How to bury your reputation as a dev, for just $5!

I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed a well-respected developer fall from grace as fast as Bethesda is falling right now with this entire Fallout76 fiasco. Blizzard’s fall was slower, with welfare epics in WotLK being a minor hint rather than the full-face slap that F76 is ushering in. EA has been terrible for as long as I can remember. Ubisoft has always been hit or miss, same with Sony. But until F76, Bethesda the developer (not to be confused with Bethesda the publisher) had a great track record of games and support.

Yes, Bethesda games traditionally were a buggy mess on release, but not to the point where most couldn’t actually enjoy them. I played recent Fallout and Elder Scroll games on release, and sure, they had bugs, but day-one they were amazing titles that only got better with time. There was enough justified negativity around F76 to make me pass on that being a day-one title, and nothing since release has pushed me closer to buying in. In fact, I’m now more ‘out’ on F76 than ever. I still have faith it will eventually be a buy-worthy title, but “buy eventually at a discount to get some enjoyment out of it” is a steep, steep drop from all previous titles.

But IMO by far the worst thing to happen is the bait-and-switch related to the bag included in the $200 special edition. Polygon has an article up, but basically the advertised duffel bag was show as a canvas bag, but instead a cheaper nylon bag was shipped instead. Bethesda’s justification? The canvas bag was too expensive to make, so they went nylon. I’d not only instantly fire whoever came up with that response, but I’d fire just about anyone who had knowledge of this switch and went along with it.

Here is why this is so egregious. The average gamer isn’t buying your $200 special edition. The average Bethesda fan isn’t either. Not even the average Fallout fan. No, the vast majority of the people spending $200 on a copy of your game are your superfans. The hardcore of the hardcore. The absolute last group of people you want to piss off, and especially over money. They already gave you $200, and we can be fairly confidence that the profit margin on the special edition is higher than the standard edition. But even if we pretend the margin is lower, you’re still making money. You don’t put together the stuff in the special edition, get the cost, and then set the price at basically the cost. Bethesda isn’t paying $200 to make the special edition. I doubt they are paying even $50.

So let’s say the price to produce the canvas bag goes up after Bethesda announced and sold the edition, even if it goes up 100% over the original estimated cost. That doesn’t put Bethesda in the red on selling the special edition. And we are talking about a fairly basic item here. This isn’t some specially produced, ‘only one place in the world can make it’ item. It’s a goddamn bag with some Fallout graphics on it. And yes, the quality of the bag ultimately isn’t a huge deal, and has zero impact on the actual game, but it’s the message this sends. Bethesda would rather save a few bucks than do right by their most dedicated fans. (as shown by wallet-vote, the absolute most important metric of how big a fan you really are)

Want to know how you make the above disaster worse? Double down on the giant ‘F you’ to fans by having your second response be an offer of $5 of in-game cash shop currency. Five bucks, of in-game value, to people who paid you $200. Honestly Bethesda telling everyone to shove it and get over the bag being cheap would have been a MORE acceptable answer than trying to ‘make right’ by offering five bucks of in-game currency. I bet even EA looked at that response and shook their heads (or got an idea for next time…)

Just all around terrible, from a studio I was a huge fan and supporter of prior to F76. Get it together in time for Elder Scrolls 6 please!

Edit: This truly is incredible. The in-game cost for a bag in F76 is 700 atoms, so the 500 Bethesda gave for this isn’t even enough to buy a bag skin in-game.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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10 Responses to How to bury your reputation as a dev, for just $5!

  1. If you go to Amazon right now and look up that edition, it still calls it a canvas bag right there in the description. They have done nothing to mitigate their exposure on this.

    Also, the reviews of the power helmet over at Amazon are pretty bad as well. Cheap plastic bag to hold a cheap plastic helmet I guess.

  2. Marathal says:

    My take on it is that they are telling those that dropped $200, is that the bag is only worth $5, and much to accountings nightmare they gave those people $5 in credit at end of year which is going to have to be carried on the books until redeemed. What they are going to pay in salary to accounting would pay for them to get the canvas bag and ship it to all those that bought the game. I suspect too that it was a packaging issue. You don’t collapse a canvas bag to stick in a box as easily as a nylon one.

