisely as requested.

    1. kincajou says:

      I like to imagine it’s a situation similar to that “IT crowd” episode when they convince their boss that the internet is in a black box and everyone beleives them.
      Someone goes “hey we should replace the canvas bags with these shitty nylon ones because they’re so cheap!” (thinking everyone will get the joke)
      – Brilliant, steve! You really are the smartest on the team!

      – Steve! Everyone hates the bag, how do we fix it?
      – Well, we could offer a non apology and some non existent (and still somehow trivial) amount of in-game cash! It won’t cost us a penny and we’ll have hooked them to our game store!
      – Steve you bloody Genius! you’ve done it again!
      [Steve proceeds to resign qnd search for a job in pastures new… considering his amazing influencing powers we’ll probably see him in politics in the coming years]

  19. Misamoto says:

    I think I read Artifact player base already lost 60% of people they had? So probably not a success?

    1. Baron Tanks says:

      Not necessarily, they pocketed the sales of people trying it out and the people that remain are a lot closer to the true audience. I have no experience with (digital) CCGs, but by all accounts Artifact is a very particular one, with perhaps a high learning curve*. It was never going to broadly appeal and the design informs us that this was never the goal. The audience that may potentially show up for this day one, which in my view is some crosssection of people with at least a passing interest in Valve products, DOTA more specifically and people that are here for the card game. I’m suspecting the vast majority of the dropouts are from these first two groups. I highly doubt that this was not accounted for (typical game dropoffs are high anyway) and I’m sure that he business case revolves around a core audience that will keep investing into the game. Now sure, 60% sounds real bad but I wouldn’t be surprised that as long as they retain some core that they can reliably monetize on, the game will meet the expectations set. This group may only be a fraction of what shows up day one, but we’ve seen countless examples of games in recent years where, at least for the sustained revenue part of the equation, a tiny fraction of the audience generates the majority of the revenue. I was very sceptical when I heard they launched without being free to start. However, you can just as easily turn this around and say; we were never going to appeal broadly, we might as well pocket 20 bucks of 80% of our audience one time. Those people were never going to get properly dragged into a card game anyway, now they at least gave us a sack of cash.

      *I’m sticking to the game mechanics and what I heard of them, there is a whole other discussion to be had about the business practices.

    2. Mephane says:

      I think that’s normal. All games lose a significant portion of they player base a few weeks after release. That doesn’t even necessarily say anything bad about the game, just that some people tend to not stick around for long in general.

    3. guy says:

      The real question is how many new packs of cards they sell; a lot of the audience wasn’t that interested in CCGs to begin with.

  20. Kdansky says:

    I have never understood why everybody loves Fallout 3 and 4 so much. They are not good games, not by any objective metric. They are ugly, bug-ridden, the writing is bad, the shooting feels flat, the UI is horrific, the art-direction is bad and nonsensical, your only interaction options are ‘canned dialog tree’ and ‘kill’, and many more problems.

    New Vegas at least had good writing, and Skyrim was an impressive, immersive experience (and salvaged by mods). But Fallout 3 was bad, and Fallout 4 was worse.

    As for market segmentation: The last collector’s edition I bought was WC3. Then I noticed I don’t actually want crappy plastic statues, because I will just throw them in the trash when I move house next time. That people would spend $200 on a game of which we know it’s not going to be very good, just so they can get a cheap plastic helmet and a branded bag is unbelievable, and only topped by Bethesda doing such a piss poor job of producing these already valueless trinkets that they manage to annoy that customer segment who has already proven they have neither taste nor budget sense. It’s downright Kafkaesque.

    Artifact: I have recently bought it, as it has one awesome feature. You can play as much “casual” draft as you want. It’s the full draft mode, but without stakes. You don’t win or lose anything, but the entry is completely free. It’s the best mode anyway. I’ll probably open my 10 packs and sell all the contents, then the game will have cost me basically nothing for an eternally free drafting mode. Fine with me.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      For me Fallout 3 was just as salvaged by mods as Skyrim (probably because I was making my own mods at the time), but I agree that 4 was a train wreck that even mods didn’t save. And the funny thing is that for NV I’m keeping mods to a minimum, mostly cosmetic ones (better lighting, better colours, bug fixes, that type of thing) because it’s good enough as it is.

