Bethesda is rightfully known as a powerhouse for single player experiences with the likes of Fallout historically being a purely solo affair. Yet, with the release of Fallout 76, an always online multiplayer survival game set in a shared Fallout universe, many believe the developer may be straying away from the beaten track. Indeed, very few studios who aren’t attached to a larger publishing behemoth haven’t shifted towards a games-as-service model with maximum returns monetization as a core component of their commercial strategies.
In an effort to quell any seeds of doubt, Bethesda’s focus on single player games will continue, says Todd Howard in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz. He is eager to point out Bethesda’s previous forays into online multiplayer games – notably Elder Scrolls Online, and mobile smash hits Fallout Shelter, The Elder Scrolls: Legends and The Elder Scrolls: Blade – as an example of how the studio can explore alternative avenues, yet retain a core single player ethos in biggest releases. ‘It doesn’t mark the future. Corporately we’ve done a mix; people forget sometimes.’
When it comes to monetization, Howard says they’ve employed ‘a lighter touch, which surprisingly worked very well for us in Fallout Shelter. I was forced to meet with a lot of ‘monetization experts’ during Fallout Shelter that didn’t work for us. I said ‘that’s nice’ and then it came out and the first week it was above Candy Crush with a very light touch… We did learn a lot though.’
As for Fallout 76, Howard explains ‘we like to try it all. For a long time we wanted to try a multiplayer game and we had this idea. We shouldn’t be afraid. We should try it’. The primarily service-based Fallout 76 appears to be an experiment. We can’t hold this against Bethesda given their propensity to make some of the most critically and commercially successful games of the past two decades.
All this points towards Bethesda being all too aware of the commercial merits of mobile and monetization, however they are equally conscious that their popularity among devoted fans stems primarily from engrossing single player game play. Fallout 76 simply isn’t the doomed harbinger of a permanent deviation away from one-person, all-in-one games.