Fallout Licensing S.P.E.C.I.A.L - Microsoft’s $100m Transmedia Triumph

No one really knew what to expect when a TV adaptation of Bethesda’s best-selling RPG series, Fallout, was announced back in July 2020. Fans were initially cautious, and rightly so. Hollywood sees video games as the next big growth opportunity with TV and film producers aiming to take a slice of the $189.3 billion industry – but there’s a long list of game to film/TV adaptations that have been huge commercial flops. Just look at the reviews for House of the Dead and DOOM, or the $30m budget Far Cry film making less than £800k at box office!

Thankfully for fans and critics alike, the Fallout TV series was anything but a flop, receiving more than 65 million viewers within 11 days of its debut. At the time of writing, it holds a 91% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes thanks to overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and is the only Prime Video series to feature in the top spot on Nielsing’s streaming list for three weeks

Prime Video’s Fallout on Neilsen's Streaming List (ranked by minutes viewed) 

While this is great news for Amazon, it’s obviously great news for Bethesda and the studio’s parent company, Microsoft. While TV and film studios look to video game IP as a way of generating new revenue streams, game studios see TV and film adaptations as an essential part of their transmedia and licensing strategies to reach new audiences. 

So, the big questions: How did Bethesda’s wider licensing strategy capitalize on the success of the Fallout TV series? What was the effect of the Fallout TV series on game sales? And how much revenue did all of this activity drive for Bethesda and Microsoft? 

We dive into the numbers and uncover some lesser-known licensing activities that you may not be aware of, and reveal some lessons for other license holders in the gaming space looking to capitalize on future adaptations of their IP. 

Fallout Games Get a $70m Revenue Boost in One Month

The hype and positive sentiment surrounding Amazon’s Fallout TV series caused a surge in downloads and purchases for the Fallout video games. VGInsights analyzed sales figures for Fallout 4 and Fallout 76, along with in-game purchases within Fallout 76 and the mobile game Fallout Shelter, to forecast an estimated value of $50m post-platform fees. 

Their methodology is as follows: 

“Each of the revenue opportunities for Bethesda is calculated by analyzing the uplift in Fallout game metrics at the time of the TV show’s launch and forecasting the trend forward to September, when we estimate most of the upside has been realized. We have only considered the impact to Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 here. We don’t cover Fallout Shelter as we lack the data behind it, so we’re likely underestimating the total impact by c. $5-10M.”

We actually believe that number to be much higher, especially as VGInsights haven’t included data for other games in the series such as Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas which saw a heavy uptick in game downloads. 

By means of comparison, we used Steamspy to analyze sales figures for Fallout 3, Fallout 3 GOTY Edition, Fallout New Vegas, Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 from Apr 9–May 10. We used Sensor Tower to get in-game revenue figures for Fallout Shelter, but it’s important to note these figures don’t include any revenues generated from Steam. 

These numbers should only be taken as a guide, as figures from third-party platforms such as Steamspy can never be 100% accurate, but they’re a good starting point. We’ve taken into account refunds for price fluctuation and also recorded sales for specific pricing points to reflect the 75% off promotion – a clever incentive by Bethesda to encourage new Fallout fans to experience the older games. 

Here’s how everything adds up from Apr 9–May 10. 

  • Fallout 4 generated $34.6m 
  • Fallout 3 generated $300k 
  • Fallout 3 GOTY Edition generated $1.05m 
  • Fallout New Vegas generated $13.17m 
  • Fallout 76 generated $8.06m 
  • Fallout Shelter generated $5.93m 

On Steam and mobile devices alone, the Fallout games generated nearly $60m in just one month

That’s $42m, once 30% platform fees are taken into account. But it doesn’t stop there… 

We have no way of tracking digital sales of Fallout games or associated DLC on PlayStation and Xbox consoles. Bethesda is a Zenimax/Microsoft company, and as all of the Fallout games are available to play through the Xbox Game Pass subscription on PC and console, we suspect there was a significant uptick in Game Pass subscriptions following the show’s launch. 

Over on PlayStation, Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 are also included in the subscription-based PlayStation Plus Extra service ($14.99 p/m or $134.99 annual), while Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas are available through the PlayStation Plus Premium service ($17.99 p/m or $159.99 annual). 

