The game’s updated FAQ page states the beta “will be available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and on PC (via Bethesda.net),” and a Bethesda spokesperson confirmed to PC Gamer on Monday both the PC beta and the official launch are happening on Bethesda.net and not Steam.
Steam is arguably the biggest digital distributor of PC games, so it’s a little surprising to see Bethesda deliberately forego the platform for its own launcher. But, it’s not the first video game publisher to do so. Activision Blizzard now uses its own Blizzard Battle.net application for major online titles like “Destiny 2” and “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.” Epic Games is also avoiding large platforms like Steam and Google Play for its hugely popular battle royale title “Fortnite,” which currently has more than 125 million players. Market intelligence company SuperData believes “Fortnite’s” success — along with the popularity of voice and text chat app Discord — is encouraging other publishers to break from Steam.
“Game publishers are rethinking their reliance on Steam and its sizable cut of digital revenue after the success of ‘Fortnite Battle Royale,’ which only is available through Epic’s launcher on PC,” said principal analyst at SuperData Research Carter Rogers. “Additionally, the rising popularity of Discord (which hit 130M total users in May) means that gamers are no longer reliant on Valve’s platform for social interaction. Their main friends lists now live on Discord, not Steam.”
While Steam still provides a valuable platform for small to mid-sized games, Rogers said Bethesda is big enough to stand on its own. “Bethesda is certainly popular among PC gamers, with 15% worldwide considering themselves a fan,” he said. “However, the brand is not yet as popular as Steam (33%), Valve (19%), or certain PC gaming publishers like Blizzard (31%).”
Bethesda hasn’t given a reason for the switch. It’s likely the publisher wants to grow the user base of its own launcher and keep more of the game’s revenue for itself. But, “Fallout 76” could still eventually come to Steam. Bethesda’s free-to-play simulation game “Fallout Shelter” apparently launched on Bethesda.net in July 2016 and didn’t make its onto Steam until March 2017.
The “Fallout 76” beta starts in October and it will be the full version of the game, Bethesda said. That means all progress will be saved for launch. The beta is available only for people who pre-order the game. The Xbox One beta will start first, followed by other platforms. Bethesda will share the full schedule at a later date.