Bethesda is ready to blow off Steam. According to an FAQ page for Fallout 76, the next entry in its sci-fi RPG series, the game's beta and full release will be distributed via the Bethesda website, but not on Steam. The game's pre-order page also allows you to select Best Buy, Amazon, GameStop and Walmart as your retailer if you're in the U.S. and playing on PC; different retailers are listed based on location and platform.
Steam really has been the platform of choice for Bethesda over the last few years. Major titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Fallout 4 and Bethesda-published games like the Dishonored series have all been distributed through the Valve platform. It's possible the company is looking to determine whether or not it needs Steam to reach most of its audience, or if people will be content to purchase its games without involving Valve.
One possible motivation behind ditching Steam could simply be that Bethesda doesn't want to give Valve a cut of Fallout 76's earnings. Publishers often avoid established platforms, like Epic Games recently did with the Android version of Fortnite, because they don't want to participate in revenue sharing programs. But the decision to sell the PC version of the game via retailers like Best Buy and Walmart undermines that theory.
It's worth noting that Bethesda could decide to bring Fallout 76 to PC gamers via Steam, GOG and other platforms when the game is ready to officially debut. The company said on the FAQ page that any of the information it contains is "subject to change without notice." So if the game's audience negatively reacts to not being able to buy via Steam, Bethesda could end up bringing Fallout 76 to the platform.
Fallout 76's beta is expected to launch at "a later date." Bethesda said on its FAQ page that if everything goes according to plan, the beta version of the game will become the full version at launch, allowing those who helped fine tune the game to keep their progress between versions. The game is set to debut on November 14. But considering that seemingly every major release has been delayed this year, we'll believe it when we see it.