While digging through the Twitter replies of Bethesda’s marketing boss Pete Hines, fans found a tidbit about Fallout 4 that will be of note to some PC gamers. Even if you buy the game on disc, a bit of downloading will still be required, and it has to go through Steam.
“You will still have to download from Steam. The disc doesn’t contain the entire game,” he said in reply to a fan question. Why? It’s a combination of DRM and limited storage space on DVDs, he says. The PC version requires activation on Steam, while consoles do not. Additionally, console games ship on Blu-ray discs with their massive capacity, while PC games are still stuck on DVD thanks in large part to Steam for slowing down the physical PC games market to a near halt.
The DRM part makes sense. While people are going to pirate the game one way or another, Steam is a ubiquitous, free platform that most buyers will already have installed on their computers. It might not be as consumer friendly as just letting you install the game, but it’s realistically going to affect a very tiny part of the potential audience. The Steam activation also ensures that your copy is registered safely somewhere in case someone puts your disc in the microwave.
The second part, about capacity, though, doesn’t really hold water for me. There are only a few reasons people still buy discs. Some are just plain suspicious of digital ownership. Others like to have the box on their shelf just for the sake of having it. The third, and most important group here, is the gamer that lives outside a major city. If you live in one of the pop-up communities outside a metropolitan area, on a smaller island, or something like that, your options for fast internet might be significantly limited. Buying a disc is supposed to ensure that you don’t have to download a hojillion gigabytes of game data. Increasingly though, that’s not the case. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was simply a box with a code in it so that they could have shelf space for the game.
Even with that becoming more common, it doesn’t have to be that way. Grand Theft Auto V shipped on something like 7 or 8 DVDs. This is a cost-saving measure, pure and simple. For most fans, it’ll hardly be a bother, but it’s still a surprise from a company that generally takes good care of their fans. But then, it’d be a big surprise if PC gamers buying discs made up more than a very small fraction of their sales. There’s no word yet on how big the download will be, but we’ll find out when the game releases on November 10 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.