Publisher-made game launchers are usually just a minor annoyance, a speed bump for those who just want to play the game they bought. 2K’s launcher, popping up by default when you launch Firaxis’ newest XCOM-meets-superhero-friendship Marvel’s Midnight Suns, does something worse, hindering performance significantly for some players.
RockPaperShotgun’s James Archer measured his higher-end PC’s performance while playing Midnight Suns, both with the default 2K launcher left in place and with it bypassed through a Steam command option. Archer saw a nearly 62 percent improvement in average frames per second without the 2K launcher active. On a system with a Core i9-10900K, RTX 3090, and 32GB of DDR4 memory, running at 1400p with ray tracing and the graphic quality set to “Epic,” Archer’s average frames per second jumped from 90 fps to 146. The only difference was disabling a launcher that essentially reminds you who published the game, markets other titles to you, and requires more clicks.
I’m playing through Midnight Suns myself and had noticed some aggravating stutter, especially when streaming the game for couch-based TV play. I turned on Steam’s built-in FPS counter, then compared performance between sessions both with and without the 2K launcher running. I’m running a decidedly lower-end system than the one tested by RockPaperShotgun: AMD Ryzen 7 3800X, RTX 3050, and 16GB of DDR4 memory. I am, however, playing at 3840×2160 resolution, with graphics set to “High.”
With 2K’s storefront tollgate turned off, I, too, saw a notable bump. Standing in the same place on the Abbey grounds, letting the torches flicker, the stream wisp by, and the framerate settle, I went from 48 to 58 frames per second, a nearly 21 percent increase with the launcher disabled. And the hitching I experienced before—easily noticed through audio stutter—seemed either missing or far less noticeable.
Details on how to launch Midnight Suns directly from Steam without the 2K launcher are included in RockPaperShotgun’s post; it’s essentially browsing the game’s files, finding the core launcher a few folders in, and asking Steam to launch with that file path in the “Launch Options” field. There are, sadly, no similarly simple workarounds for those who purchased the game on the Epic Games Store (or, of course, through the 2K launcher).
It’s a strange gamble that customers will appreciate the knowledge of a publisher’s offerings more than avoiding click-through splash screens and a potential performance tax, but it’s one that PC gaming companies keep making. Rockstar mandated its launcher for specific games in 2019. Ubisoft’s Connect launcher was blamed for many Far Cry 6 performance issues. EA’s Origin launcher similarly hampered Mass Effect 3 at launch. Bethesda gave up on its launcher by May 2022, more for sales reasons than technical issues.