    2. Fon says:

      People love Fallout 3 and 4 because they have the “Bethesda Magic”: exploring an open world. Most people find it fun to explore a world, finding new place with interesting stuff, working on your character/avatar, or basically just do whatever you want. It is fun to wander off the rails, and in these Bethesda open world games, there are actually stuff for you to do if you step off the main quest. Think it as a Fallout themed world where you can poke your noses anywhere and probably get away with it. This one thing is enough to turn a substandard game into… fun.

  21. C__ says:

    Bethesda has failed to realize something that Apple dominates so well: if a customer is willing to spend $ 200 on an item that can be purchased for $ 60, surely he is inclined to spend $300, $500. You want your client to spend $500 on your brand and be happy about it.

    How you do it? Give him what he wants, make him feel special, make him feel better than others. Apple knows perfectly that her products are overpriced in the market, but her customers are loyal because she delivers exactly the experience they want to have. No cutting corners here.

    The other way is to make someone who paid $ 200 for a $ 60 product feel stupid for doing it, which is exactly what Bethesda did.

    Next year, all Apple customers will come back to buy their new “iSameproduct XYZ”, but Bethesda consumers will just think “fool me once …”

    1. default_ex says:

      Apple is not the shining example your making them out to be. If anything they treat their customers worse than any other company. Have a look at Loius Rossman’s YouTube channel if you really want to see how they treat their customers, specifically the “Shit the Genius Bar Says” series. Your talking about a company that will use your ignorance about electronics repair to convince you that a very simple repair will cost as much as a whole new machine. On top of that if you ignore all of that Loius has plenty of examples of what their so called repair work entails. The chip that desoldered itself and was “repaired” by inserting a piece of shoe rubber to press it back down to the board instead of simply reflowing the solder really took the cake. They don’t stop there either, they have been attacking the supply chain of reputable repair shops for a long time now. These are shops their customers are taking their computers to, to have them repaired because Apple either refuses to do so or quotes insane repair prices.

      Apple is not treating their customers well. They are abusing their customer’s trust and treating them like they are stupid.

  22. Liessa says:

    I was thinking just the other day about the astonishing amount of outright contempt shown towards consumers in the videogames industry, and how it reaches levels that would be unthinkable in any other industry. This doesn’t just relate to games companies like Bethesda, but to the gaming press who are supposed to hold them accountable. Can you imagine if (for example) a consumer electronics magazine were to denounce its readers as ‘whiny’ and ‘entitled’ for complaining about features they disliked in the latest iPhone? On consideration, I think there are a whole lot of reasons that factor into this:

    – Videogame companies are, as Shamus frequently points out, often run by people who understand nothing about the industry and their customers. They look at customers purely in terms of how much money they can squeeze out of each of them, rather than as different types of consumers with different needs.
    – In the last few years in particular, games companies have been increasingly dependent on a tiny number of gamers for a large proportion of their revenue (through microtransactions and lootboxes). This means that they can treat the vast majority of their customers like shit and still make tons of money, at least in the short term.
    – On the other hand, gamers don’t help their own case by largely putting up with this kind of treatment, on the basis that things aren’t as bad as they could be. This means that when things finally boil over (as they have here with Bethesda), it’s usually the culmination of years of increasing frustration, but to outsiders it looks like people throwing a huge tantrum over something fairly insignificant.
    – On the devs’ side, this is a creative industry and so people tend to get emotionally attached to what they’re creating, making it harder to take a cold, rational look at what is and isn’t working. It also makes them more likely to react badly when customers complain about stuff they dislike.
    – Games journalists, especially from the bigger sites, tend to have an unhealthily close relationship with devs and publishers – not necessarily due to deliberate shilling, but because they’re reliant on them for inside information, exclusives and of course for advertising revenue.
    – Games journalists also tend to be a somewhat different demographic from ‘hardcore’ gamers, who heavily skew young and male. Unlike in many other industries, you don’t really need any technical knowledge to write about games, or even to be especially good at playing them – so their priorities may be different from the majority of people actually buying and playing the games.
    – The mainstream press still basically sees videogames as children’s toys and therefore unimportant. Whenever gaming news does break through into non-gamer consciousness, it’s usually due to incidents like GamerGate, which just reinforces the stereotypes.

