There are plenty of reasons to pre-order Fallout 76, but for most fans, it probably boils down to getting an early look at the beta when it launches a month before the actual game. Details on the test version of Fallout 76 have been pretty sparse so far, but an update to the game’s FAQ page reveals some interesting new details.
The beta will launch sometime in October with Xbox owners getting first dibs. The game is officially going live on November 14, which doesn’t give players much time to tinker around with the game, but the good news is that all your progress will carry over into the live game. So really, it’s more of an early access than a true beta.
However, another addition to the FAQ confirmed that the beta will only be available through Bethesda.net, suggesting that the company is avoiding third-party distributors. PC Gamer followed up with Bethesda and confirmed that both the beta and the live game won’t be available on Steam.
It’s a bold but unsurprising move. A publisher of Bethesda’s size and a huge brand like Fallout can still move plenty of copies without Steam’s help. Steam is a massive service that accounted for a staggering 18 percent of all PC game sales in 2017, but it’s also received criticism for a pricing model which some contend is unfair to developers. Generally, Valve takes 30 percent of all profits from a game hosted on its platform, which is seen as the industry standard.
Bethesda’s decision to keep Fallout 76 off Steam also has precedent. In July, Epic Games confirmed that the Android version of Fortnite will not be available on Google Play because of the platform’s similar 30-70 distribution model.
The trend of publishers setting up their own distribution platforms such as EA’s Origin service and Blizzard’s Battle.net launcher has left many PC gamers weary. While it’s understandable that game companies want to avoid third-party distributors to maximize profit, the benefit of Steam is that it unifies thousands of games onto a single platform in an otherwise balkanized marketplace.
This comes with its own dangers, of course. If your Steam account get permabanned for whatever reason, then all the games you bought on it are forever lost, potentially costing you hundreds of dollars. Essentially, Steam fostered an environment where games have become services rather than products.
Bethesda could be giving up millions of potential sales by foregoing Steam, but it seems the company believes in striking out on its own.
Fallout 76 launches on November 14.