Bethesda can’t seem to catch a break this month. Whether they’re backtracking on potential releases, putting bloatware on your hard drive, or scrambling your mods, they can’t stop shooting themselves in the foot. We’ve been talking about Bethesda’s screw-ups a lot lately, and it’s not for lack of heart.

I grew up with these games. They’ve been part of my life for the majority of it. I love the worlds of FALLOUT and THE ELDER SCROLLS, and I want to see these IPs move forward and improve. But it seems the only thing holding Bethesda back is itself.

What Happened

Amidst the fallout of the Creation Club, Bethesda’s paid mod program, players quickly noticed a glaring loophole within the system.

According to the fine print, season pass holders will receive all future downloadable content (DLC) for the game, and there are absolutely no caveats or limitations listed. With this in mind, many argue the Creation Club’s content should be free for season pass holders.

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Now, of course, this wasn’t Bethesda’s intent. They would never implement their paid mod program if they knew a significant portion of their playerbase would get everything for free. That being said, they left very little room for ambiguity here.

It’s pretty clear to me.

When the Creation Club released, it was met with widespread criticism from both fans and journalists. Pete Hines, Bethesda’s rather infamous PR executive, weighed in on the controversy early on. He insisted that Creation Club content should be considered “mini-dlc” as opposed to “paid mods.”

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Putting aside the semantic nonsense of this statement, it only fuels the argument that this content should be covered under the season pass. So essentially, Bethesda attempted to back out of one controversy only to fall into another.

Bethesda’s Response is Nonsensical

So what does this mean for the consumer? Well, as of now not much.

Bethesda more or less went quiet since the Creation Club released. Aside from a brief tweet from Hines, their only statements on the matter are coming from their support team, which made it clear the season pass would not be honored from here on out. In an ongoing back and forth between a forum-goer and the support center, Bethesda claims that:

“[The] Creation Club itself is free. However, players will need to buy credits from the Creation Club interface to purchase creations for their game.”

This statement is bizarre, as it completely side-steps the issue. It doesn’t matter whether or not the Creation Club is free. What matters is the “mini-dlc” within it. In a slew of emails from various representatives, Bethesda’s argument continued to devolve. They went on to claim that the Season Pass was only meant to cover six pieces of dlc.

In other words, everything that isn’t the Creation Club. According to Bethesda, they chose not to disclose this information to avoid “spoilers.” The statement goes on to say that they informed everyone of the limits of the Season Pass once these content packs were released.

So in short, they intentionally lied to consumers, only to reveal the truth long after they bought the product.

This is nonsense.

How Should We Respond?

When a group screws up like this, it’s only a matter of time before threats of legal action develop. We’ve talked about this before, but consumer protection laws get pretty complicated in the digital age. Things like video games, online contracts, and the internet, in general, are still relatively new. As a result, there’s a lot of a legal grey area and not a lot of legal precedent.

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It’s also worth noting that consumer protection laws are pretty weak in the US. Because of this, it’s doubtful Americans could take up legal action against Bethesda. The EU is a different story, however. In Europe, courts often side with consumers on these issues, especially when it comes to unclear or unfair contract terms. Still, are the time, effort, and resources necessary to form a lawsuit worth the cost of a season pass? That’s not for me to decide.

The Point

Look, I’m of two minds here. Morality aside, I think it’s a bit naive to think season pass holders will ever receive this content for free. It’s clear Bethesda never intended for the season pass to include everything, despite their own words. Regardless of what’s right, American players don’t have much of a case against Bethesda, and it’s more trouble than it’s worth to organize a lawsuit in the EU over a season pass.

Still, this doesn’t excuse Bethesda’s shady, craven behavior, which is yet another blow to their floundering reputation. It’s further evidence of how blatantly sloppy and short-sighted this company seems to be.  Their repeated, desperate attempts to introduce paid mods to the industry are eroding whatever goodwill they had left.

What was once a spunky, passionate, if overly-ambitious company, has quickly become another example of the avarice and bumbling incompetence that is all too common in this industry. At the end of the day, this episode gave us a glimpse into Bethesda’s internal workings, and I don’t like what I’m seeing.

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