    Combine all these factors – incompetent management, resentful devs, a skewed market, consumers whose response veers between unwarranted tolerance and extreme aggression, a specialist press that’s primed to take the side of devs over consumers, and a mainstream press that generally isn’t interested and doesn’t care – and it’s no wonder the entire industry is such a toxic cesspool. It may also go some of the way to explaining why Bethesda thinks they can get away with stuff like this, however irrational it may seem at first glance.

    1. Marc Forrester says:

      I was just about to comment on how valuable Shamus is in his willingness to call out both industry and gamer bullshit without taking one side and reflexively dismissing the concerns of the other. Twentysided has been my only source of truth on high drama issues like No Man’s Sky, Night Dive’s System Shock and the death of Mass Effect while gamers on social media are a swamp of criminal overreaction and regressive politics and the specialist press have lost the ability to call developers out in their reaction against all that.

      Long may he reign. Does he have any peers in this arena?

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        Jim Sterling is the gaming press king of accurately pointing out the terrible business practices of the gaming industry. He even quit his high profile reviewing job because he refused to toe the editorial line of being at least a little nice to their advertisers and sponsors in his reviews.

        1. Sartharina says:

          Jim Sterling seems to be aggressively anti-producer to me.

    2. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Calling gamers whiny is like calling a street riot “a bit of a dust up”. Do people generally call for the deaths of Apple executives and literally mail them death threats if the camera on the new iPhone X falls below expectations? Because gamers are willing to do that if they don’t like the stats on the balance patch for the new Call of Duty.

      1. Sakai says:

        This is such a ridiculous generalization, and also a completely wrong one. Remember how Star Wars was treated because people didn’t like her role? Yeah, that stuff is common place among all fandoms. Gamers are in no way shape or form unique in this.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Gamers aren’t unique but they are uniquely hardcore about being terrible. This “gamers are great… and all the bad ones are statistical outliers” shit should have died with Gamergate. People who STRONGLY identify as being gamers (instead of just people who love to play games but don’t consider it a part of their identity) are statistically a horrible, abusive group. “But that’s not fair, I am not one of the bad ones!” isn’t really a defense for the group, either. If gamers didn’t want a bad reputation they wouldn’t:
          -Try to make people lose their jobs for having liberal political stances
          -Doxx streamers and developers who have done something they don’t like
          -Constantly engage in hate speech online and in online games and then get mad at attempts to moderate or ban such speech
          -Predictably act out whenever a game’s premise is based on diversity or a special interest group or when a game features a diverse (re: non-white, non-male) protagonist
          -Make a big show about boycotting products and then unreservedly buy those products anyway (look up the old Modern Warfare 2 boycott for a laugh)

          Going back to your premise, you think it’s unique how gamers are shown contempt by those making the games, I would argue that certainly isn’t true. Think about car buyers. Think about how the ads are some of the most stupid and vapid out there, save for perhaps alcohol ads. Think about how the experience of buying a car is almost uniquely terrible among all purchases. Think about how car makers are constantly under fire for little things like… manufacturing defective safety equipment and deciding to hide this information (and therefore, directly KILL their customers) rather than take a loss to fix it. This is true in a lot of markets, honestly.

          1. Shamus says:

            Don’t talk about Gamergate on my site. Don’t make broad generalizations about groups of people and then excuse it by saying, “Yeah, those people are all like that”. (Especially since a lot of folks here probably self-identify as “gamers” and are nothing like the villain you make them out to be.) Don’t drag the culture war onto my site.

            I’ve seen this pointless argument dozens of times, I know exactly where it will go, and you don’t want me to have to moderate something like that.

            Thank you.

            1. Marc Forrester says:

              And if you google the relevant terms plus shamusyoung.com, that conversation’s already been had, with an actual constructive meeting of different perspectives almost unique on the public web.

          2. Distec says:

            Shouldn’t you be in RPS’ comment section.

  23. Brian N. says:

    If you’re not angry enough yet…

    You know that claim that Fallout 76 wasn’t pay-to-win?

