Bethesda has been getting a bad wrap lately. And, it’s not just because of Fallout 76. A bevy of lawsuits, middling fan reception to their latest two releases and a seemingly big push towards mobile all have hardcore Bethesda fans scared. That being said, artistically, the company is doing just fine. Seriously, there’s no need to worry.
Before we get into the nitty gritty details of what’s going on with Bethesda right now and the seemingly chaotic turmoil their PR is dealing with, let’s slow it down. Let’s break down what got Bethesda on most gamers’ radars.
Bethesda Game Studios earned their place as the proverbial top dogs of RPG games back in the early 2000s. With the release of Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, later followed by the more commercially successful title Oblivion, Bethesda claimed their spot among the great developers for wide eyed, RPG playing video game fans around the world.
Bethesda later locked in the rights to the Fallout franchise. With the release of Fallout 3 back in 2008, the franchise reached new heights. Now an open world, action adventure RPG, Fallout 3 communicated to an entirely different audience than its turned-based strategy predecessors. With the critical success of Fallout 3 and Oblivion, Bethesda secured the two massive franchises that would set them up for the next stage.
Fallout 3 and Oblivion have each earned special spots in many gamers’ hearts. Each title showed gamers a level of open world that is simply taken for granted in modern gaming. Then, however, it was something else. Magical and wonderful, it offered players a level of freedom and curiosity few games before had ever accomplished. Simply put, it was elemental.
Bethesda was far from done. The company later released Skyrim, the latest title from within the Elder Scrolls series. Skyrim has sold over an estimated 22.7 million copies, making the game a smashing financial achievement. Beyond that, the game methodically crept its way into modern culture like a draugr crawling out of a web swept tomb.
All in all, from 2002 to 2011, Bethesda Game Studios dominated the world of RPGs. However, things were about to change.
With the rising success of Bioware’s Dragon Age and Mass Effect series, gamers suddenly had new sources for their RPG fixes. Beyond that, development team CD Projekt Red issued The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings in 2011 (the same year as Skyrim was released). The game reached massive critical success and has since become another important game within the libraries of countless RPG fans.
Despite this new competition, Bethesda has hardly backed down. Fallout 4 was released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One in 2014. The game was officially announced a brief six months before its release. Never the less, the game soared in sales. Fan reception, however, began to shift.
Fallout 4 is the first within the series to feature a vocal protagonist. Beyond that, the game featured a series of frame rate issues and buggy problems that have since become taboo to modern gaming. In the year of hyper-polished final products, Fallout 4 offered a comparatively somewhat clunky experience. The game also received middling reception concerning the game’s narrative. While Fallout 3 offered side quests featuring wonderous explorations into forgotten city ruins and engaging dialogue with fascinating characters, Fallout 4 seemingly placed a focus on errand missions and task giving.
However, the controversy of Fallout 4 largely played out from outside of the game. News source Kotaku once leaked the existence of Fallout 4 before the game’s official announcement. Consequently, Bethesda allegedly blacklisted the news source from all future content. The incident was met with harsh criticism from fans.
Just shy of Fallout 4’s release, Bethesda also released a mobile game called Fallout Shelter. The game received a mixed reception. Many hardcore fallout fans became concerned that the company would begin focusing their time and resources on the mobile market, rather than console and PC gaming.
Since then, Bethesda has entered a new level of seeming fan dissatisfaction. Enter in Fallout 76.
Fallout 76 was released Nov. 14, 2018. The game was marketed as the first Fallout multiplayer experience. Of course, most hardcore RPG fans are not quite looking for a multiplayer experience within their games. The move immediately felt tone deaf to many fans. Bethesda was seemingly making business and creative decisions without their hardcore, longtime audience of RPG fans in mind.
When the game was finally released, many fans that purchased the $200 special edition were disappointed yet again. Without informing their customers, Bethesda switched out the advertised canvas bags within the collector’s edition with cheaper nylon bags. The incident sent some fans in an uproar.
Consequently, Bethesda has been at the brunt of some serious gamer heat as of late. From seemingly shifty business tactics with news sources, to falsely advertised collector editions, to seemingly poorer quality narrative experiences, Bethesda has rather swiftly garnered mistrust with the modern gamer. That being said, I’m here to say that Bethesda may not be the same company you knew and loved back in 2022. But, Bethesda can still surprise you.
Yes, Bethesda will likely focus some of their resources and time to mobile game development. Yes, Bethesda will potentially further explore multiplayer gaming in the future. But, there are still great games on the rise.
Bethesda is reportedly working on a new IP called Starfield. Perhaps this title will turn the tide back in the company’s favor. A fresh start, Starfield may be the change of pace we all need.
Beyond that, Bethesda is reportedly working on the next title within the Elder Scrolls series. If Bethesda can recapture the magic of Skyrim that enraptured so many players, then perhaps they can once again take the mantle of top RPG developers. In the end, it is important to realize that Bethesda is a company. They are looking to profit. Consequently, they change with the times. They change with the industry. With that in mind, Bethesda is also made of some of the world’s most talented artists and creative thinkers. For every suit wearing marketing team, there is also a gang of content creators looking to unleash their creative wonders on the world of gaming. Don’t count Bethesda out just yet. They may surprise you.