Fallout 76

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Fallout 76 was orginally released on PC, Xbox, and Playstation consoles.

Fallout 76 is an online action role-playing video game released on November 14, 2018, by the Maryland-based game publisher Bethesda Softworks. Released as the narrative prequel to the mainline series, the game takes place in the United States during the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd centuries. [1]



The Fallout series is set in an alternate timeline where decades of deteriorating Sino-American diplomacy led to a thermonuclear fallout in October of 2077 called the Great War. [2] The Great War lasted two hours, resulted in billions of casualties, and irrevocably altered the earth’s climate and ecosystem. Fallout 76 takes place in West Virginia, twenty-five years after the Great War. The player character has been living in Vault 76, a fallout shelter built by a company called Vault-tec. The event that begins the game is Reclamation Day, the day in which residents of Vault 76 are required to leave the shelter and begin efforts to re-colonize the Wasteland.

View from inside Vault 76 after Reclamation Day.


Fallout 76 is structured as an open-world experience with missions and activities scattered across the map for players to experience at their leisure. Due to this structure, players do not have to experience the storyline in its entirety or in any particular order. However, missions generally revolve around four fallen Wasteland fractions - the Responders, Raiders, Brotherhood of Steel, and The Enclave - and the player’s attempts to finish the work of eradicating the Scorched using the resources that they left behind. The player character eventually comes to learn that the Scorched are ghouls infected with the breath of the Scorchbeast, an enemy creature awoken by the Great War, and must defeat the Scorchbeast Queen to end the plague.

Since Fallout 76 is a multiplayer online game and missions have to reset regularly for new players the Scorched are never truly eradicated. However, they don’t appear in any other Fallout games, so the narrative of Fallout 76 can be assumed to be resolved by the events of Fallout 1. [3]

Bethesda Softworks

Bethesda Game Studios is an American video game publisher that is based in Rockville, Maryland. It was founded by Christopher Weaver on June 28, 1986 and has grown to now collect $10.39 million in sales.[4] Weaver had first created Bethesda to "see if the PC market was a viable place to develop game'.[5] He found the answer later when Bethesda created the first physics-based sports simulation in 1986 called 'Gridiron'. Bethesda is currently most known for The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, whose issues are touched on later. They're also known as the creators of the 2006 ‘Game of the Year’, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the 2008 ‘Game of the Year', Fallout 3, the 2011 ‘Game of the Year’, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and most recently, the 2015 ‘Game of the Year’, Fallout 4, 2016 D.I.C.E. Game of the Year, Fallout Shelter, and most recently Fallout 76 and The Elder Scrolls: Blades.[6]


The popular series 'Fallout' was first acquired by Bethesda Softworks from Interplay Entertainment, which led to the development and release of Fallout 3 by Bethesda Game Studios on October 28, 2008.[7] The following title, Fallout 4, was released in November of 2015 and sold 12 million copies and grossed over $750 million dollars within the first 24 hours of its release. The game achieved both critical success and a dedicated player base due to its innovative gameplay mechanics and interesting storylines.[8]

Due to Fallout 4’s notable status within the gaming community, Fallout 76 was very highly anticipated, with fans of the series awaiting the game with high expectations. However, on the game’s release date, players quickly realized that Fallout 76 was plagued with a myriad of problems. From shoddy gameplay mechanics to immersion-breaking bugs to a misleading in-game store, Bethesda released an unfinished game with a AAA price tag of $59.99 USD,[9] and the reaction from players was swift and damning.[10]

Following the release of Fallout 76, mixed reviews on the game and company were posted that contracted from the company's prior praise. One top-rated comment was made in 2018 and later updated in 2019 states:

"I went into this with moderately low expectations, and have found myself pleasantly surprised. At this point, I'm recommending the game based on having enjoyed playing for 40+ hours. I'm also very optimistic about the game's future. *** 10/24/19 Update: Bethesda is now offering a ridiculously expensive subscription model for broken features. Maybe they're getting to where they can't keep funding development, or maybe they enjoy giving a huge 'f you' to their community.

Whatever the case, I no longer recommend this game."

Ethical Concerns

Harassment Online

Gaming is a medium that transcends age, race, and location. Over 214 million people in the U.S. alone play digital games regularly and in 2020 the industry generated more than $159 billion dollars in revenue, more than the global movie industry and the North American sports industry combined. [11][12][13] The community surrounding gaming is huge and multi-faceted, but for the subset of players who identify as ‘gamers’, a disproportionately small yet vocal subset of toxic and entitled individuals are responsible for giving them a bad name. No group understands this better than the people who work in video game development.

