Okay, I’m going to do my best to disentangle this one! I’m not a Fallout player but I’ve been following the coverage for the upcoming game with interest, and this week saw the first public round of Fallout 76 beta testing – an ideal opportunity for the developer Bethesda to iron out any bugs and stress-test the online servers.
The original idea was for gamers who had pre-ordered the title on the Xbox One to be granted exclusive early access to the beta, a full week before those players on the PS4. And whilst this has indeed happened, an upset seems to have arisen because of the limited time windows, and because of the timing of such windows.
Bethesda kind of warned about this though; it managed players’ expectations about how long they’d be able to play in advance by stating that the beta would be online and offline in four to eight hour bursts, allowing it to work on continual fixes. Moreover, Bethesda warned players to expect bugs and glitches in a recent open letter to its fan base, stressing how important it was for gamers to help identify unforeseen issues.
So the Fallout 76 beta began in earnest on Tuesday 24th (that is, yesterday) for a concentrated four hours, presumably allowing Bethesda to get as many people playing at the same time to stress-test the servers. Unfortunately, finding an appropriate time window for this beta proved tricky; players in the UK, for example, were granted the unenviable midnight to 4am ‘graveyard’ shift, causing caffeine intake to soar throughout the country.
Understandably, Xbox One players were hoping to return to Appalachia within a short time frame, however a wave of disappointment was felt when Bethesda announced that the next beta session would not occur for another four days – that is, Saturday 27th October – and that it would only last for two hours.
I pity the person who’s managing their Twitter account right now.
As you can imagine, this news wasn’t met with widespread euphoria. A number of people pointed out that the proposed week’s worth of “exclusive early access” was only going to amount to around six hours of play time – and possibly less if people couldn’t make the initial time slot (which is likely for the less hardcore UK players.) So for those who’ve paid more for the Fallout 76 pre-order, and even those who’ve gone out and bought a shiny new Xbox One specifically for the beta, the news isn’t great.
In fairness to Bethesda, it hasn’t technically acted outside of what was promised, as the company previously stressed that the beta would be only be available in bursts, and indeed Xbox One players have had access to this beta in advance of those on the PS4, so the pre-order incentive has been fulfilled. However, I’m sure that if those people had known just how little game-time would be granted within that initial week, they might have thought twice about a pre-order investment. Moreover, such short windows of time make it impossible for gamers to properly ‘break’ the game; really, it’s just about testing the servers, which is fine, but it does kind of go against the grain of Bethesda’s gushing letters to its fans. In addition, such niceties suddenly seem a lot more suspicious. Perhaps the developer was expecting a backlash, and was trying to get ahead of the curve?
All this, before you even consider whether such a move is fair to PlayStation players… 😉
How do you feel about how the Fallout 76 beta has been handled? Do you feel misled as a consumer? Or do you take a more sympathetic stance? And if you’ve played the early access beta, did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below.
Fallout 76 launches on November 14th 2018.