Expect More AAA PC Games to Not Launch on Steam
“Fallout 76 will not be launching on Steam.” The entire PC gaming community gasped. Not putting your game on Steam is one of the biggest cardinal sins you can make! Many cried out, wanting to know why Bethesda would do this, why they would cripple their game before it even came out by skipping Steam?
It makes sense why people are confused by this choice. Every other Fallout game, and for that matter nearly every Bethesda game, has found a home on Steam along with Bethesda’s own launcher and online store. Yet, the choice to not launch the game on Steam is completely valid, and one we’ll likely see much more often from other big name AAA games. It’s not just a blind decision either, here are some reasons why it’s happening.
Steam is King, But Quality Games Can Pull People Away
When it comes to PC gaming, Steam is the leader for buying digital versions of a game. It’s simple to use, has a nice design to it, and nearly everybody has it. Other companies have tried to compete with their own platforms, many online retailers simply sell keys to redeem on Steam, and a major portion of the gaming industry does business with it.
But many major publishers are realizing that people are willing to work through a different launcher/store to get the games they really want. Look at some of the biggest games in the industry and you’ll find a few not on Steam. Fortnite, the biggest game around, isn’t on Steam, but on Epic Games own launcher.
If a publisher makes a very popular game, markets it well, and people want to play it, they could put it on nearly any store and make sales. Steam is useful for this, but isn’t essential. Hosting the game on their own platform and store can bring a lot of benefits to them.
More Control Over Marketing and Gathering More Data
When listing a video game on Steam, or other online store, you are limited by their format. You can have a few trailers or videos, some images, a couple of paragraphs of text to describe the game, and other important info. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room when it comes to marketing the game on its main store page.
Hosting the game on your own store or platform gives you the ability to try new things. Publishers could change up the marketing and buying experience for their game. Viral marketing campaigns on their website could easily lead people directly to buying the game instead of requiring going to a different store or website people would prefer to buy it on. The purchase page could have it’s own unique element to build both the game and the publisher’s branding, instead of being restricted by Steam’s format. That branding can help games stand out, and heavily influence the buying decision process.
Another major benefit, especially for marketing a game, is gathering more data. Big data plays a massive role in all business, including video games. Steam provides developers and publishers with a limited amount of data on what is happening with their game. But hosting a game on their own website and launcher, game makers and marketers can learn a lot more about those playing their game. They can see data like how many people have even looked at their website, what pages they spend the most time on, and other useful marketing information.
Not Sharing Profits
Putting a game up on Steam means that every sale you make on Steam, they take a percentage. The normal percentage is 30 percent, but specific games and publishers might get a better deal.
But game developers and publishers don’t want to share 30 percent of their sales. They want it all for themselves.
Let’s look at Fallout 4 as an example. Within the first 24 hours of its release, Fallout 4 sold 1.2 million copies on Steam alone. Initial sale price was $59.99, excluding any season pass or other deals. That means Steam pocketed a little over 25 million dollars in a single day, money I’m sure Bethesda would rather keep.
Better Control of the Game and Its Players
Whenever a game has to work with another company or party, it slows things down. Steam has to approve things in order to go live, customers often complain on Steam about problems or bugs with a game, and developers often have to play catch-up.
According to Bethesda, a big reason they are forgoing Steam for Fallout 76 is so they can have better control over their online game. They will have better control of the game and be more connected with their players. If a player wants to file a complaint, it will be on Bethesda’s forums or customer support, not Steam’s. This could help speed up solutions and communication by excluding a third-party platform.
It also allows game companies better control over their game’s growth and development. They can quickly fix a bug or flaw on the game without needing to coordinate with Steam or other third parties. For example, on consoles, a patch or update has to be approved before it can go live by the console’s company: Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo. That’s time players are stuck playing a bugged or broken game. Without that weight, the developer can fix the game and update it without that weight. For online games like Fallout 76, that quick response time is essential.
Will It Work?
Don’t be surprised if more big title games opt to ditch Steam for their own release. Especially for launch day, these game companies want as much money as they can get.
But also, don’t be surprised if someday down the line, those games do come to Steam. After the initial hype has died down and people have moved on from the game, it makes sense to put the game wherever they can make extra money. People who abstained from buying because it wasn’t on Steam will then buy it on Steam.
As the years go on, expect Steam to still be a major contender, but also be ready to download multiple launchers to your PC for other AAA games.