Some of the AAA titles coming out in recent times have forgone the inclusion of the Steam client. In fact, more and more games are completely bypassing Steam altogether. But why? Well, it turns out that not every major publisher needs to rely on Steam to connect with consumers, and apparently Fallout 76 is one of those games. Speaking with Gamespot, Bethesda's VP of marketing, Pete Hines, explained that it was all about establishing a direct relationship with consumers, which is why the game won't be on Valve's platform:
Well, [it's] because of the kind of game it is. Because it's an online, always-on game-as-a-service. Based on our experience based on other things that we've done, we felt like having a direct relationship with our customers was super important to us. And so doing it through Bethesda.net, exclusively, allows us to have that one-to-one relationship with customers, that quite honestly you don't always have when you go through another third-party where they might own the relationship with the customer in terms of being able to email them or to reach out directly and contact them.
I'm not entirely sure why this actually prohibits Fallout 76 from being on Steam and on Bethesda's own launcher as two separate entities. Wouldn't this mean that Bethesda can maintain the direct one-to-one relationship it wants through its own launcher while also still servicing everyone using Steam?
Of course, Gamespot does address the dual launcher situation by stating that Hines explained to them that keeping the game on just one launcher simplifies things for Bethesda.
In a way that makes a lot of sense given how some games operate and what sort of problems we see them running into when attempting to port the game to multiple platforms. Some of you might be saying, "But Fortnite runs on a bunch of platforms!" but it actually doesn't. Epic keeps the game contained to its own launcher for the most part, and avoids using other third-party launchers such as Google Play or even Steam. Also, Fortnite had a scattered release across multiple platforms, it wasn't a simultaneous release.
It's still possible that we could see Fallout 76 on Steam depending on how sales go, and depending on how well Bethesda gets a handle on maintaining and prioritizing the optimization of the game.
Fallout 76 is a departure from the traditional game series, even much more so than Fallout 3 was from Fallout 2. Instead of being a single-player adventure, the game is a multiplayer adventure that is themed around PvP encounters. Also, the game has no NPCs whatsoever. This means that everyone occupying the game will be another player, and any sellers, vendors, thieves, guilds, and quest-givers will have to be another player.
This could end up being a really big game or a really interesting release given that the traditional Fallout fan is interested in a single-player role-playing experience, similar to the Mass Effect games. Departing from the common structure that the developers typically used and veering into MMO territory could net Bethesda a dedicated audience the way Elder Scrolls Online has, or it could end up moving in the opposite direction. We'll find out when the game launches exclusively through Bethesda's launcher for home consoles and PC this November.