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They tease for a reason.
There’s a common practice in the video game market to begin discussion on your latest titles before the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) even begins—this, in turn, starts the hype train with plenty of coal in the metaphorical bunker. But hype isn’t the only objective, of course. This practice also makes sure any further involvement in E3 isn’t lost amongst the riff-raff of every other developer trying to circle jerk their latest attempt at making money. Not to say this is the only way to approach E3, but it seems to be the most effective strategy for a variety of video game publishers—EA, Activision, or Nintendo for example.
Now, Fallout 76 has been announced and the discussions have begun, Bethesda should just be able to sip on gin and juice, lay back and have their mind on their money and their money on their mind. Fallout 4 brought in some serious $krilla—selling over 23 million copies and making an estimated $750 million (£493m) in its release week. So surely, nobody could be in any doubt about whether or not the next entry into the series would bring in quadrillions of monies, right? Wrong.
If you follow the general Fallout news-space, you would’ve already heard of the rumored ‘online’ component to the new title that has fans panicking. Jason Schreier started this shit-show by leaking information he’s managed to procure off some unnamed Bethesda insiders/employees. Here’s the article which discusses all of this, plus his Twitter account if you want to see any of his tweets in regards to the subject.
Who cares about single-player? Everyone.
The gist seems to be that Schreier reckons Fallout 76 isn’t going to be a ‘traditional single-player RPG’. He discusses this further in his article in Kotaku, stating that the new game will be ‘an online survival RPG that’s heavily inspired by games like DayZ and Rust, according to three people familiar with the project.’
It’s fair to say fans of the RPG series are panicked beyond comprehension. Forehead veins have already begun to burst, as various people are concurrently headbutting their keyboards on the Reddit forums while foaming from the mouth. Basically, the core of the fanbase isn’t happy, but, are they right to be worried?
In my opinion, it’s okay to be worried about a series you love so dearly. Moreover, if Schreier is entirely and undoubtedly correct, Bethesda will have made one of the biggest mistakes in gaming history. The developer’s audience is single-player RPG loving gamers. Bethesda themselves was the leader of the #SavePlayer1 campaign and them making an online-only title would be a marketing disaster. Imagine teasing a new game for the series and not immediately telling your audience from the off that it’s a massive departure from what they’ve been used to, for the past ten years and three blockbuster games. (To clarify, it’s been ten years since Fallout 3’s release, Bethesda has been arguably been releasing world renowned RPGs since 2002’s The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind).
Unfortunately, the other side to this isn’t an easy: ‘if Schreier’s wrong’. It’s obvious the dude has some kind of insider knowledge and he’s accurately leaked other information in the past. But, it could also be plausible that he’s bending the truth, being deliberately vague (he’s backtracked multiple times) or he’s simply just lying. The very latter would quite likely result in him being carved up like a Christmas turkey online and laid to rest next to the other almighty gaming journalists who attempted to put themselves a bit too out-there in the past.
What leaves a bad taste in my mouth about Schreier’s reporting isn’t the fact I don’t want a multiplayer-only Fallout game, it’s actually because he quite clearly and deliberately doesn’t clarify the ‘multiplayer component’ in his article to make sure the pot is successfully stirred, and that fans are left in the lurch speculating about the worst concepts their minds can conjure up. This is obviously just my journalistic opinion, and I mean no disrespect to Jason, he’s just doing his job. Of course, I’d also jump at the chance to report on something like this, but Schreier’s journalistic method is nowhere near as clever as he thinks. The article is far too vague in far too many ways, it almost feels like Chinese whispers to me, and only leaves me with more questions, not answers.
Bethesda needs to start damage control soon.
Fans and I alike are worried and puzzled by the supposed revelations, and everyone seems to be clinging to any hope possible. I don’t think it’s fair to shout boycott just yet, seeing as Bethesda hasn’t even piped up on the rumors—but, they need to. The company needs to start on damage control very soon or they could easily lose their fanbase. Luckily, E3 2018 is right around the corner, so there’s nothing wrong with them waiting until then to set the record straight. Yet, it’s still squeaky bum time for Fallout fans alike as they await the #BE3 conference on June 10/11 (6:30 PM PT / 9:30 PM ET / 2:30 AM BST).
