Easily one of the worst trends to hit PC gaming in the last decade has been major publishers’ obsession with creating their own launchers and digital marketplaces. These are moves that have done little for the user, but make booting up a game fiddlier and more tedious.
You can see why they’ve done so from their points of view: the shopfronts give them a chance to sell things directly, rather than give a cut to Valve or Epic. The proprietary nature of the launcher means they get to have you log in to a specific account, and entangle yourself in all kinds of other locked-in stuff like digital rights management.
For us, though? It’s a huge pain in the ass. Especially when you buy and launch a game from Steam, and it then has to load a publisher’s launcher on top of that. In just the last few months I’ve been locked out of Madden 22 because EA’s Desktop App couldn’t verify my purchase, had Far Cry 6 launches held up because Ubisoft’s launcher wouldn’t let me login or sync properly, and wished for a quick death every time I’ve had to do anything with Rockstar’s launcher.
Mercifully, one publisher has now seen the light and will be ditching this approach entirely. Bethesda announced earlier today that they are “sunsetting” the Bethesda Launcher and marketplace in April, having launched them in 2016, and “migrating to Steam.”
Bethesda games have of course always been available on Steam, even when the launcher was active, but this move means that the publisher is now moving everything back to Steam. Even if you bought games directly from Bethesda, they’ll soon be transferred back to Valve’s service, in some cases (though not all) with your saved games included. There’s a FAQ under the blog if you need to know anything more.
Given Bethesda is now a Microsoft company, this is potentially exciting news for anyone who is also annoyed by the recently-purchased Activision Blizzard’s own Battle.net launcher.