UPDATE 20/05/20: After the initial blog post left some fans unsure whether Fallout 76's Seasons would be free in the long-term, Bethesda has now clarified the battle pass-style system will remain free for all players - although those who subscribe to Fallout 1st may get some bonus rewards in future.
Last week Bethesda announced a new progression system for Fallout 76, called Seasons, which would allow players to unlock items and cosmetics by accumulating S.C.O.R.E. points through various in-game activities. The blog post said players would be able to access the inaugural Summer Season for free, the wording of which led many to question why only the first season had been marked out as free to play.
"To clarify, our Seasons in Fallout 76 are going to be free for all our players," Bethesda said in a tweet, apologising for creating "confusion" on the matter. "We may add extra Fallout 1st bonus rewards in the future, but want to focus on getting Season One in game first and seeing your thoughts."
To clarify, our Seasons in Fallout 76 are going to be free for all our players. We may add extra Fallout 1st bonus rewards in the future, but want to focus on getting Season 1 in game first and seeing your thoughts.— Bethesda Game Studios (@BethesdaStudios) May 20, 2020
Sorry for confusion on this.
ORIGINAL STORY 14/05/20: Fallout 76 already has an in-game shop and premium subscription service, and to bring it even further into the realm of modern-day multiplayer games, it's now getting a "season pass-style" progression system. Which is free for the moment... unless you want to level it up quickly.
The new progression system, which is called Seasons, is set to arrive as part of update 20, and will overhaul the existing challenges system to provide a new way for players to earn goodies. The introductory blog post explains players will be able to take part in "the inaugural Summer Season for free", with all players gaining access to a single unified progression path, meaning "everyone is working towards the same rewards through the entire season". There are plans to eventually have four seasons per year, each lasting around 10 weeks, and each with a separate theme. Whether the upcoming seasons will remain free is unclear.
The first season's progression path looks rather stylish, resembling a board game, and will guide players up a path that reaches to rank 100. You can progress along this by completing in-game activities to earn "S.C.O.R.E." points, with each rank earning you rewards such as outfits, C.A.M.P. items, weapon skins, power armour paints, perk card packs, Atoms and in-game currencies such as scrip. Challenges aren't completely disappearing, and completing dailies and weeklies will help you progress through the season path - along with taking part in public events.
Similar to the option provided by battle royale games such as Apex Legends and Fortnite, however, there is a way for players to spend money to earn these rewards faster: you can rank up by purchasing levels using the premium currency, Atoms. Each rank costs 150 Atoms to unlock (about £1.20 if you buy the pack of 500), and while you could feasibly unlock the whole season that way, you would have to pay for each rank individually. Hopefully ranking up won't be too much of a grind.
The reason for the progression switch-up, according to Bethesda's explanation, is that the previous Challenge system "was not quite as engaging as we had hoped", with some challenges being complicated and the only reward being Atoms. The new system "provides a clear and achievable path to collecting everything, and fun new themes every few months, all while retaining the flexibility for players to earn and spend Atoms as they choose in the Atomic Shop", Bethesda added.
Elsewhere in the roadmap, Season 2 will bring new questlines, daily ops and a bombs drop event, while Season 3 will see the return of the Brotherhood of Steel to Appalachia, and perk loadouts - which should make customising builds easier. For further details on all the plans you can have a look at the roadmap post here, and if any of this has tempted you to try out Fallout 76 for yourself, you can do so this weekend for free. If you haven't already had enough doom and gloom from the current global crisis, that is.