Report: Steam Cracks Down On Price-Dodging Gifting

This image represents Steam.

Here’s a thing which may mean absolutely nothing to you: Steam is reportedly now region-locking gift copies of every game. If you don’t know what that means, don’t sweat it – you’re probably not affected. If you do know some of those words and do care, I’ll explain. Basically, it’s to stop folks buying games from the Steam stores of countries where things are cheaper. While a change like this has clearly been a long time coming, it’s supposedly happening now in response to the Russian ruble’s current problems.

One popular trick to getting cheap games has been getting someone in a region with lower prices to buy a game then gift it to them, often paying in virtual goods that like item chest keys, which have relatively stable value in Steam’s weird barter economy. This cyberfuture is weird. Not any more. Valve has divided the world into groups, which broadly mean that folks where games are expensive can’t use gift copies of games from countries where games are cheaper. It seems the divisions are based on both economic and geographic factors; see this Reddit post with examples of the boundaries.

As for the word of Russia, that comes from something that’s reported to be an explanation posted by Valve on Steam dev forums. You might’ve heard that Russia’s currency is going through difficult times, suddenly dropping and therefore making games a lot cheaper for folks in other countries buying ‘gift’ copies.

Oh gosh it’s late and I don’t want to get into arguments about relative economies so here, have a big quote from that post which isn’t confirmed but isn’t disputed either:

As most of you know, our developer tools suggest pricing based on marketing research and purchasing power parity. In the case of territories such as Russia, Brazil, and SE Asia, we suggested pricing that is lower than the direct USD conversion. This is based on our assessment of actual pricing of comparable products in that market …

What we are doing immediately in response to the Ruble drop is limiting trading and gifting from Russia to prevent people from taking advantage of the situation.

Unfortunately, this does also mean that folks who live in certain countries can’t legitimately gift games to pals in better-off places. And while lots of folks were trying to get games cheap in a way they knew was iffy and Valve would eventually crack down on, I do feel a little sympathy for folks in certain countries from whom it was a way round prices set bafflingly high by Steam’s sometimes-odd regional pricing. Still, Steam is Valve’s playground and what they say goes. Regional pricing is another problem to tackle another time it’s late and I’m tired and is that wine?

144 Comments

  1. angrym0b says:

    I expect it is a different thing, but does anyone know if this have any impact on those cheap CD key sites that you hear about?

    • HunterPT says:

      Nop, this only affects transactions inside steam, and only those between certain regions, so in short there is still a a ton of ways to get cheaper copies.

      • UmmonTL says:

        I’d guess they’ll also make it harder to activate keys from different regions to stop these sites. Simply having to use a proxy once to activate a key from russia or bulgaria is a pretty low barrier. Making the game unplayable would be a different thing altogether.
        I got suckered in twice by sites that I thought were legitimately having a good deal only to later find out I bought a russian or bulgarian key. Although they’d probably keep selling them and not care that the customers can’t even play the games.

        • HunterPT says:

          That sort of lock is on the developer side, developers can use the tag that only allows a game to be run in a certain country, and when they do that you are required to use the VPN to download and play the game.
          I suppose what they could do in the future is require the user to have been in a certain region for an x amount of time before they can activate games, this is OFC a change that would also affect legitimate users, but so does the change in this news post and others they have implemented before.

          As for dodgy key websites, yeah unfortunately that is a reality, however there are also quite a few legitimate ones, like nuuvem which has seen a huge increase, it helps that if you buy from there you know that’s a Brazilian copy and as such you just need to know what locks the Brazilian retail version has.

        • FCA says:

          Steam regional pricing is a mess. Having moved between continents twice, I am somewhat apprehensive that at some point Valve is going to ban me or something for trying to take advantage of regional pricing. Even more worrying is that I now live in a state with some quite infamous censorship on games, meaning I have somehow “illegal” games in my steam inventory (bought of course, while residing in a different country).

          What I found weird is that my Steam wallet is filled with dollars (recently filled up with sales from trading cards), but it doesn’t let me buy stuff with it, because I’m in the Eurozone. The weirdest part for me, is that my credit card is still registered in a different country (long story… bank told me it was the only way…), but then Steam refuses to sell to me unless I lie and state that I still live in that country, and then proceed to charge me based on me living there! Meaning that I pay less then the price it’s advertised for in the region I currently live (but still am unable to pay with the Steam wallet). All in all a recipe for banning, especially with this crackdown, but it’s the only convenient way of paying for my games.

    • sicemma says:

      Depends, sometimes you’re as likely to get a copy as a traded gift through a url that automatically sends a bot to gift to you, sometimes as a scanned or typed code for activation. Can’t imagine it simplifies their model.