Fallout 76 and Fallout 4 are also available to purchase separately on both consoles. Even a very conservative estimate of 1m sales at $9.99 across both titles adds an extra $10m for Bethesda – and that’s without including in-game purchases within Fallout 76 and Fallout Shelter on console! 

While we don’t have access to complete sales figures, Circana recently published its April video game chart for the top 20 best-selling games in the US. These figures are ranked on dollar sales across physical and full game digital sales from the Nintendo eShop, PlayStation, STEAM and Xbox. 

  • Fallout 4 was the fifth best-selling game in the US in April, beating the likes of Dragon’s Dogma 2, Hogwarts Legacy and Minecraft. 
  • Fallout 76 was the eighth best-selling game in the US in April. 

You can find the figures we collated from SteamSpy and SensorTower for digital sales below. 

Fallout 4 Steam Sales - $34,590,360 

Fallout 4 Steam Sales (SteamSpy) 

  • 1.32m copies sold in two days (Apr 9–11) at $19.99: $26,386,800. 
  • 1.54m copies sold Apr 12–Apr 19 at $4.99: $8,203,560

Note: we didn’t include sales figures for Apr 19 onwards to account for refunds, as the price jumped back up to $19.99. If anything, the total revenue of $34.5m is probably underestimated! 

Fallout 3 Steam Sales - $299,210

Fallout 3 Steam Sales (SteamSpy) 

  • 7000 copies sold Apr 9–19 at $2.99: $209,300
  • 9000 copies sold Apr 20–May 10 at $9.99: $89,1000

Fallout 3 GOTY Edition Steam Sales - $1,052,890

Fallout 3 GOTY Edition Steam Sales (SteamSpy) 

  • 211k copies sold Apr 9–May 10 at $4.99: $1,052,890 

Fallout New Vegas Steam Sales - $13,170,600

Fallout New Vegas Steam Sales (SteamSpy) 
  • 1.46 million copies sold Apr 9–Apr 19 at $2.99: $4,359,420
  • 882k copies sold Apr 20–May 10 at $9.99: $8,811,180

Fallout 76 Steam Sales - $8,086,240

Fallout 76 Steam Sales (SteamSpy) 

  • 9,000 copies sold at $39.99 Apr 9–Apr 12: $359,910
  • 967k copies sold at $19.99 Apr 12–May 10: $7,726,330

Fallout Shelter in-game revenue (mobile devices only) - $5,938,814 

Fallout Shelter Revenue Apr 9–May 10 (Sensor Tower)
  • Fallout Shelter generated 2.23m new downloads from iOS and Google Play store.  
  • As a free-to-play game, Fallout Shelter earns money through in-game purchases. In just over a month (Apr 9–May 10), it generated $5,938,814 in revenue on Android and iOS devices. 

ESTIMATED VALUE: $70m in April after fees. This includes full-game digital purchases,  DLC and in-game purchases across all platforms. 

New Fallout SKUs - Repackaging Old Games With a $60 price Tag 

Fallout S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Anthology (Bethesda) 

Profit, profit never changes… It’s important to remember that most of the Fallout games are over a decade old. In fact, the only ‘new’ Fallout games released in the last ten years are the live-service games Fallout Shelter and Fallout 76. 

With that in mind, Bethesda would struggle to sell the likes of Fallout 4 and older entries in the series for their original RRPs of $40-ish – especially when these games have spent so many years on sale, or on promotional shelves in physical game stores. As we’ve seen from the Steam prices, Fallout 76 is the only Fallout game carrying a price tag higher than $19.99. 

But what if Bethesda bundled all of the previous entries in the Fallout franchise under a new SKU and packaged them as a special collector’s edition in fancy packaging? Well, that’s exactly what they did with Fallout S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Anthology, a seven-game anthology featuring Fallout 76, Fallout 4: Game of the Year Edition, Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition, Fallout New Vegas: Ultimate Edition, Fallout Tactics, Fallout 2, and Fallout. 

The price? $60 – and this anthology doesn’t even include physical versions of the games. The games are only redeemable through Steam as digital download codes. Pre-orders for the anthology went live in February through the Bethesda Store and closed after their release in April. 

ESTIMATED VALUE: $1.2m, assuming 20,000 units were manufactured. 

