Bethesda’s stock has risen immeasurably over the past decade. Sure, not everything was a mega hit (Brink, anyone?), but with new IPs like Dishonored and The Evil Within, the resurgence of Wolfenstein at MachineGames and Doom’s reboot at id, and the huge successes of Skyrim and Fallout 4, the 2010s have been very, very good for Bethesda.
But the past year has been a trying one for the publisher, in large part thanks to the end of 2018.
Bethesda games released in 2019
The year started with the hangover of Fallout 76 making Bethesda’s New Year’s party hangovers even worse. It was literally the first day of 2019 when they had to block players from accessing the nuclear silos in the game, but the company forged ahead, striving to put the game on the road to recovery. A content roadmap soon followed, new Brewing and Distilling systems appeared, and E3 saw Bethesda announce a major update in the form of Fallout 76 Wastelanders, bringing NPC characters into the game. Also a battle royale mode, because of course there would be.
But Fallout 76 is a magnet for ridiculous scandals. GameSpot’s special Collector’s Edition helmets had to be recalled because of mould, the company had to offer refunds in Australia for misleading consumers, and then there was the Wastelanders delay mixed with the reveal of Fallout 1st. This £12 per month or £99 per year subscription service first led to a fresh set of dumb bugs when the ostensibly private servers ended up being anything but, and then led to bizarre instances of class warfare within the game, as 1st subscribers lorded their wealth/foolishness over non-paying peasants, while simultaneously being hunted by bands of those displeased by their existence.
If anything, it’s turning out to be an interesting social experiment?
Elsewhere in the “nobody asked for this” category, Rage 2 released to a relatively positive critical reaction. Developed by Avalanche Studios in partnership with id Software, it mixed the latter’s adrenaline-filled arcade shooter action with the kind of vibrantly colourful open world that the former is best known for. Yet despite that, and a roadmap of free content and paid expansions, the game’s largely faded from public consciousness less than half a year later.
Perhaps Wolfenstein: Youngblood could be more than the sum of its parts? Kicking the series’ story forward a couple of decades, and sporting co-op with BJ’s twin daughters as its twinned protagonists, the game also brought in Dishonored developer Arkane to shake up the world design. Unfortunately, the different form failed to hit anywhere near the highs of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus narratively, and it was generally not the most polished experience.
But 2019 would have ended with a bang, if not for the delay of Doom Eternal to 2020. Just six weeks before the game’s intended release date, Bethesda pushed it back to 20th March in order to give it some more spit and polish. That came with further caveats, as the Invasion Mode now won’t be in the game at launch and the game’s Switch port has been delayed until even deeper into the year.
And that’s had an impact beyond Bethesda’s bottom line. When Google Stadia was first announced, they were able to lean on id Software to talk about how streaming could finally live up to their standards for responsiveness. Doom and Doom Eternal were to be the proof in the Google Stadia pudding, showing that a slick, responsive, exceptionally optimised shooter could work just as well on remote hardware as on local. Instead both games (even the 2016 reboot) are conspicuous by their absence from the mediocre game library that Stadia currently offers.
We can round out a relatively disappointing year for Bethesda with the ending of development of their free to play card game battler The Elder Scrolls: Legends.
After the highs of recent years, 2019 has to be viewed as a disappointing one for Bethesda. However, it could set them up nicely for 2020 and the next generation. Having announced GhostWire: Tokyo and Deathloop at E3, it’s clear that the company are still keen to play with new ideas and new IPs, all the while being able to rely on their bankable franchises like Doom and The Elder Scrolls. Next E3 is sure to be a busy one for the company, and one where they can hopefully get back on track in the run up to the next generation.