Making fun of Bethesda has become common and widespread. In fact, it’s become like a mini-game in an RPG (see what I did there?). One that often ends with you and your friends drunk on a couch (or in a bar) making sharp and condescending mockery of ‘Fallout 4 dialogue trees’ or a ‘Skyrim port for iOS’ jokes, but over time it’s become clear to me, that making such a statement demonstrates tunnel vision and a fairly narrow perspective of things.
They are continuously mocked for their rapid and shameless dumbing down of key franchises like ELDER SCROLLS and FALLOUT, not to mention have acquired a bit of a reputation, through their once respected/ currently notorious studio director cum hype man Todd Howard,who incidentally, is nowadays more known for lying through his teeth on press conferences, than for being the guy in charge of two of the most iconic RPG franchises out there. Peter Moleneux may have snuck away from the limelight, but Howard is currently proving to be a worthy maestro in BS peddling, in many people’s eyes.
Now, all of the scorn/ mockery/ internet sarcasm that Bethesda as a developer gets, is fully deserved , but the tragedy here, is that its’ overshadowed the other, excellent part of the company.
Which is, it’s publishing division.
See, as a developer, Bethesda may have been letting all of you down with its’ efforts towards slowly poisoning the WRPG (to start with), but there’s no doubt that as a publisher, it’s doing every bit what its’ supposedly failing as a developer to do, i.e ,putting quality stuff out there. Over the last 2-3 years, it’s put out some of the most distinctive games of the current generation, out of which some are just flat out some of the best offerings on the whole AAA market.
It’s bankrolling/supporting risky and adventurous studios, like ID Software, Arkane and Tango Gameworks, and seemingly giving them a lot of creative autonomy. The result of which, has seen stellar franchise revivals of DOOM and WOLFENSTEIN, and continued efforts in the rebirth of the modern immersive sim, via DISHONORED and PREY. Not to mention, they’ve partnered with Shinji Mikami and Tango Gameworks to create a world-class survival horror franchise with THE EVIL WITHIN. I can’t imagine any of the big studios ever doing that. Giving the man behind RESIDENT EVIL carte blanche to pursue his idiosyncratic, auteurist vision is a gift we should all be thankful for, not be embittered by.
Bethesda’s publishing division seems committed to ambitious, risky, creative projects that are more in line with what core games crave they want more of, but never get. They also seem to be pulling it off superbly. This is a great company that perhaps has a master plan in line for all of us in the future. Who knows? So perhaps it’s time all of us took a moment out of our cynicism- filled days and gave this oft-maligned company the kudos it deserves. It’s time for all of us easily-provoked, schadenfreude addicts to take a break from our usual routine and give Todd Howard and company, a nice, encouraging pat on the back.
We can go back to making fun of FALLOUT 4, some other time.