Amazon MGM Studios’ Merchandising Program for Fallout 

Of course, Bethesda will have netted a substantial licensing fee for giving Amazon the rights to create the Fallout TV series (VGInsights estimates $30m for the fee), but Amazon also announced a full portfolio of merchandising products that will have also benefited Bethesda with their revenue share. 

Fallout got its own dedicated Amazon storefront with a variety of merchandise from licensing partners, according to Licensing International. More than fifty Fallout-inspired designs were available through the merch-on-demand program, but Fallout fans could also feast on a massive selection of products from other partners. These included: 

All of this Fallout merchandise gets a big thumbs-up from us – but one of Zenimax’s most successful licensing deals capitalizing on the uranium fever around Fallout is its collaboration with Hasbro’s TCG Magic the Gathering, which resulted in a limited-edition set of Fallout Commander Decks through its Universes Beyond initiative and Fallout S.P.E.C.I.A.L cards through its Secret Lair subbrand. 

MTG’s Universes Beyond decks feature cards from other popular franchises in the worlds of film, TV and gaming. According to Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks, the Fallout Commander set is “probably [Hasbro’s] best-performing Commander set ever, whether it’s a Universes Beyond set or not,” which means these cards outsold other decks based on Warhammer, The Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who and many more. 

While some of these merchandise runs are limited edition and won’t be reprinted, others should generate enough residuals to keep Zenimax happy until the launch of Season 2. 

ESTIMATED VALUE: Honestly, it’s hard to say because there are so many variations to take into account considering the range of products, associated sales, and varying licensing terms. 

Integrating Fallout IP into Other Video Games for Live Events

It’s not unusual for licensors in the video game world to license their IP into other video games as part of crossover events. In fact, there’s no shortage of crossover events featuring game-on-game IP. Similarly, there are plenty of examples of TV and film IP popping up in completely unrelated video games. As an example, One Piece was integrated into live events for six different mobile games to promote the launch of the anime film, One Piece Red. 

We feel Zenimax has missed a trick here by not licensing the Fallout IP into live events for other video games, especially in the world of mobile gaming. Fallout would have been a great addition to the LiveOps calendars for games such as Dead by Daylight, PUBG Mobile, State of Survival and Last Fortress, generating new revenue streams for the game developers and Zenimax. 

That said, it’s still early days. While Zenimax hasn’t been as busy as it could have been on the licensing into LiveOps front, we do know that Fallout cosmetic items have arrived in Fortnite as part of its Chapter 5 Season 3 Wasteland update. Cosmetics such as the T-60 Power Armor and Nuka Cola consumables have arrived in the game, with more cosmetics (presumably skins) set to be launched at a later date in the season. 

And while no details have been officially confirmed at the time of writing, a Fortnite and Call of Duty collaboration has leaked, which will apparently bring new cosmetic items into Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 via the Fallout Operator bundles. These Operator bundles usually cost 2400 Call of Duty Points (in-game currency) – the equivalent of $19.99. It’s not unusual for popular Fortnite and Call of Duty skins to generate millions in revenue and while we don’t have any visibility on deal terms for these integrations, most in-game integrations generate residuals of 30% on top of a hefty advance. 

ESTIMATED VALUE: Similarly, estimating a figure is difficult without knowing the full range of Fallout-themed in-game items and the cost-split between individual cosmetics and bundles, but considering Fortnite generated $50m from the sale of NFL skins, it’s reasonable to assume that sales of Fallout in-game items across both Call of Duty and Fortnite will generate $3 million. If 1% of COD’s 10 million users purchase the Operator bundle, that’s $2m in sales alone. 

Fallout Gets a $100m Revenue Boost from Transmedia Activities and Game Sales 

We estimate the Fallout TV series generated minimum revenue streams of $73.2m from new Fallout products,, in-game purchases and full-game digital and physical sales  – and that’s without adding the uplift from Amazon’s merchandise range or the in-game item sales in Fortnite and Call of Duty  

When we add VGInsights’ estimated licensing fee of $30m for the TV series, the value to Zenimax/Microsoft shoots up to over $100m

While sales and engagement across the Fallout games are slowly declining, we suspect to see new licensing deals and collaborations announced over the coming months as Microsoft and Amazon Studios aim to maintain momentum and engagement with the Fallout TV series.