Gamers have been known to bombard developers on social media with racist and sexist rhetoric as well as generic cyberbullying and death threats.[14] Some recent instances include harassment surrounding the release of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part II and CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077.

Cyberpunk 2077 suffered a similar fate to Fallout 76 in that it was released incomplete with game-breaking bugs and many features promised by the marketing team went unfulfilled. Many players were also disappointed by the narrative, which boasted three unique story arcs and game-altering dialogue options that would ultimately make every playthrough unique but turned out to be inconsequential to a singular, pre-determined storyline. A couple of hours spent in Cyperpunk 2077 reveal that the game could have benefited at least a few more years in development.[15] However, after multiple release date delays, the developers began receiving death threats online, which caused CD Projekt Red to rush development and ultimately release an unpolished product.[16]

The Last of Us Part II’s release caused a different kind of scandal than Cyberpunk 2077 and Fallout 76. The game was free from unacceptable technical, narrative, and administrative failures. In fact, it became the most rewarded game in history in 2020 after securing 261 awards.[17] Naughty Dog instead earned the ire of gamers with its divisive storyline, where the main character of the first Last of Us game, Joel, is brutally killed in an act of revenge by the daughter of one of Joel’s casualties, Abby. Naughty Dog employees from many different departments received harassment for the writer’s decision to kill off Joel the way they did, including the writers themselves, game developers, and directors. Abby’s voice actor, Laura Bailey, also received an abysmal amount of harassment and death threats from angry gamers.[18]

Harassment is so prevalent within the gaming industry that the culture has normalized it.[19] In the case of Fallout 76, its release was buried in so much controversy that the reality of the consequences falling on Bethesda employees went largely unreported. However, Matt Frary, Director of PR at Bethesda, did take to Twitter to remind those who used Bethesda’s press inbox that “I don’t appreciate being told I deserve to die”.[20]
Matt Frary addresses death threats as a point in his PR box notes on Twitter.
As described in the case of Cyberpunk 2077, Bethesda was under a lot of pressure from the gaming community to release Fallout 76 on time despite whatever challenges or setbacks they may have faced during development. Bethesda’s leadership team fully understood the negative backlash that their team would face due to delays, and as in the case of The Last of Us Part II, they also recognized that even their best work was capable of earning them the vitriol of players who had been fans for years and high expectations for a title.

Death threats are used as a semi-legal method of gaining social control over other people. Subjects of repeated abuse often face the development of new psychological and physical disorders as well as the worsening of old ones. Because they are constantly suffering from the fear of their abuser’s threats being carried out, many victims become paralyzed by it, unable to complete their daily tasks, work, or sleep.[21] With the internet ushering in the Golden Age of death threats, victims are able to receive more abuse from more sources than ever before.

The pressure that the Bethesda team was under during the development of Fallout 76 was not conducive to a healthy work environment and did not allow developers to produce their best work. This factor, along with others, concluded in the release of an incomplete product that perpetuated the cycle of abuse from gamers.

False Advertising

Bethesda has been the recipient of major criticism surrounding their alleged false advertising regarding the Fallout 76: Power Armor edition release of the game. The Power Armor edition, which retailed for $199.99 on release [22] included a physical copy of the game, a glow-in-the-dark map of the game world, 24 collectible mini-figures from the in-game universe, a 1:1 scale cosmetic Power Armor helmet from the game, and a canvas West Tek carrying bag for the helmet. [23]

Controversy primarily arose from the carrying bag that was advertised as coming with the Power Armor Edition of the game. Rather than getting a high-quality canvas bag, people who ordered the Power Armor edition received a flimsy and low-quality nylon bag. At the time gamers began receiving the Power Armor Edition, Bethesda’s website still advertised the bag as being the high-quality canvas - they quietly changed the product description to reflect the real product. [24]

After trying to appease customers on Reddit, Bethesda's official response to the Power Armor controversy received a net 22265 downvotes from Reddit users.

