In a livestreamed conversation between Xbox and Bethesda executives today about their newfound partnership, Bethesda Game Studios director Todd Howard was blunt about the state of Fallout 76 when it came out in 2018. "When that game launched, the litany of issues we had, and we let a lot of people down, and, well, there was very little we didn't screw up honestly," Howard said, talking about the launch of the troubled multiplayer RPG.
Fallout 76 was rife with technical problems and performed poorly at launch. It was also missing a lot of what we liked in Bethesda's Fallout games, like NPCs that made the world feel lived-in. To Howard, though, that service-game stumble should be easier to avoid now that Bethesda is under the protective, platform-sized wings of Xbox. Howard was hopeful that the acquisition by Microsoft will help Bethesda's games be better-tested at launch, and that access to the Game Pass ecosystem will enable things like public betas much more easily.
Howard went as far as to imply that being available on Game Pass at launch would have made Fallout 76's first months much easier. Howard has previously stated that he regrets not having a free beta for Fallout 76. He also said that as a business model, Game Pass makes more viable certain kinds of games that a studio like Bethesda might have hesitated to develop in the past. Fallout 76 came to Game Pass in July 2020.
He tied the story of Fallout 76's launch to Bethesda's ongoing relationship with Microsoft, saying that at the time he had called Phil Spencer, the head of the Xbox brand. Spencer put Howard in touch with people at Xbox who were able to aggregate data about similar games to help Bethesda focus on solving its most pressing issues.
Interestingly, Howard rounded off his comments by noting that Fallout 76 is now "one of the most-played games on Xbox."
It's not the first time Howard and Bethesda have been very direct about the issues surrounding Fallout 76, even apologizing just a few days after launch. Howard has previously noted that the game had a lot of difficulties during development and that Bethesda was aware of issues and ready for the rough launch.
Bethesda's history of launch issues also extends to famous moments like Skyrim Special Edition's patch to fix a patch—the studio's sprawling games' have an understandable reputation for bugs. Perhaps Bethesda will shake that piece of its reputation as its integration with Xbox progresses.