First, Fallout 76 season 6 was set to go live yesterday. And then it wasn’t. And then finally it was, but not before a bunch of players scrambled to buy last-minute rewards, and then hit a bug as they tried to get refunds when they saw that plans had changed. It was chaotic in the way that only a live service game can be, and Bethesda responded in the most Fallout 76 way possible by offering an olive branch in the form of double XP.
Like a lot of other live service games, Fallout 76 has a seasonal pass called the S.C.O.R.E. Board that players can rank up for special rewards by completing in-game challenges or spending cash. When the season changes, the old rewards go away, incentivising players to either finish grinding them or to spend money on microtransactions to acquire them before the next update goes live. That’s what happened when players recently learned that Season 6 would go live on September 8, the same day as Fallout 76’s long-awaited Worlds expansion which adds new custom servers and base-building functionality.
But there was a bug, as Fallout 76 has occasionally been known to have, that prevented players from getting remaining S.C.O.R.E. rewards they had spent real money to earn. Bethesda officially acknowledged it on September 7, and announced that Season 6 would be delayed by two weeks as a result.
“We’ve discovered an issue affecting Season 5 rank-ups, where players in some cases may be unable to claim the rewards for ranks they’ve purchased using Atoms,” the company wrote on Reddit. “As a result, we’re currently planning to extend Season 5 by two weeks.”
In the meantime, Bethesda stated it would disable rank-ups through microtransactions and work on fixing the problem and getting players their missing rewards.
This, in turn, pissed off players who had already spent money to get their remaining S.C.O.R.E. Board loot. Extending Season 5 by two weeks effectively meant they had time to grind out their remaining seasonal rewards just by playing. In effect, they felt duped.
The next day, calls for refunds blew up on the Fallout 76 subreddit. “Todd: All Atom purchases from the past 7 days should be refunded…Full Stop,” wrote one player, invoking the Bethesda creative director, as the subreddit often does, like a mysterious and all-powerful deity slash meme who can make their troubles go away with the click of a button. Instead, Bethesda decided to suddenly reverse course and launch Season 6 on time after all.
“After further investigation, we have found that we can safely move forward with starting Season 6 today, September 8, as scheduled,” Bethesda wrote on the subreddit less than 24 hours later.
The publisher continued:
We’d also like to express our sincere apologies to all of you in the community for any confusion or inconvenience our initial announcement may have caused while we believed we would have to delay Season 6. To help make it right, we’re going to kick off Double XP and Double S.C.O.R.E. Daily Challenge events this weekend starting as soon as today’s patch is live, until 12:00 p.m. ET (16:00 UTC) on Monday, September 13.
Bethesda, mind you, was the same company that initially apologised for cheap nylon bags going out in its Fallout 76 Collector’s Editions by promising players $US5 ($7) in Fallout 76 microtransaction bucks.
There are a lot of compounding factors to this mess. The first is that Fallout 76 seasons traditionally last 10 weeks, but Season 5 only lasted nine. There’s also no in-game countdown letting players know when the current season will expire, and Bethesda only confirmed Season 6’s end date a couple weeks ago. Some players have also complained that the current S.C.O.R.E. Board rank-up bug has been known about for some time. Then there’s the fact that Bethesda announced the delay last-minute on Reddit, not in-game or on Twitter, and then reversed the decision just as suddenly and as quietly. In other words, it was a perfect recipe for a frustrating but narrow problem to blow up into a bigger live service debacle.
It’s also one way to overshadow the otherwise neat additions coming to the Fallout MMO via its Worlds update, which includes new tools for modders and role-players to have fun, role-play, and help shape Fallout 76’s future. The expansion is mostly free, but comes at the cost of noise like the above.