Bethesda’s initial response stoked further outrage among customers and the broader gaming community and reeked of anti-consumer practices. When customers contacted Bethesda customer support, the responses were deemed generally unhelpful. One affected customer posted an image on Reddit of their exchange with someone on Bethesda customer service. The agent reported that “We [Bethesda] aren’t planning on doing anything about it. Though Bethesda denounced the agent’s response, they did confirm that the switch to a nylon bag was due to “unavailability of materials”. [25]

Bethesda tried to snuff the flames of outrage by offering compensation to affected customers. Their compensation package included 500 ATOMS, in-game currency that could be used within the Fallout 76 game world. 500 ATOMS is the equivalent of 5 USD in real life. Many in the gaming community found this response to be insulting, and the anger at Bethesda continued to grow. [26] Eventually, Bethesda began an opt-in program for affected customers to receive replacement carrying bags that were of higher quality than the nylon bags that shipped with the Power Armor edition. [27] [28]

The controversy regarding Fallout 76, from the state of the game at release to the controversy regarding the Power Armor edition, is believed to have significantly damaged Bethesda’s reputation in the gaming community. Many believe that Bethesda, which had garnered goodwill in the gaming community in recent years due to their successes with releases like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Fallout 4, abused the trust of their dedicated fan and consumer base. [29]

Another issue of false advertising sprung up regarding the bottles of Nuka Dark Rum that Bethesda sold in partnership with Silver Screen bottling company to promote the launch of Fallout 76. [30] In the Fallout universe, Nuka-Cola is a cola brand akin to Coca-Cola (which does not exist in-game), whose bottle caps are used as currency in the Wasteland. Nuka-Cola drinks have a similar shape to traditional Coca-Cola bottles, use the same red-white color palette for the original label, and are also made of glass. Nuka-Cola Dark first appeared in the Nuka World add-on to Fallout 4, and this real-life version was advertised as 1 to 1 replica of the in-game product with rum as the alcohol of choice (as no alcohol type is specified in-game). [31]

Nuka Dark Rum ad (left) vs. the actual product (right). [32]

Pre-orders of 750ml Nuka Dark Rum bottles were available on Bethesda’s merch store for $79.99 in September of 2018 with the first batch expected to ship out in November of that year. [33]However, instead of pre-orders releasing on time Bethesda sent out an email claiming that the bottles were not up to their usual level of standards and that there would be a delay. Three months went by before another email was sent out on December 5th, with news that the bottles would start shipping out on the 12th of that month. The email included a promotional video of the making of Nuka Dark Rum, which revealed that the bottles were actually typical 750ml rum bottles with a plastic case and paper sticker, instead of the Nuka-Cola-shaped frosted glass bottles that customers were expecting based on the in-game product and promotional material released before pre-orders were made.[34]

Many customers were not impressed and some were downright angry. Those who didn’t cancel their order after the promotional video was released were soon to be disappointed by the product’s low-quality case and the flavor of the rum. To make matters worse, due to the actual bottle being encased in a bulbous plastic shell imitating the silhouette of the Nuka-Cola bottle, the real-life Nuka Dark doesn’t pour correctly, forcing owners to break the bottle out of its case to avoid ruining the paper sticker.

Twitter user @JesscaTracy9 tweets Bethesda about doxing customers with their support ticket system.[35]


Doxxing is a form of harassment that involves publishing private or personal information about a user online. [36] While attempting to resolve customer dissatisfaction with the poor quality of the West Tek carrying bag released as part of Fallout 76’s Power Armor edition, Bethesda temporarily allowed customers to submit support tickets on their website to request a replacement bag that better matched the high-quality canvas material promised in the advertising. As a part of the service, customers were asked to submit personal details such as their full names, home addresses, email addresses, and the card they used to make the original purchase. [37]

However, due to an error made in processing the customer data, anyone who filed a report was able to view, open, and close support tickets of other customers at will. As a result, a large amount of personal data was made publicly available without Bethesda's knowledge. It was not until customers began to reach out to the company that actions were taken to resolve the issue. This is especially concerning because the personal information that was released could have been potentially used to trace customers' identities and act as an entry point for more invasive privacy hacks. [38] Notably, a user named Jessiepie commented Bethesda’s community forum,, “I am receiving every single one of your support tickets on my Bethesda account. Mostly it’s your receipts for you(r) power armor set requesting a new bag. These receipts contain all your info. Your email and home address and the card you used to buy this extremely glitched game.”[39]

Bethesda was quick to resolve the issue but the damage had already been done. Everyone who requested a replacement West Tek canvas bag had already been doxed.


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