      Personally I thought this was a much less ratfucky thing for steam to do until their actual explanation:

      “Because of the collapse of the CIS currency, we are now restricting gifts from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Bahamas, Belize, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, Suriname, El Salvador, Uruguay and Venezuela.”

      Oh of course, that makes sense.

      • pepperfez says:

        Never let a crisis go to waste.

        • sicemma says:

          Bizarrely enough looking around at one of the key sites, the prices of ASIA and RU/CIS region keys seems to have gone up since I was looking around just before they woke up to this change, to the point where a few are now actually more expensive to get than the US/EU key.

  2. LionsPhil says:

    “Got friends in another country in this global world of ubiquitous, near-free international communication?

    Well FUCK YOU!”

    I assume the UK and US are probably in the same bucket, but this is a lousy move.

    • airmikee says:

      Yeah, how dare Steam take the step to protect publishers and developers from people buying games in Russia when they actually live in America or the UK. The only people that will really be affected by this are cheapskates with tiny wallets.

      • Emeraude says:

        But it’s totally fair that said companies can do the same for workforce or even benefits to avoid taxes.

        I mean the global market is only bad when consumer can make use of it to threaten companies interests the way those threaten workforce and social bodies.

        • airmikee says:

          Hahahahahahaha, omg, linking video games to workers rights, you must be desperate for an argument.

          • Emeraude says:

            I’m comparing a good or service – video game – with another – workforce.

            At least I have an argument, which is more than you can say.

          • airmikee says:

            So I have no argument, and you admit you’re trying to argue with me. Why bother, if as you say, I have no argument? You’re an easy block. :)

          • Emeraude says:

            I’m not arguing with you, I’m just using you as a wall to rebound arguments for other people that might read the thread, and might otherwise be negatively impacted by your spouting bullshit.

          • Universal Quitter says:

            I’m always impressed when someone manages to stand out as a contentious little shit, online.

            You have to try for that to happen.

          • Hex says:

            Where’s pepperfez when you need it….

          • jrodman says:

            @Universal Quitter: I was going to say that you must be frequently impressed, but I guess you’re saying it’s a standout even given?

          • P.Funk says:

            Right, because workers rights is unrelated to an industry that employs workers and which is notorious for treating said workers very poorly.

            Nevertheless its a potent argument. The entire globalized economy is praised by economists and political commentators who favour it because they say its makes things more competitive, makes things cheaper, and any attempts to region lock corporations and companies is called anti-competitive and protectionist.

            Well guess what, everytime there is a consumer equivalent to that they come up with laws that would be called anti-competitive or protectionist if applied to the producers. Consumers simply do not have the same rights in the global economy. The value of globalization is clearly not relevant to the individual, only to the business class and those whose accumulated wealth is sufficient to play in this market.

            You might say that tying gaming to global economics is stupid but Valve just did that exact thing. They just said that because of economic downturns in Russia and the weakness of the Ruble they’re responding. Why would we not want to discuss the nature of how globalization affects the various parts of the economy?

            The counter argument to globalization is that it is permitting corporations to use lower living standards in other parts of the world to force workers to compete with one another, where those in better off places are now forced to either ask for less to compete with those in weaker economies. Of course those in favour of globalization say thats good for the economy. When you replace worker with consumer for some reason its bad for the economy. I wonder why?

        • rcguitarist says:

          Yes, because those game development studios all outsource thier art and programming work to sweatshops in china. Lol.

          • Emeraude says:

            Whether they do or not (and no need to even mention China, Canada with it’s tax incentive is enough, is it not ?), they can. And the fact that they can is generally presented as indisputable.

            But obviously consumers can’t. That would be awful.

          • P.Funk says:

            In an economy based on digital transactions and based on digitized information its obvious to anyone who doesn’t just want to be flippant that the potential for globalization to affect people even in educated professions is great.

          • Jim9137 says:

            Companies are already outsourcing plenty of their concept art and game art to China, so it’s not that uncommon, to be honest.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            Yes that is definitely something that happens …. lol?

        • Joshua Northey says:

          Does your workplace accept rubles for purchases without making exchange rate adjustments? Would you want to be paid in rubles? If not shut up.

          • Emeraude says:

            Can my potential employer use the fact it can employ other people in another part of the world without making exchange rate adjustments to diminish my bargaining power over my own workforce?
            Can it just fire me, make a bigger profit and declare its benefits in another country so it doesn’t have to pay taxes, while still using and profiting from the infrastructure of the state to which I and it- at least nominally – belong?

            Yes, it can. So you do kindly shut up.

            Would you want to be paid in rubles?

            I have and will probably again – though given the state of the Russian economy, barter as often proven easier.

