Josh Sawyer understands why some fans are annoyed by the treatment of New Vegas in Amazon's Fallout series, but he's not one of them: 'Whatever happens with it, I don’t care'

Fallout New Vegas key art
(Image credit: Obsidian Entertainment)

Quite a few committed Fallout fans weren't happy with the way the Amazon television series appeared to negate—or at least mess with—the presence of Fallout: New Vegas in the canon. But Fallout: New Vegas director Josh Sawyer isn't one of them. In an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Sawyer said he understands why there was some confusion and "could see why some people might be aggravated or annoyed," but he doesn't share that feeling because it's not his thing anymore.

"This might sound weird, but whatever happens with it, I don’t care," Sawyer said. "My attitude towards properties that I work on, and even characters that I create, is that I don’t own any of this stuff. It was never mine. And the thing that I made is what I made."

Sawyer acknowledged that he might have opinions on changes or new additions to the world of Fallout, but said he doesn't "get attached to things in that way" because he doesn't think it's healthy to be overly invested in something he can't control.

"There are things that I might watch and say, ‘I don’t think I would have taken this that way’, and then there are other things that I think are really cool," he said. "But it’s not my space, it was never my thing. I was a guest working in it. So I try to keep a level of distance between myself and the setting."

Sawyer isn't one of the original minds behind Fallout, but he does have a deep connection to it. Prior to serving as game director on New Vegas, he was project lead on Van Buren, the codename for the isometric RPG that was meant to be Fallout 3 before publisher Interplay went under, taking the game with it. Working on a Fallout game "was a dream of mine," Sawyer said. "Losing that hurt."

He eventually got another shot at the series with Fallout: New Vegas, which Obsidian turned around in just 18 months. That meant the studio didn't have any real time to fiddle around with the underlying technology, and Sawyer said the game was initially criticized for playing too much like Fallout 3. But by using the technology as it was, the team "had the luxury of focusing on conversations and quests, and really making those as robust and dynamic as we could," and that's what stuck: New Vegas carries an "overwhelmingly positive" rating across nearly 160,000 user reviews on Steam and is now widely regarded as the best of the Bethesda-era games.

"There was a lot of effort put into making sure you can twist and turn through the different factions and resolve those things how you want," Sawyer said.

"The initial impact where people said the gameplay feels very close to Fallout 3 is totally fair. But then as time stretches on, and people play them side by side, the fact that we had so much of our time to focus on the content, I think that’s what people were excited about."

That excitement clearly remains: New Vegas, and every other Fallout game, have seen a significant player surge on Steam since the Fallout series launched. And while the debate over whether Bethesda was trying to quietly retcon New Vegas out of existence occasionally veered into silliness, it also reflected how seriously fans take this stuff: It's maybe not entirely healthy, as Sawyer said, but it's genuine.

The Fallout series on Amazon is a hit, and a second season has already been confirmed. More recently, the showrunners hinted, not too subtly, that the city of New Vegas will feature prominently in season two—but perhaps not the New Vegas that gamers are expecting.

The full interview with Sawyer covers a range of topics beyond New Vegas, including burnout—something he recently said has replaced crunch as "the primary hazard of the game industry"—the Pillars of Eternity game, and the brilliant sleeper hit Pentiment. It's a good read—check out the whole thing at RPS.  And if you haven't played New Vegas and are curious what you're missing, be sure to have a look at our guide to getting the most out of it today. 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.