News came to fans on Monday March 25th that Bethesda Softworks will be bringing their new titles, including Fallout 76, on to Steam as well as their own games launcher. Someone who has not been following Bethesda for the last few months might not think this is a big deal, but in reality, this is a first step into gaining back the support of their fans. Before we get into why exactly this is a good move on the part of Bethesda, let’s discuss why fans have lost their trust in the first place.
The Falling Out
While I think Bethesda Softworks have been doing a decent job in releasing solid games, Bethesda Game Studios (BGS) have been under a lot of fire from a once loyal fanbase. Looking back, most likely the start of fans becoming disenchanted was in 2015 on the release of a little game called “Fallout 4”. At this point in time, Fallout 4 can be seen as a mixed bag of emotions with some players saying that it lost its RPG elements such as player choice and skills progression where other players say that the game is perfectly fine and that the streamlined mechanics bring new players to the genre. Whatever your opinion is of Fallout 4, we can probably agree that this was the kindle to the fire of distrust that fans currently have for the studio.
Since the release of Fallout 4, we’ve seen a path of progressive disappointment coming from Bethesda up until now. In 2016, we saw a re-release of Skyrim which led to discussions of when fans would get Elder Scrolls VI as well as some lackluster DLC for Fallout 4. In 2017, Bethesda Softworks gave a wasteful E3 presentation with seemingly no big-hitters and an attempt to re-introduce paid mods by calling it “Creation Club”. Finally, in 2018, we get (arguably) the biggest slam of the brakes on Bethesda’s momentum by releasing a game that a hand from almost every Bethesda Studio, Fallout 76.
Fallout 76 has been piling up controversary after controversary, from a class-action lawsuit against refund policies to another lawsuit against false advertising to being an all together broken game on release. Personally, my opinion on Fallout 76 has shifted from complete disappointment to accepting that some enjoy it but Online Survival RPGs are just not my cup of tea. Whatever your opinion is on Fallout 76, objectively speaking this release has tainted the trust of both Bethesda Game Studios and (unfortunately) Bethesda Softworks. Some players have gone as far as saying Rage 2 will meet the same fate as Fallout 76 even though it will have a completely different development studio and team.
Bethesda has no doubt seen the fans’ distrust in them and most likely are looking to recover from everything since 2015. They need a Public Relations boost to make a statement to the fans: Enter Steam.
An Epic Battle
When Epic Games first announced that they would be releasing their own PC games store/launcher, both gamers and developers became intrigued as to what would come from this new competition. Epic released their launcher in hopes to be a serious competitor against Steam, who were taking a 30% cut from game sales. Epic only takes a 12% cut from game sales which they modeled to incentivize developers to bring their games on their store. They described themselves almost like the Robin Hood of gaming, taking from the greedy and giving back savings to both developers and players. This all seemed to be incredibly consumer friendly for PC gamers because competition is always good to change greedy tactics…right?
While Epic sounded as if they wanted to be the best platform for players to buy their games on, they turned into an all-consuming monster that forced players to purchase upcoming games on their feature-lacking platform. The Epic Games store obtained exclusivity deals from games such as Division 2, Metro Exodus, Ashen as well as highly anticipated titles like Control and Outer Worlds. All these games and many more to come all on a platform that does not offer mod support, achievements, or even user reviews/forums discussing opinions on games. On top of all of this, Epic has also been in the news for security breaches from hackers taking information from Fortnite users as well as Epic Games themselves data mining Steam files from clients. This all has led players from total appreciation and support for Epic’s efforts to complete backlash and controversary towards the game launcher.
While we hear more publishing companies move their games to the Epic Games Store (like all of the David Cage titles), Bethesda instead saw an opportunity within the madness.
A Step in the Right Direction
Without any sort of rumor or warning, Bethesda Softworks announced to the public that they would be bringing all of their new titles on to Steam. Not Epic, Steam! As soon as I saw this on their official Twitter account, I knew right then that Bethesda desired to gain back their trust from their fanbase. This announcement was a shocking reveal for a few reasons, but what’s most shocking is that they did not take Epic’s money.
Since the release of Fallout 76, Bethesda Game Studios especially has been thought to be greedy towards their fans. With the microtransaction store being ridiculous, the Nuka Dark Rum being a cheap plastic case, nylon bags, a silly-looking leather jacket costing $276, and many other examples. If Bethesda announced that all of their games would be coming to the Epic Games Store no one would even blink an eye. But no! Instead of following the crowd of other game publishing companies, Bethesda Softworks decided the best course of action to gain back fanbase trust is to give them exactly what they want. Instead of going for a higher pay cut from Epic, they instead opted to lose 30% of their profits to put their games on a platform that has more features for their player base to enjoy. It’s also incredibly shocking to learn that Fallout 76 will be coming to Steam even after first reporting that it will never come to Steam, Bethesda is definitely hearing you as the fans.
This does not automatically give Bethesda an “All-Is-Forgiven” card from the fanbase, but it should be recognized as a step in the right direction. This small action can lead to bigger conversations of the future trust of Bethesda games. They know players are worried about the outcome of Rage 2, they know they have to gain back momentum leading into their upcoming E3 conference, and they know sales numbers for the upcoming game “Starfield” will have everything to do with how much trust they have from their fanbase. You could also be asking yourself why didn’t they put it on Steam and Epic since they are also putting the games on their own game launcher. This is exactly why I think they are doing this as a tactic to gain back trust, they easily could have put the games on both launchers and instead they knew that they needed to stay far away from controversy to get out of their own situation.
Whether or not this is a PR tactic to bring us back into trusting the Bethesda brand, we can at least say this is a fantastic move from them. I still say we should keep a close eye as to what their next move is, especially with their E3 Showcase being a couple months away. But until then we should sit back, enjoy Rage 2 on Steam, and wait for the inevitable announcement that Skyrim is coming to Stadia!