It’s been a great week for Bethesda, the proverbial Prom Queen of E3 this year. Our own vault dweller Parasaur has a sensible reason for their success as it applies to current mobile darling Fallout Shelter. Read on and prosper. -Ed.
Fallout Shelter is a mobile game for iOS with plans to release on Android “in a few months.” It’s a free to play game with optional in-app purchases available. One of the best things about Fallout Shelter is that you can effectively play and succeed at this game without ever having to spend money on it.
This formula has obviously worked out pretty well for Bethesda, since they have already dominated the top grossing spot in the app store, meaning it is bringing in about 2.55 million per day. Fallout Shelter has dethroned long-time champion Candy Crush Saga to be number one in that category. One could almost say that a more effective sales model is to ensure people enjoy your product and genuinely want to give you money for it, rather than forcing them to through an addiction model system. More on that later though, for now on to the good stuff- more about Fallout Shelter.
In Fallout Shelter you play an Overseer for a Vault in the post-apocalyptic wastes. You start by picking your own three digit vault number, although it should be advised that there is little to be gained in the eyes of your peers from vaults “420”, “069”, or “911”. The feel of the game is a bit relaxed in that the goal is really up to you. Do you want to have a thriving and happy community of survivors? Would you rather have a massive population out exploring the wastes to build your personal arsenal to defend your shelter? Play the game however you prefer and deal with the benefits and/or consequences of doing so however you choose.
Your in-game time is mostly spent gathering resources from various rooms which can be both merged and upgraded for additional bonuses. The core resources are food, water, power, and of course caps. Fallout Shelter will remind you when your resources are ready to be collected as long as you have notifications on. Beyond that there are rooms that let you build supplies (medpacks and radpacks), and train your vault dwellers for various stat boosts. Out of room for all the cool things that lucky dweller brought you from the wasteland? That’s fine, just build yourself some storage. Need more resources in a hurry? Just rush your rooms. You are given a percentage chance of success to either gain more resources almost immediately or to fail and have the room suffer consequences.
No vault is safe forever and along the way you’ll deal with fires, rad roaches infestations, and raiders. Sometimes you will lose a dweller to the fight, but no worries! They can usually be resurrected for a cost. The number of dwellers in your vault at anytime is also a key factor in advancing the game. You can gain dwellers in three ways- leave two opposite gendered dwellers alone in the residence and let nature take it’s course, allowing people into your vault from the wastes, and by getting special characters through cards. Cards are unlocked through completing certain quests or through buying lunch boxes (microtransactions).
Unlocking lunchboxes and therefore cards can earn you a number of bonuses, be it weapons, clothes, resources, characters, or something else super special. You can also get weapons and clothes from your dwellers when you send them to explore the world outside of their happy home. That roughly sums up most of the gameplay which I find to be highly entertaining and well worth the time investment. If you are interested in my thoughts on why this game is so wildly financially successful despite being totally functionally free to play, read on.
One of the most amazing things about Fallout Shelter is that it doesn’t require any money at all (other than, obviously, whatever you pay to keep your phone running) yet it is making Bethesda quite the pretty penny in the app store. I think there are a few clear reasons why this game has been so lucrative.
First off we have the obvious, it’s a freaking Fallout title. Seriously, how awesome and exciting is Fallout 4?! They’re giving us a free game to play while we wait?! YES!!! It was a really smart move on Bethesda’s part to pair the release of a simple mobile game with the announcement of a hugely anticipated title. The resulting frenzy had people rushing to their phones just to assuage the euphoric panic in the very cores of their being, and it was beautiful. How else do you get a big enough audience for your game to earn serious cash super quick?
Now here’s where Bethesda was both smart and loyal to their fans. The game is fun. Really, it’s great. The only thing that makes it better is knowing that while you could spend money on lunchboxes to advance your game faster, you don’t need to. The game moves at an acceptable pace for regular play and there are no insurmountable challenges that the lunchboxes would instantly solve. As a player, this makes me feel like they respect my interests more than the average game. It gives you a sense of genuinely wanting to give them money for the quality of the game in and of itself, and the lunchboxes just feel like a high five in support of the mutual respect between game producers and players.
It’s really kind of a beautiful thing.