If you're still playing Fallout 76, hats off to you – after a troubled and buggy launch to Bethesda's much-anticipated online game, Fallout 76 hasn't exactly been a money-spinner for the company, despite a core community of fans who continue to play on its servers.
But Bethesda may have misstepped with its new pricing model for the game, which offers an add-on subscription called Fallout 76 1st, including new features and in-game capabilities for a hefty additional price.
Fallout 76 1st will cost $12.99 / £11.99 / AU$23 per month, or $99.99 / £99.99 / AU$180 per year – on top of the base price of the game at retail, which would have been $39.99 / £39.99 / AU$50 at launch.
When announcing the subscription, Bethesda confirmed that the "premium membership" would include "something players have been asking for since before launch: private worlds for you and select friends [as well as] a host of exclusive items and membership bonuses." Those bonuses include unlimited storage for crafting components, exclusive outfits and emotes, and 1,650 Atoms to spend in the in-game shop each month.
Players have long asked for private worlds to play solo, or with only a their own band of friends – however, not everyone has taken to the idea.
What's the fuss?
It takes a certain amount of gall – or possibly just desperation – on the part of Bethesda to attempt to monetize features that were requested all the way back at launch, especially after vocal assurances over the past year that additional content and DLC was going to be free.
Given the capital players have already put into the game, we can't see Fallout 76 1st adding much to the company coffers beyond a few dedicated fans – especially given the outpouring of criticism online.
Many are also curious as to the timing of the announcement, given it landed on the launch day of The Outer Worlds – the open-world RPG made by Fallout: New Vegas developer Obsidian – and may well push people directly to the competing game.
In-game monetization is a particularly tricky subject, given the troubled use of loot boxes and pay-to-progress mechanics across both blockbuster and casual games – and some may not find the Fallout 76 1st subscription much of a burden on their finances. Either way, Bethesda has a lot to make up for in the public eye – and possibly only Fallout 5 can do it.