Fallout 76's Latest Update Introduces A New Hot-Button Issue: Sales Tax


"Nothing is certain but death and taxes, the saying goes, and that seems to be the case in Fallout 76, the online multiplayer survival action RPG that launched to great ignominy last year. Touted as a variation on the shared world shooter with the grim but humorous post-apocalyptic flavor that is the series trademark, it continues to receive criticism for its glitches, its barren world and somewhat repetitive gameplay.

Still, there’re enough players on board with it to continue to enjoy it for what it is. Unfortunately, various updates have been issued since often juggle welcome features with problematic additions. The latest one from yesterday is no different, forcing players to come to terms with the fact that just as much as death is a part of Fallout 76’s bleak post-nuclear apocalypse so too are taxes.

While trading items has always been an option in the game, letting players barter unwanted items with other players, the patch added vending machines. These machines let players set up automated stores at their campsites that anyone can use while they’re out looking for trouble. That means players can stock their campsites with goods for sale, set prices and hope for a bit of revenue. But here’s the catch: 10% tax.

“You will receive a notification whenever a player buys one of your items. 90% of the sale price will be added to your Cap balance,” read the latest patch notes. “This 10% fee has been designed to help maintain the health of the game’s economy and mitigate inflation.” Caps aren’t premium currency by the way, so it leaves one to ponder better ways of mitigating “inflation” than pulling it directly out of digital pockets.

Caps can only be earned by killing monsters, selling stuff to robot vendors and trading; you can’t be just swipe your credit card and instantly add more. Understandably, some players aren’t happy about Bethesda being the market’s invisible hand in their purse. “How does taking 10% of our caps in player vending ‘help support a healthy game economy?’ wrote user Panickedsoul on the game’s subreddit.

“You know what this will actually do? It will make us charge more than we actually want for the items in order to make up the difference. I would love to know how this helps players at all, ” Panickedsoul added. And that’s exactly what’s been happening. Reddit user femiwhat posted a basic math primer to ensure players knew how to get the cap revenue they intend to earn.

While a few dozen caps is nothing to most high-level players, the cost of fast travel hits players hard already. The tax could be used to reduce or remove that cost.

While a few dozen caps is nothing to most high-level players, the cost of fast travel hits players hard already. The tax could be used to reduce or remove that cost.

And then there’s the fact that Bethesda charges players caps for fast travel. While the cost of most distances is a mere drop in the bucket for anyone who’s been playing for a while, it can be a huge dent for players who haven’t put in as much time. The sales tax is also felt more by these players who have fewer things to sell. An argument is even being made that the tax should negate the cost of fast travel entirely.

Other players are more onboard with the tax. “Having multiple ways to get caps out of servers (out of players pockets and not into another’s) helps to reduce the overall amount of caps floating around in players pockets,” wrote Reddit user aburple. “Personally I think we need even more ways to get rid of our caps.”

Honestly, that feels a little rich – pardon the pun – considering not every player character is walking around with more caps than they can get rid of. The game currently limits a player character’s caps at 25,000 and also limits what can be earned between a daily refresh. So while veterans might be at the cap limit and want more ways to get rid of caps, others who can’t play daily have it differently.

And what makes management of the in-game economy so tough is how Fallout 76 groups players. Because they are randomly dropped across an invisible list of servers, there are often wide disparities in power and wealth between those playing together. You can encounter a player who has everything or a player who has nothing, making player-to-player commerce difficult.

And since the 10% tax doesn’t really put a dent in wealthier players or boost up the poorer players, the game’s economy isn’t altered in any meaningful or interesting way. It simply fritters those caps away to Master knows where.