“Fallout 4” mods have been canceled on PS4 for the time being, and Bethesda has repeatedly blamed Sony for blocking the feature’s implementation. In the absence of an official explanation from the hardware maker, here’s four theories as to why the idea was forcibly scrapped.
1) Hacking Concerns: We posted about this theory last month, but it’s still a plausible one today. As we know it, the PS4 operating system is a modified version of FreeBSD that shares many similarities with Linux. Linux is a beloved OS for the tech-savvy crowd because of how flexible it is. It’s a great creation tool because it offers a level of freedom that even Windows can’t match.
That’s all fine and dandy, but allowing mod support for “Fallout 4” essentially gives the public access to some of those developer-exclusive benefits. Because the PS4 OS has such an open base, Sony may be worried that allowing mods could offer avenues for hardware exploits and piracy. Amongst all major hardware makers, Sony is typically the most aggressive at stopping hacks, and that stubborn stance could be holding mods back. Mods may allow too much of a window into the inner workings of the system.
2) Inappropriate Material: Not all game mods are for mature audiences, but it’s no secret that some user-made content stretches into adult themes. Nudity, profanity and sexual objects are routinely sprinkled across mod databases for any title. As a closed platform holder, Sony may not want to be involved with that kind of riffraff. After all, Sony did just remove console Ustream support. The service was tied to suggestive “Playroom” streams shortly after PS4’s launch.
What Sony may have demanded is some kind of approval process that takes place before mods are published. In Bethesda’s message on PS4 mods, however, it’s said that the studio thinks users should be able to do “anything they want” with the feature. Therefore any kind of internal QA requirement possibly stalled the conversation.
3) System Stability: Another reason why Sony may have wanted QA for “Fallout 4” mods is to check their impact on system stability. On both Xbox One and PC, mods can routinely crash systems depending on how they’re layered on top of one another.
As a platform holder, it makes some basis of sense that Sony may not want to introduce something that makes its flagship console perform under expectation. Maybe Sony’s image of the PS4 is simply just too pristine to possibly be hampered by a feature that can’t necessarily be controlled. Officials wanted control, and Bethesda didn’t want to surrender it.
4) Archaic Development Policy: Quite possibly the closest thing we may have to an answer about the Bethesda-Sony beef is what “Fallout 4” producer Todd Howard told Newsweek during an E3 interview. He said “there's hurdles to get over with things like storage. And we need certain licenses. Because the modders are being like a pseudo-developer so you get some tricky legal things going on there.” These more legal-based and policy-level questions could still be shackling Sony today. Mods have never been done before on a console, and Sony’s age-old procedures may not accommodate them.
While not directly tied to mods, “Nuclear Throne” developer Rami Ismail recently published an informative piece about the toils of game certification on PS4. In the Polygon editorial, he mentions that cert is based on policies that are “unwieldy, complicated [and] intricate.” Apparently manual pages still reference sending finished games via snail mail. That kind of traditional overhead doesn’t seem to blend well with newer initiatives like mods, and Sony may not be ready to update its books yet.
“Fallout 4” is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC. Mods are only supported on the latter two platforms.
What do you think of these theories? How should Sony respond to Bethesda’s demands? Are any of these concerns legitimate? Tell us in the comments section!