War changes: Fallout 76 is series' first in a decade to skip Steam



Enlarge / Want to explore Fallout 76 on PC this fall? You’ll need to install the Bethesda.net launcher to do so.

Bethesda has become the latest video game publisher to begin pulling a major game series from rivals’ download services. The publisher’s latest announcement about the online RPG Fallout 76 included hints to a first for a 3D Fallout game: it won’t be sold via Steam.

Our suspicions were raised by the game’s beta FAQ, which went live on Monday and included many mentions of the Bethesda.net store and launcher for the game’s Windows version… but no mention of Steam. Once we clicked through all of the FAQ’s questions (all hidden with spoiler tags), we found a definitive answer near the bottom: “Both the beta and the game will be available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and on PC (via Bethesda.net only).”

The Bethesda.net launcher debuted on Windows PCs in 2016, and since its debut, it has featured two exclusive free-to-play games during their PC launch windows: Quake Champions and Fallout Shelter. Both of those games’ PC versions eventually found their way to Steam. Bethesda’s latest statement, on the other hand, does not include any indication that the retail-priced Fallout 76 will ever find its way to Valve Software’s popular storefront and game-launch service, which charges third-party publishers a 30-percent fee for any transactions.

As of press time, Bethesda.net includes a broad range of games developed by Bethesda and its subsidiary studios, along with some (but not all) of those companies’ back-catalog titles. In particular, id Software’s history isn’t evenly represented at Bethesda.net, with only Doom II being available from that classic series. (Yes, that means 2016’s fabulous Doom reboot isn’t yet available via Bethesda.net.)

Fallout 76 beta access will kick off “in October,” Bethesda says, and anyone who pre-orders the game will be able to launch its pre-release version when each platform’s beta period begins. (Xbox One owners will get first crack, though Bethesda hasn’t confirmed how long that exclusive period will last.) The publisher promises that any game progress will carry over from the beta period to the final version, which launches November 14. The FAQ doesn’t clarify whether any progress could be wiped in the middle of the beta, as is often standard in the case of pre-release software due to unpatched exploits.

This news follows last week’s confirmation that Fortnite will skip the Google Play app store when it eventually launches on Android phones. Bethesda has yet to signal any interest in selling Android software in similar fashion; Fallout Shelter is currently available via Google Play, while Elder Scrolls: Blades will arrive on Android and iOS “later this year.”

More PC-gaming publishers have established their own dedicated digital-download storefronts in recent years, complete with payment systems, download management, and isolated friends lists. Notably, Ubisoft has continued listing all of its major PC games on Steam, though those purchases still require tie-ins to the company’s Uplay launcher, while EA and Activision have begun decoupling their PC launches from Steam thanks to their Origin and Battle.net launchers, respectively.



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