Bethesda, a beloved video game company, has become the target of hostility from thousands. The attention is not from gamers alone, but lawyers too. These events have victimized Bethesda’s investors more than the company itself. Upon the release of Bethesda’s most recent creation, Fallout 76, the company has earned as much negative backlash as it did profit. For Bethesda, the complaints against the game are nothing more than the beginning of their trouble – both with fans and legally. This conflict has been years in the making, and Fallout 76 was the catalyst that finally brought it forward.
Even before 2018, Bethesda had a popular reputation in the gaming industry. It is responsible for the series Fallout, Dishonored and The Elder Scrolls, which includes Skyrim. Along with these, the company has made Doom and Wolfenstein. Bethesda is recognized as a Triple-A video game developer, an informal label meaning a company has major publishers and the highest budgets for development. With a net worth of two and a half billion, Bethesda has earned the classification.
Though Fallout 76 has shone a bright, glitchy light on Bethesda’s mistakes, there are issues within the game and its special edition, named the ‘Power Armor Edition’ after the series’ iconic power armor suits. With a $60 price tag, Fallout 76 was packaged both with a game and innumerable glitches. The game was announced on Jun. 10, 2018, at this year’s E3, a conference for video game companies. Fallout 76 has had an infinite amount of reported bugs, the most common of them being enemies falling through the ground and disappearing, players stuck in god mode (the name is self-explanatory, as they are made immortal) and player characters becoming misshapen and unclothed when equipping power armor. Players that pre-ordered Fallout 76 had beta access to the game; however, this early availability wasn’t so much of a deal after the beta repeatedly uninstalled itself from players’ consoles and computers. When players wanted to take the beta off of their computers, they were unable to do so unless they had purchased the full game. Bethesda’s customers can’t get the $60 to $200 spent on the game back. Those who wanted to return the game found that, once Fallout 76 was downloaded, a refund could not be given. Since the first Fallout, even before Bethesda bought the rights to the series, the games were released on Steam, a video game distribution service. For Fallout 76, Bethesda built their own download site… without the refund policies that applies to every game on Steam. Bethesda claims to have done this for convenience, but it is theorized by many that it was to free themselves and Fallout 76 from Steam’s regulations on returns. Initially, customers contacted Bethesda and were told a refund was in the process only to receive another apologetic email stating that the company would not be sending them the money that was previously promised. This crisis with Fallout 76 refunds is the main reason for the investigation on Bethesda.
The refunds are not the last of the potentially – and literally, if the company is found guilty in the lawsuit – deceptive business practices from Bethesda. A collectors’ edition was announced at E3 beside the game. At $200, this ‘Power Armor Edition’ was a package deal containing: a copy of Fallout 76 for the customers’ console of choice, a power armor helmet, a canvas bag, a steelbook (a metal case with special artwork or design), a glow in the dark map of West Virginia, the game’s setting, 24 figurines and in-game items. The ‘Power Armor Edition’ sold out in days with. Users were reselling them on Ebay for double the original price, and restocks weren’t set until Dec. 21, 2018. It was the canvas bag advertised in this set that would further Bethesda’s controversy. Without warning to the customers who purchased the special edition, the company sent out nylon bags. Being what most drawstring sports bags are made of, nylon is a cheap material, especially compared to the canvas bags the players believed they were spending their money on. This false advertisement wound was deepened when customers discovered that Bethesda had sent free canvas bags to select social media influencers. One customer contacted the company on the subject, and was sent an email from Bethesda’s helpdesk that read, “We are sorry that you aren’t happy with the bag. The bag shown in the media was a prototype and was too expensive to make. We aren’t planning on doing anything about it.” Bethesda followed up on the email and apologized to customers on behalf of their helpdesk and for the outrage on the bags.
The conflict progressed with each update from the company, and Bethesda attempted to reimburse players for not fulfilling what was advertised in the ‘Power Armor Edition’. This compensation was 500 Atoms, an in-game currency that could be used for character customization in Fallout 76. It translated to $5 in real-world money, nothing close to the $200 price on the disappointing collector’s edition. Even Bethesda’s coverage on the ‘Power Armor Edition’ had its faults, for there were support emails sent to the wrong customers. These emails included players addresses, phone and even parts of credit card numbers. No identities were stolen, but it wasn’t a help toward Bethesda’s reputation. On Dec. 3, 2018, Bethesda, after meeting the backlash of thousands, stated that they would finally go through with sending out the canvas bags that were advertised. This is a turn in the right direction to making up for the company’s recent actions, intentional or otherwise, to customers.
Bethesda is, after several wrongs, doing right by its customers. It isn’t in the clear yet, and the company knows it, for there are two upcoming days scheduled for maintenance on Fallout 76 and the release of Elder Scrolls VI has been postponed to currently unknown, but much later date. The company is completely able to be respected again, and is showing that they have the willingness to go with it.