In some parts of the world, Fallout 4 is already out. Those lucky players can go out into the Commonwealth right now and blast some Radroaches, if they’d like. Everyone else, though? They have to wait...unless they know of a loophole.
Savvy internet users are probably already aware of “virtual private networks,” or VPNs, and they are exactly what they sound like—computers networked together over a public network. Here’s how Lifehacker explains it:
Businesses use VPNs to connect remote datacenters, and individuals can use VPNs to get access to network resources when they’re not physically on the same LAN (local area network), or as a method for securing and encrypting their communications when they’re using an untrusted public network.
When you connect to a VPN, you usually launch a VPN client on your computer (or click a link on a special website), log in with your credentials, and your computer exchanges trusted keys with a far away server. Once both computers have verified each other as authentic, all of your internet communication is encrypted and secured from eavesdropping.
If you’re following along here, the usage in this case is obvious: people are using VPNs to trick Steam into thinking that their account is in a different region—like say, New Zealand, where Fallout 4 is already out. As of this writing, the top thread on the Fallout 4 subreddit is about VPN, and people on neoGAF are also reporting attempts to unlock the game early. Many users say they got it to work, and thanks to VPNs, they are now playing Fallout 4 early. Not only are people guiding each other through the VPN set-up process online, they’re also reporting that some of the services they’ve tried are overloaded, presumably because many people are trying this workaround. Some people also claim they’re shelling out money to buy VPN services.
While Fallout 4 is not unique in this phenomenon—people have been known to use VPN to unlock games early, and some players even try this trick to try to take advantage of region-based pricing on Steam—Fallout 4 still appears to have a larger-than-usual outpouring of players looking into VPN, judging from the threads percolating online. I’ve never seen this many people discussing VPNs to unlock a major game before, but the fact this is happening is not surprising, given that Fallout 4 is the biggest game of the year.
What makes this entire thing particularly interesting is that players are doing the VPN trick even though it’s well-known that the Steam terms of service prohibit it. Here’s the Steam subscriber agreement on the very subject:
You agree that you will not use IP proxying or other methods to disguise the place of your residence, whether to circumvent geographical restrictions on game content, to purchase at pricing not applicable to your geography, or for any other purpose. If you do this, we may terminate your access to your Account.
That is to say: you could get Fallout 4 early, but you’d be risking your entire account to do it. The fact the game is out later today for everyone isn’t dissuading some people from trying VPNs though, and that’s a testament to how much hype Fallout 4 has garnered (and how lax people claim Valve is about VPN usage).
I can’t really blame anyone for being this bold, though. Thanks to the ample Fallout 4 leaks floating around since earlier this month, the internet has been on full-on Fallout 4 mode for a while now. Some people have even had the unfortunate luck of getting spoiled on the ending already, based on PSAs on Reddit and emails we’ve personally gotten on Kotaku complaining about it. The wait is probably unbearable for some people, even if it’s now the shortest it’s been all year!