Fallout 76 is in a perilous play for an online game as a service. Despite an infamously rocky launch and persistent gameplay issues, the game has cultivated a cult fanbase who are sticking around to build custom CAMPs, roleplay characters, and build their own societies in a world all about reconstructing society from scratch.
There’s Sims-style fun to be found in the world as it is, and the upcoming Wastelanders update promises a heaping helping of story content and good old fashioend Fallout. The problem is with the recent Atomic Shop updates … and the lack of updates behind an in-game paywall or grind. The Atomic Shop items can be purchased with Atomic Points, which can either be earned in game … or purchased much more efficiency with real world money.
The Atomic Shop was originally meant to be a way to unlock cosmetic items. That was the original promise and premise of the cash shop, but it’s slowly warped over time. First, in April 2019, Bethesda introduced repair kits, which would instantly repair a piece of gear without consuming the necessary materials. Then, in July, scrap kits went on sale, which gave players the option to instantly scrap and stash all of their junk instead of making the long trek to a vendor.
The Atomic Shop’s presence in Fallout 76 has increased along with the in-game utility of their items. For a time, Atomic Shop cardboard standouts were in the game world, meaning that players going to a vendor to sell their in-game goods had to pass an advertisement for the paid store. In addition, more and more things have been added to the Atomic Shop that seem like they would make excellent in-game rewards. If you do quests about the Free States faction in Fallout 76, you won’t earn their cosmetics… but you can purchase them. The same stands true for raider and Vault themed cosmetics.
The final straw came in the most recent update, which sells a refrigerator and scrap collector robot in the store for 700 atomic points and 500 atomic points respectively. These are CAMP items with powerful in-game utility, as they can preserve food and scour the nearby wasteland for useful crafting items. There are no ways to earn the fridge or scrap collector in game. The only way to unlock these items is through the Atomic Shop.
Granted, it is possible to earn Atomic Points through in-game challenges … but as players check off easy achievements like picking locks and exploring the maps, earning Atomic Points becomes much tougher.
Weekly challenges become very specific and not very fun, and often ask players to do things hunt down rare enemies while wearing very specific clothing items or weapons, or take photos of obscure places around the map. These goals are at odds with the natural gameplay loops of the game, and therefore they quickly feel like a grind.
The Atomic Point challenges also don’t feel like they provide enough to quench the ongoing stream of cosmetics and CAMP items hitting the store.
As an example, this week, I could wear five different themed costumes and use them to win five different matches of Hunter/Hunted, a PVP quest that triggers off a radio station. That is also an incredibly rare queue that I’ve never seen pop. Even if I were to put in the time of equipping costumes, waiting in queue, and then hopefully winning, I would earn… 30 Atomic Points, which is about 4% of what I need for a refrigerator. If I were to do all five weekly challenges, I would earn 150 Atomic Points, which still falls short of my fridge dreams.
Someone could spend the time to grind out weekly challenges and buy the refrigerator without spending real world money … but it would be significantly tougher than just putting down the credit card, and it would likely stop them from buying something else from the Atomic Store before it ends up rotating out.
This update also comes on the heels of a disastrous end-game raid, further aggravating a fanbase that has dealt with many bugs, badly implemented systems, and server issues since Fallout 76’s launch just under a year ago.