Todd Howard repeatedly batted down attempts to make a multiplayer Bethesda game - until fan enthusiasm led to Fallout 76

Todd howard
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Todd Howard reportedly told Bethesda executives that a multiplayer game would be "a bad idea" on several occasions - before pressure from fans eventually encouraged him to make Fallout 76.

In an interview with MinnMax, Bethesda veteran and Skyrim lead designer Bruce Nesmith is asked whether an impression of infallibility within the studio combined with pressure from higher-ups resulted in Fallout 76's rocky launch. In response, he said there were some requests for a multiplayer game, but that in the end, fans drove Bethesda to make its online Fallout game.

Nesmith says that Bethesda executives "had been pushing for multiplayer for a long time, and Todd kept telling them 'that's a bad idea,' so they'd back down right away, and say 'ok, we trust you, we trust you.' And then a year later they'd ask for the same thing and he'd tell them the same thing. But at some point, the pressure from our players, that they wanted a multiplayer experience, it got to be so high that Todd wanted to do it too."

The result, of course, was Fallout 76, which struggled at launch, though it has made an admirable comeback in the following years. Elsewhere in the interview, Nesmith discusses how Bethesda had developed something of an ego thanks to its repeated success over the years and that that "hubris" likely contributed to its multiplayer fumbles: "It was 'it's gonna be the same Fallout, all we have to do is add multiplayer.' And with those words, we started down a path that was not as successful as we'd had before because it's not just adding multiplayer."

Nesmith spent nearly three decades at Bethesda, starting with Daggerfall and The Terminator games in the mid-90s and working on Oblivion, Skyrim, Starfield, and Fallout throughout his time at the studio. It's an enviable resumé and one that gives a sense of how many iterations of Bethesda the developer has seen. As nadirs go, Fallout 76 isn't too bad, but it's still interesting to note the bravado with which the company seemed to approach a whole new frontier - as pretty much any developer will tell you, it's never as simple as 'just adding multiplayer.'

The Fallout 76 turnaround saw it top 13.5 million players last year.

Ali Jones
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I'm GamesRadar's news editor, working with the team to deliver breaking news from across the industry. I started my journalistic career while getting my degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where I also worked as Games Editor on the student newspaper, The Boar. Since then, I've run the news sections at PCGamesN and Kotaku UK, and also regularly contributed to PC Gamer. As you might be able to tell, PC is my platform of choice, so you can regularly find me playing League of Legends or Steam's latest indie hit.