Those who were anxiously waiting to secure their pre-orders for Fallout 76 may want to take a step back before taking the plunge. This reconsideration has nothing to do with the gameplay but rather the fact that the new entry will be the first in the post-apocalyptic franchise to completely ditch Steam.
According to the official announcement this week, the upcoming online role-playing installment will only be sold through the Bethesda.net launcher. This will stay true for both the beta and the final release.
The proprietary client was launched by Bethesda Softworks back in 2016 when Fallout Shelter was ported over from mobile devices. It took the publisher two years before a second game was added in the form of Quake Champions.
Surprisingly enough, both of them are free to play and eventually found their way to Steam. However, the situation appears to be very different for Fallout 76.
The big debut
In all honesty, games like Fallout Shelter and Quake Champions are simply too low profile to be considered for a grand launch of a digital platform. If anything, they were simply there to test the online infrastructure and related services. Hence, it is fair to say that Fallout 76 is going to be the first major release from the renowned publisher to officially kick-start the Bethesda.net launcher.
This plan was probably in the works for years. The upcoming installment hails from a franchise that has managed more than 32 million sales worldwide across all platforms. There is already an established following, which guarantees attention to Fallout 76 and in turn, to the Bethesda.net launcher.
There can be no other promising candidate for the publisher, based on the current release schedule, to take on this critical duty.
The hopes and dreams
For those unaware, Valve takes a 30 percent cut on every sale conducted on Steam. The idea here is to remove that middle man and enable Bethesda Softworks to pocket the entire sum through its own independent digital platform.
The only problem is that Steam has a market potential in the millions, while something like the Bethesda.net launcher has yet to find its wings.
In that light, there is a lot riding for Bethesda Softworks on Fallout 76. If sales expectations are met, the (risky) decision would be a success and the publisher will take one giant step forward to abandon Steam for future releases as well.
However, there is likely a contingency plan set away in the corner. In case sales are slow or bleak, Bethesda Softworks will simply release Fallout 76 on Steam down the road for a much-needed boost. This scenario, though, will unlikely deter the publisher from breathing life into its launcher.
The endgame challenge
Trying to beat Steam is like breaking down a mountain with your bare hands. Bethesda Softworks knows this and hence, is not looking at becoming the next major market for digital releases. The publisher is rather interested in doing what Electronic Arts has done with Origin.
Bethesda Softworks definitely has the franchises to make this work. However, it will take a lot of time and luck. There needs to be more than just a place to house your first-party games. There needs to be a reason for players to install your dedicated client in an era when there are already too many for comfort.
Most importantly, Bethesda Softworks needs to quicken the pace when it comes to releasing sequels. No other publisher would wait nearly a decade before announcing the next entry in a critically acclaimed franchise, and neither would one wait more than two decades to announce a new franchise. Case in point, the Elder Scrolls and Starfield.
Fallout 76 is scheduled to release worldwide on November 14, 2018, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The beta will commence sometime in October on Xbox One, followed by PlayStation 4 and PC.