The future of the Fallout series is uncertain. Fallout 76 took the Fallout formula and transformed it into a large multiplayer experience, but more than two years later, even Todd Howard has claimed that the last release in the series "let a lot of people down."
Fallout 5, however, could stand to be in a better position than either Fallout 4 or Fallout 76. With the major RPG studios attempting to create a roleplaying experience which feels truly "next-gen," the long wait for Fallout 5 could be its greatest advantage.
It's been no secret that the last two Bethesda-made Fallout games disappointed a lot of fans, particularly Fallout 76. It was announced at E3 2018, leading some to speculate that the concurrent announcement of The Elder Scrolls 6 at the same event was intended to deflect attention and potential criticism. Many fans were frustrated to see a franchise which had always been single player get a multiplayer game instead of a new single player experience and story. To make matters worse, the release of Fallout 76 was plagued with bugs. Despite Bethesda games being known for their buggy launches in the past - including Skyrim - Fallout 76's launch was met with particular backlash, adding to the criticism which came with the game's conception as a multiplayer.
Fallout 4 was better received, but was not without its criticisms. Released almost exactly 4 years after Skyrim, Fallout 4 struggled to feel like that next-generational step forward that many fans were hoping to see in the series. With expectations set extremely high after the immense success of The Elder Scrolls 5, which had already sold over 20 million copies three years after its launch, some common flaws in Bethesda RPGs stood out more than usual. The game's main plot, for example, was one of its weaker points. Players were tasked with finding their missing child, but when they do the game's final act simply involves deciding which factions the player is going to side with in the Commonwealth instead of feeling as character-driven as the beginning.
The decision to include voiced player characters was also controversial, with some feeling that, combined with the game's prescriptive opening sequence, removed a lot of roleplaying flexibility from the game. Despite this, Fallout 4 was ultimately a financial success. What it was unable to do, however, was feel like the same breakthrough that Skyrim was when it came out in 2011, despite sharing many of its flaws.
It's likely that Fallout 5 is at least a decade away. Bethesda is currently working on a new sci-fi IP named Starfield, which is set to be the studio's first new franchise in over two decades. So far not much has been revealed about Starfield, but it is reported to be an open-world sci-fi RPG which will allow the player to travel between multiple planets. It has been confirmed that The Elder Scrolls 6 will not release until after Starfield. This likely means that Starfield will release at some point in the next two years, The Elder Scrolls 6 can be expected around 2026 at the earliest, and that Fallout 5 is a long way away.
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