Fallout 76 won’t be available on Steam and will require players to download the Bethesda client in order to buy, according to an executive with the company.
Steam is suddenly getting some stiff competition. No sooner than we get an announcement that gamer chat client Discord will start selling games in its own “Steam-like” marketplace than we get an announcement from Bethesda’s global marketing head Pete Hines saying that Fallout 76 will only be available from the Bethesda client.
Speaking at QuakeCon last Saturday, Hines told the assembled crowd that Fallout 76 would not be on Steam. This caused some games to start typing “No steam, no buy” into the QuakeCon Twitch chat, apparently indicating they won’t purchase the game if it’s not available on the largest PC gaming marketplace on Earth.
As for why Bethesda is abandoning Steam after so many years of partnership, that comes down to Fallout 76’s always-online nature and a desire to cut out the middleman.
“We’ve done online games before, we’ve done some games-as-service,” Hines said. “And with [Fallout] 76, it was just really important to us to have that direct relationship with the customer, that didn’t involve somebody else.”
By not going through Steam, Hines said that it’s far easier for Bethesda to update Fallout 76--something that’s vastly more important in an online-only multiplayer game. It also means there is no chance that an update to the Steam client could affect their game in any way.
But the more likely explanation is, as always, money. Steam charges developers a 30% commission for selling games on their platform, which sounds like a lot but is comparable to the share demanded from traditional publishers.
However, 30% of a game’s price is a lot of money when you sell games at the volume that Bethesda does. That’s enough money for it to be worth your time to develop your own client and just sell to the consumer directly rather than go through a middleman like Steam.
We don’t know if this will start a new trend with Bethesda abandoning Steam or if Fallout 76 will be sort of test run for their own client. Blizzard has long abandoned Steam and proven that PC gamers are just fine with downloading a developer’s client--so long as it works.
Ultimately, we can expect Steam to remain the de facto PC gamer store for the time being, but cracks might be appearing in their armor.