As the video game Fallout 76 approaches its first anniversary this November, its makers at Bethesda have routinely promised its online playerbase a way to pay for private servers. That promised service finally got a name (and a price) on Wednesday: Fallout 1st will become available for existing Fallout 76 players on November 1 for either $99.99/year or $12.99/month.
The service’s headline feature is “private worlds,” though these don’t quite operate the same way you might expect from a paid, private-server service like Minecraft Realms. Instead of having one person pay to operate a specific, always-online server, a paying member will be able to create a private Fallout 76 instance, then invite up to seven other players (including non-subscribers) to join that instance. For that gameplay instance to persist, however, at least one of its players must be a paying Fallout 1st member; as soon as all subscribers log out, the instance will disconnect.
It’s unclear whether Fallout 1st instances will hold onto progress in the cloud. We’d like to know whether JonSub can log in, play Fallout 76 in a private instance for a while, then invite JaneSub to play, leave the instance, and come back in a few days and still see the fruits of JaneSub’s progress in that shared instance.
Existing Fallout 76 players expose their average online gameplay to random, unknown players. During a preview event in October 2018, for instance, Ars Senior Gaming Editor Kyle Orland noticed the game’s griefing potential—balanced with one of Bethesda’s assurances about private servers—before the game had even launched:
The potential for these kinds of negative experiences, combined with the general lack of positives we can see from having a wider server population, already has us looking forward to the planned post-launch rollout of private servers that we can roam alone in small, unbothered cooperative teams.
However, that “planned” support pledge went unfulfilled for nearly a year, even as Bethesda continued adding free quest and quality-of-life updates for all Fallout 76 players. This week’s announcement has also piled on another pledge for a feature coming at an undisclosed date: mod support. You’ll need to be a paying Fallout 1st member to access mods, however, and no other information about how they’ll work or how players might create them or share them between platforms has yet been disclosed.
What else comes with Fallout 1st?
The biggest additional feature for this paid service is a bit concerning: storage space for in-game items. Continuing in Fallout game tradition, players can only store so many items in their “backpacks,” whose storage amount can be increased in the course of gameplay. But the game’s increased focus on crafting (which had been hinted at in Fallout 4‘s “settlement” system) means players have a lot of smaller items they may want to stock in a non-backpack storage container, dubbed the Stash. Fallout 76 puts an artificial cap on that storage: 800 units of weight.
Paying Fallout 1st subscribers, on the other hand, will have access to an unlimited storage container dubbed the Scrapbox. (Got that? The free one is a Stash; the paid one is a Scrapbox.) There’s no other way to access or pay for an unlimited storage box in the game, and this feature is arguably targeted at the game’s most engaged, craft-crazy players.
Subscribers also get a serious quality-of-life boost with the new Survival Tent, which will let players magically drop an outpost in the game’s world that doubles as a few things: a Scrapbox, a Stash, a cooking station, and a fast-travel point. That sure seems like a handy perk to get by default, if not as a reward for beating a major quest. But hey, what do we know?
The rest of the paid subscription package includes a monthly drop of microtransaction currency (1,650 “atoms,” which normally cost $15 as a real-world purchase), discounts within the game’s atom-currency store, and a few exclusive cosmetic items.
For comparison’s sake, EA and DICE launched a paid private-server service for Battlefield 1 in 2016. Its one-year price teetered around the $300 mark, though that cost comes with an expectation of a specialized, location-specific server rental for the lowest-latency online combat possible. (Curiously, last year’s Battlefield V still hasn’t gotten its “Private Games” update, which was meant to offer both paid and free “private” server options.)
A more comparable price point is probably Minecraft Realms, which hovers around the $99/year mark and lets players create a private, cross-platform Minecraft world for up to 10 online players. This cost is simply for the dedicated server shard, and so long as anyone has that shard’s login credentials, they can get in and build within its private world. They don’t need to worry about which paying members are or are not online.
Bethesda’s announcement also lands two days before the launch of a very Fallout-like game: The Outer Worlds, from Obsidian Entertainment (which includes members of the original Fallout development team). For roughly the same subscription price as Fallout 1st, interested fans can subscribe to Xbox Game Pass and access the offline, single-player adventures of The Outer Worlds (not to mention Obsidian’s beloved Fallout: New Vegas) on Xbox One and Windows 10 devices, in addition to other games.
Today’s news comes nearly a week after Bethesda announced a delay to the game’s first “free” expansion pack, Wastelanders, now landing in “Q1 2020.” That delay came only days after another major delay to a Bethesda game expected by the end of 2019, Doom Eternal, which is now slated to launch on March 20, 2020.