Bethesda's Todd Howard On Fallout 76's Poor Launch, What He Would Have Done Differently
Fallout 76’s poor release did damage to Bethesda’s reputation and the Fallout brand overall, according to Bethesda director Todd Howard. He conceded these points in a new interview where he also discussed the expectation of lower-than-typical review scores and how a game like this is more about what it becomes, rather than what it starts out as.
Howard said that the online-focused game, which launched in November 2018 to poor reviews and plenty of technical issues, created “some” damage to Bethesda’s reputation and the perception of the Fallout brand. “It would be naive to say it’s had zero,” Howard said in a candid interview with IGN.
He went on to acknowledge that, due in part to the always-online, multiplayer focus of Fallout 76 being new ground for Bethesda, the team anticipated a rocky launch.
“We knew we were going to have a lot of bumps. That’s a difficult development; a lot of new systems and things like that. ‘Hey, we’re going to try this new thing.’ Anytime you’re going to do something new like that, you know you’re going to have your bumps; you know a lot of people might say, ‘That’s not the game we want from you.’ But we still want to be somebody that’s trying new things,” Howard said. “That was a very difficult, difficult development on that game to get it where it was …a lot of those difficulties ended up on the screen. We knew, hey look, this is not the type of game that people are used to from us and we’re going to get some criticism on it. A lot of that–very well-deserved criticism.”
Howard went on to say that Bethesda never expected Fallout 76 to get the highest review scores. “Even from the beginning, [we thought], ‘This is not going to be a high Metacritic game; that’s not what this is, given what it is,'” Howard said.
Fallout 76’s score on GameSpot sister site Metacritic was 53 on PS4, 52 on PC, and 49 on Xbox One. The previous Fallout release, 2015’s Fallout 4, had a Metacritic score in the high-80s across console and PC.
Despite predicting technical issues and lower review scores, Howard said the team at Bethesda felt strongly about making an online, multiplayer Fallout game. He also said he expects Fallout 76 to improve over time, similar to the way in which Bethesda’s MMO The Elder Scrolls Online sputtered at launch and has since grown to be one of the most popular MMOs on earth with more than 8.5 million players.
“It’s not how you launch, it’s what it becomes,” Howard said about Fallout 76, going to tease that Bethesda has “some awesome stuff” to reveal at E3 in June. Bethesda’s press conference is scheduled for this Sunday, June 9; you can watch it live here on GameSpot.
Though Fallout 76 was criticized, Howard pointed out that it was still a “huge” release for Bethesda. No sales numbers have been announced, however.
Howard said Bethesda’s main takeaway or lesson learned from Fallout 76 was that the developer should have kept the game in a testing phase for a longer period of time. The game might have benefitted from being in beta for “a number of months” before launching, he said.
“If there is one thing I would have done differently, [it would have been to] find a way to, at scale, let people be playing the game 24/7 before you say, ‘Everybody in. Here you go. Pay us.'”
Howard also clarified that Fallout 76 was developed not principally by the main team at Bethesda Game Studios in Maryland. Instead, the entire Bethesda team in Austin, Texas worked on Fallout 76, with support from teams in Dallas, Montreal, and home base in Rockville, Maryland where “a lot” of people contributed.
Separately from the subject of Bethesda’s own game, Howard also discussed PS5 and the next Xbox. While he understandably wasn’t sharing many specifics, he did say they are “doing the right things.”
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