Bethesda pins hopes on new Fallout, Doom to get it to the top of the game-maker heap

The video game maker announces a newly created, specialized social network and new games in its most popular franchises at a conference in Los Angeles.

Ian Sherr Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
3 min read

Bethesda's Fallout series of games is one of the most popular in the industry. Bethesda Softworks

There's competition to be the next big video game maker.

Bethesda Softworks, the company behind some of the most popular video game franchises in the world, is launching a specialized social network connecting game players to compete and discuss its games, as well as share modifications they've made, such as custom multiplayer maps.

The new software, called Bethesda.net, is similar to efforts by other major game makers such as Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard and Valve, whose social networks have helped to expand their influence.

Fallout 4: First, the mushroom clouds... Bethesda Softworks

"It will be at the heart of all our games going forward," said Pete Hines, head of public relations and marketing at Bethesda.

The latest announcement is part of a larger effort by the video game maker to elevate its position within the industry. The company's major presentation kicked off Electronic Entertainment Expo, in Los Angeles. E3, as it's called, is the largest event in the video game industry.

Bethesda Softworks discussed new installments for some of its top games, including the first-person shooter Doom and the post-apocalyptic adventure game Fallout 4. The games, first released in 1993 and 1997, respectively, have become some of the most influential in gaming. Doom's last installment was released in 2004, and Fallout's in 2010.

The company discussed new ways that Doom gamers can create their own levels to play with one another. The company said its new feature, called Snapmap, makes it easy to create levels and change how monsters will interact with each other and with players.

For Fallout 4, six years in the making, the company said it had created intricately detailed features to help make the latest installment more immersive and fun. The open-world role-playing games, set in a postapocalyptic United States after nuclear blasts have nearly wiped out the population, are among the most popular in the industry. The newest title in the series will launch November 10, 2015.

Bethesda has also changed how the game begins. Instead of the traditional opening on the ruined Wasteland, the game now starts in the world that existed before the bombs fell on Boston.

Todd Howard, head of the team that made Fallout 4, said the company built the game to allow players to choose however they want to progress, exploring the game's world to whatever degree they like. They can also build villages or use parts from various toys or tools they find to create up to 700 different types of weapons.

A scene from Fallout 4. Bethesda Softworks

"Player freedom remains our absolute number one goal," he said. "We like to fill our worlds with thousands of items so you can interact with them, and now they have purpose."

Following a trend in the industry, Bethesda also announced a companion smartphone game for Fallout: a fully functional in-game inventory management system players can use on their phone while wandering the Wasteland.

As part of the marketing effort for Fallout, Bethesda also built a separate game for tablets and smartphones meant for managing the fallout shelters that the game's protagonists live in. "The goal of this game was to do something we want to do on our phones," Howard said.

Follow all the latest news from E3 2015 on CNET and GameSpot.