Although, some employees at Bethesda have been making small statements on social media to try and somewhat calm the storm. Matt Frary, director of PR, tweeted around the time the multiplayer rumor was getting traction, stating he just ‘rolled his eyes so hard they came out of his head.’ Interesting to say the least. Pete Hines, Senior VP of Global Marketing, was also responding to some questions on Twitter. One of interest is in regard to whether or not fans should believe the ‘news’ surrounding the game, or simply wait for Bethesda to actually show you. His response was, ‘pretty sure you already know my answer to this.’ In my interpretation, this alludes to Hines basically saying: keep calm, we’ll show you exactly what the game is soon.
I’d definitely prefer it if Schreier was pulling some ‘journalism shittery’, as I like to put it, and has not given the ‘full story’ in attempt to gain Kotaku as many clicks as possible. This is a practice used by journalists far too often, even in the gaming industry and I actually wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case. Schreier stirring the pot with Fallout fans has obviously gained Kotaku some serious attention. Considering Kotaku is currently blacklisted by Bethesda (funnily enough for leaking information), the website has nothing to lose by posting articles like this, as long as they play their cards right.
However, I would still be willing to put money on the theory 76 will have a multiplayer component. Being the likelihood of this, Bethesda, just like Kotaku, need to play their cards right. Many people are theorizing the game will have some core themes of rebuilding the wasteland, similar to Fallout 4, but this will also involve a co-operative online mode of sorts—not an online survival shooter. This co-op mode for example (like Borderlands, or even Dark Souls) where you can have anywhere from two to four members of your team. Most fans would agree, this could ‘just work’ if the option to remain fully single-player is still available as well. Again, Bethesda was the pioneer for the #SavePlayer1 campaign, so it would be extremely baffling to not allow a single-player experience in one of their flagship games.
No doubt if this was this case there would be some logistics to work out, for example, looting, VATs and the fact the Creation Engine (what all Bethesda games are made using) is an unstable muthafucka. It would be an absolute miracle if they could get a multiplayer component to work effectively on it. Some modders have managed to get Skyrim and New Vegas to work in a sort-of multiplayer, but these mods have often been devoid of features, unreliable, and don’t work exactly how you would hope. Yet again, it has also been over two and half years since Fallout 4, and Game Director Todd Howard himself has previously mentioned how his team always make a multiplayer component to their games but always end up scrapping it. Well maybe this time they didn’t scrap it, and ‘it just works.’
What happens now?
At this point, no matter how many insider sources you can cite, everything is speculation until Bethesda confirms it. There have been various more ‘leaks’ already put out there that counteract what Jason Schreier has said, and who knows what to believe? Personally, I’d be shocked if Bethesda tried to attempt anything bigger than a co-op mode for Fallout 76. All of the Battle Royale, MMO or Rust clone theories are so out-there that it seems we’d all be witness to pigs flying and hell freezing over simultaneously.
Bethesda is an RPG king in gaming, and they earnt their crown through RPG single-player games. Their games are often deep, intelligent, and enthralling experiences, I can’t reiterate this enough. Making an online-only survival game will undoubtedly result in servers full of cringe-worthy children saying they’ve shagged my mum. It just seems quite counterproductive to me, even if Fallout 76 is a ‘spin-off’ to the main series. The way the game has been advertised would’ve had fans thinking this is a fully-fledged addition to the Fallout series and a new Vegas-style spin-off. So if we are getting a Rust clone, the marketing department all deserves to be carted off to the Super Mutants immediately… or probably just sacked.
Hopefully, that’s not the case and we’re all in store for another bombastic Fallout game. What we do know about Fallout 76, at least what the teaser trailer gives away, is that the game is going to be set before any of the previous entries into the series. The Pip-Boy at the beginning of the trailer specifically states an October 27, 2102, date. For those unfamiliar with the franchise, this is canonically 25 years and four days after the nuclear bombs struck the USA in 2077. So it would be safe to assume that is when the game takes place. Keen internet people have also found out that Vault 76 was mentioned previously in Fallout 3 and is located in Virginia, or possibly West Virginia as the catchy trailer music seems to suggest. Vault 76 was designed to open 20 years after the bombs went off, meaning it was a control vault, so no freaky experiments were going down by the ominous Vault-Tec.
Other than that there isn’t much more information out there apart from rumors and speculation—I’m sure there will be plenty more over the coming week to sink our teeth into before the E3 showcase. But for now, I can say that if Bethesda was to add some kind of multiplayer to their games, creating a co-op mode does seem the most sensible starting point and, as a Fallout fan, that’s certainly what I’m hoping we get.