    I think what all of these game producers are learning very quickly is that social media is not just bringing down celebrities and politicians, but also game companies. Activision/Blizzard too a big hit over the Diablo news, I’m sure Bethesda is going to also. Blizzard for years was good about talking too their fans. They allowed employees to talk to players, and while many were not always happy, cough “welfare epics” cough, at least we had the impression that they were listening to us. When that clamped down to a trickle from the dev Twitter account, you get situations like we see where someone mentions about the game, and many versions, and on the big day drop the, don’t you have a phone? Now if they had allowed employees to chat up in vague terms, “wouldn’t playing Diablo be fun if you didn’t have to lug around your PC or console” sure people would have figured it out. Or even saying that D4 is getting there, but we are working to make this the best you’ve ever seen, we would certainly sigh because of a delay, but would be thinking, this is gonna be good. I think a great deal of these companies need to pull back the curtains, let the masses see glimpses into what happening. Not staged and vetted twitch Q&A streams.

  3. zaphod6502 says:

    The worst thing wasn’t the silly canvas bag which would have been made in a cheap Chinese factory anyway for 20 cents.

    The worst thing was Bethesda’s utter refusal to offer any form of refund for those who are unhappy with the game. For a very short period after the official release Bethesda was offering refunds on their online store then when they realised the scale of refunds they quickly changed tactic and stated if you had downloaded the game you were not entitled to a refund.

    Our gaming group (and there were quite a few of us who were looking forward to this game) have been trying to get refunds but Bethesda has refused. So we have now reported Bethesda to the ACCC for deceptive business practices. We’re in Australia so the consumer laws here are quite strong. Historically the ACCC managed to force Valve and Steam to offer refunds even if you had downloaded a game. The cynical side of me says that Bethesda decided not to sell through Steam so they would not be forced to offer refunds.

    I have struggled through approximately 20 hours of Fallout 76 and it is a mess. Even the opening scenes where you walk through your vault were hit by engine bugs. Then there are the AI bugs, the CAMP bugs, and the multiplayer bugs. Most of the popular Twitch streamers have abandoned this game which says a lot as some of these streamers would have been paid by Bethesda to promote the game.

    Personally I won’t be pre-ordering a game from Bethesda ever again. It also doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in the state of Elder Scrolls VI and any other game that Bethesda releases in future especially any title that uses the Creation Engine. The management at Bethesda needs to take a long hard look at themselves and Todd Howard needs to be sacked and removed from Bethesda.

    • SynCaine says:

      I think not selling on Steam due to the refund policy is a major factor, especially seeing just how bad the launch has been. Bethesda had to make the decision not to sell on Steam long before the release, but even back then I’m guessing they had a decent idea that the game was in ROUGH shape.

  4. bhagpuss says:

    I only did one year of law, back in my days working in insurance, but I’m pretty sure that in the U.K., contrary to some of the statements Bethesda have made, the wording that specifically states the bag is “canvas” means they have an obligation to provide a bag made of…canvas. I’m absolutely certain that if you advertize a leather bag and take money for it on the basis of that advert, then send out a bag made of imitation leather you are in trouble. That’s a relatively common issue that’s been tested in the courts long ago. I can’t see why the same wouldn’t apply to Canvas vs nylon.

    Of course, there may be small print somwewhere in there about the right to substitute but even if there is we have something called the Unfair Contract Terms Act to cover that.

    • Marathal says:

      I see in the Amazon listing they are just calling it a carrying bag. Also 42% one star reviews with all saying returned for various reasons is not a good sign.

  5. Izlain says:

    I’m just happy they are patching in push-to-talk and 21:9 support. These shenanigans have no bearing on the actual game and the people designing the game (or cool stuff for CEs) likely have nothing to do with these decisions, so I’m not holding it against them.

  6. Kryss says:

    Meh, i lost all hope about F76 even before beta, still can’t complain they provide great entertainment, just not in the game form.

  7. Mikrakov says:

    I was curiously interested in this game, but the more I read about it the more I didn’t like about it. This was reinforced when my best friend decided to get it and after a couple of days I asked him what it was like. “I haven’t really figured out the point of it” was his reply. He then described the most interesting thing that had happened to him in the game so far was being forced to listen to some guy have a massive argument with his wife which was picked up on the “always on” microphones.

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