Surprise! Fallout 76 now has a premium membership service selling the ability to host private servers as well as access to a number of items with clear in-game benefits. Named Fallout 1st, the service costs £12 per month or £100 for a whole year in one go. It’s little surprise that hosting private servers costs cash but making them part of a service also selling exclusive useful items is… Bethesda, why? Come on now.
Fallout 1st lets subscribers host eight-player private worlds, where them and their pals can live free and do as they please. Only the host need be a 1st member, though the server is not persistent and will shut down soon after the final player with 1st membership leaves. Regular public Fallout 76 worlds support twenty-four players so eight is a little low, though I imagine sufficient for many groups of pals. That’s fine. It’s an optional service with niche appeal.
Fallout 1st also offers mundane bonuses. Members will get a suit of Fallout 76’s Ranger armour, exclusive icons and emotes, and a monthly lump of 1650 Atoms to spend in the microtransaction store. That’s also fine enough, sure.
Then there are the contentious benefits of Fallout 1st that any player might want. Subscribers will get a Scrapbox, which has the unique benefit of unlimited storage space for crafting components. Non-1st players only have a limited general-purpose Stash. Being in 1st also gets you the Survival Tent, a wee deployable camp which acts as another fast travel point with a Stash, Sleeping Bag, Scrapbox, and Cooking Station. These aren’t massively game-changing but they are nice to have. Your game will be friendlier and less frustrating if you pay for these features.
It feels grubby. The Scrapbox and Survival Tent are the sort of conveniences I might expect from premium membership in a free-to-play game, but Fallout 76 isn’t free-to-play.
Bethesda already stirred trouble by adding repair kits to the microtransaction store earlier this year. When they first announced the Atomic Shop, they insisted it “doesn’t offer anything with a competitive advantage.” You can quibble about how much of an advantage repair kits give but they’re clearly items Bethesda thought some players would want enough to pay for.
When a game lets you buy conveniences, it’s hard not to feel parts are intentionally inconvenient in the hope you’ll pay extra to escape them. Bethesda are now demonstrating they know people might want more storage space or another fast travel point, and they’re charging for it. They’ve managed to make the launch of a much-requested feature feel unpleasant by tying private servers to this other guff.