    They lied:


  24. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Something that Shamus skipped in his summary of the whole affair, and that is one of my favourite bits, the original response from Bethesda’s customer support:

    We are sorry that you aren’t happy with the bag. The bag shown in the media was a prototype and was too expensive to make. We aren’t planning to do anything about it.

    and Bethesda’s followup (emphasis mine):

    “The Bethesda Store’s Support member is a temporary contract employee and not directly employed by Bethesda or Bethesda Game Studios, We apologize to the customer who took the time to reach out. The support response was incorrect and not in accordance with our conduct policy.

    Seeing how I think this came at the time they started giving people the 500 atoms I can’t help but translate that last bit as “We are actually giving you a consolation thing and this person was not allowed to tell you the bags were too expensive”.

  25. Sudanna says:

    There was a really good article on Waypoint about Artifact, it seems like something you might like, Shamus.

  26. “I don’t want to see Bethesda go out of business, but I’d rather watch them go out of business than continue to release games as an elaborate form of shitposting.”

    Totally 100% agree with you there Shamus.

    I’m a fan of the games Bethesda Game Studios has made (with Todd Howard leading the pack).
    I’m looking forward to Starfield, and Elder Scrolls VI, Fallout 5.

    But if Fallout 76 reflect the production process of those then it could sink their company (or break it up and move people around to other studios).

    I thought Bioware screwed up by “outsourcing” Mass Effect Andromeda to a studio that’s never worked on Mass Effect before.
    But the way Bethesda screwed up here is even worse, and AFAIK this is the Fallout/Elder Scrolls core teams working on this, sure they had other studios help with the multiplayer part but…

    Many like to point at the Creation Engine game engine as the problem, I’d like to point at management. ame engines can be fixed and pieces can be rewritten in modules/sections over time and across game releases, allowing a slow migration.
    Alternatively a parallel game engine (Creation Engine 2 ?) can be made alongside Creation Engine improvements/tweaks allowing a soft migration to the next game they make.

    It’s weird. The marketing for this stuff is really good, but the fullfillment is bad. Likewise I really like the design and stuff of the games but again the fullfillment is lacking.

    Another company comes to mind, Egosoft of “X” series fame. Their games are awesome but require like 1-2 year of patches to be fully playable. Their previous game had a lot of issues but the current one they seems to have gotten things mostly right and listened more to the players.

    Meanwhile we have companies like CD Projekt RED which was originally what was seen as a “Eurojank” company, releasing a game with potential but tons of issues, and then grew into what was able to released The Witcher 3, and is going to release Cyberpunk 2077. They have evolved a lot, while BGS seems to have devolved.

    Todd Howard is great at coming up with grand ideas and such, he’s been doing great since Morrowind and he’s also a great presenter.
    But whomever is managing the programming and/or overseeing other stuff, they need to be replaced, especially for Fallout 76.
    Likewise the fullfillment manager (I assume they have at least 1 person overseeing this) need to wake up or get replaced.

    Many people may laugh at “the bag” but imagine if you where buying just a expensive canvas bag from a sports store and instead got a cheap nylon one that was different, would you be happy?

    By the looks of it Bethesda outsourced (?!) the fullfillment stuff. I wonder how much of Fallout 76 was outsourced? I’m assuming Todd and co is super busy with Starfield and some early work/planning for ES6 has begun (maybe ideas for FO5 too too). So Fallout 76 being fully or having multiple parts outsourced or being handled by a thrown together sub-team would explain a lot of the issues. Because if all this mess is made by the core team at BGS that is also working on Starfield and ES6 and FO5, them I’m scared that. Andromda while a “ok” game on it’s own almost killed the Mass Effect franchise, if ES6 or FO5 is a equal mess to Fallout 76 that could permanently damage those franchises.

    The only saving grace here (while they patch/fix Fallout 76 over the next year) is Starfield, if that is really good straight out of the gate then people will feel confident about ES6 and FO5 again.

  27. Spatzist says:

    “Hey guys, Bethesda’s making an MMO (that definitely isn’t a lazy attempt to jump on the battle royale train)”

    thinking: *Bethesda can’t even build a soundly functional single-player game, and your fanbase can’t patch your MMO for you*

    “I’ll pass”


    It fails at being a single player game, and it was all-but-guaranteed from the beginning to fail at being a multiplayer game (seriously Bethesda, *why* would you jump straight to making something this ambitious engine-wise? You’ve never even gotten co-op working before!). Double-down screwing up on their premium edition was just salt in the wound.

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