        • Jeroen D Stout says:

          Hear, hear, Emeraude. Not comfortable with this century of company worship.

      • Zallgrin says:

        As someone who has bought an entire inventory full of items as part of preparation for Christmas and planned to gift it to friends in Russia – seriously, shut up. I am really pissed, because I really loved this tradition of giving far-away friends something sweet for the holidays.

        I still have GOG, but it’s really not the same. I get fucked over because of stupid bullshit… and I mean I get that this is a serious legitimate problem. But I hate being caught in the middle.

        Besides, I still don’t see the problem with me gifting people in Russia my copies, since they cost more here than in Russia anyway. It sucks.

        • airmikee says:

          So you’re a cheapskate with a tiny wallet that abused a countries unfortunate currency crisis to profit for yourself, and you think that makes you look like the good guy in this situation? I’ve taken your advice to shutup under consideration, and have deemed it to be wholly unnecessary, but thanks for the suggestion. :)

          • Ansob says:

            Gosh, I don’t know about you, but I sure am glad that airmikee is there to stand up for those poor, bullied AAA publishers. How dare those evil consumers want to get the benefits of globalisation! That’s just not fair.

          • airmikee says:

            RE: Ansob

            Your tears.

            They feed me.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Easiest block in a while.

            to friends in Russia

            Reading comprehension, dumbass.

          • Emeraude says:

            @LionsPhil

            Not a reading comprehension issue – s/he’s not even trying to understand, just pure low brow trolling, given the posts in this thread.

          • Niko says:

            Gee, I wonder if aimekee is also a selfless defender of ehtics in gamer journalism.

          • Sonntam says:

            By your definition all the comments here are trolling.

            It’s not unreasonable to ask that the gift block goes only from Russia to other countries and not the other way around. If someone in Europe wants to spend a lot of money on game and then give those games to countries like Russia, why stop them?

            It may be a bit more technologically difficult, but the idea is logically sound.

          • Emeraude says:

            @Sonntam

            If it was the only post I would have gone with reading or even misunderstanding issue, given the posting history – as I mentioned – I do think trolling is a fair assessment.

        • Press X to Gary Busey says:

          In the reddit link it lists the restrictions and anything bought in Japanese Yen, Norwegian Krone, Canadian Dollar, U.S. Dollar, British Pound, Euros Tier 1 or Tier 2 has no activation restrictions.
          So you can gift to any region if you bought from one of those but they can’t gift you back.

          Edit: It seems like the lock is not applied to gifts purchased before the change (whenever that was).

        • Philomelle says:

          I conducted an experiment with a friend. You can still gift things to your friends in RU/CIS countries and we can activate those gifts just fine. It’s us who cannot gift things to anyone else in the world.

          Thankfully, I can still use Humble for my Christmas gifting because it doesn’t have a Russian regional store and keys I receive from there are from the US region. Still pretty annoying to deal with and means I accidentally missed nine days of Christmas gifting due to not paying attention to that sale.

        • Rindan says:

          You can still gift to Russia. They just can’t gift to you.

        • MechanicalPen says:

          Well, the announcement only mentions trading FROM Russia, so you still might be able to gift things TO people in Russia. Try it and see.

      • s0nicfreak says:

        Uhm, no. I actually have tons of international gaming friends and we regularly gift each other games simply because we are friends. Or because we want to play together and buy a pack. I have never used gifting in a scammy way, and this affects me.

        Honesty I’d prefer they add on a gift fee if the person is sending internationally, so that those of us legitimately trying to send gifts to international friends/family can still do so. Make the fee game-dependant; make the total price equal what it would cost to just buy the game in the region it’s being sent to.

        • kav2k says:

          Same boat here.

          Blessed be the publishers that also sell on Humble Store – I can at least pay a high price but still be able to gift stuff.

      • fish99 says:

        Yes let’s condemn everyone who ever wanted to pay less for anything as a cheapskate. I’m sure you only ever buy games on release day direct from Steam at full price.

        • airmikee says:

          Maybe you don’t understand the definition of ‘cheapskate’?

          define: cheapskate
          a stingy person.

          Since you’re new to English let’s go ahead and define ‘stingy’ for you as well.

          define: stingy
          unwilling to give or spend; ungenerous.

          One that is unwilling to spend the fair market value for their region certainly qualifies as a cheapskate, at least according to the English definition of the word.

          • emperor_nero says:

            Fair market value is decided by the market in a capitalist economy (in theory). If this is a big enough problem to do something about then that says something about fair market value. It isn’t fair market value to have a monopoly set the price. That is why the Pay What You Want model has become so huge. There are always going to be those people that pay one cent for it, but those people are in the minority. There is also something to be said about a consumer that doesn’t look for a good deal and research their options.

            It seems though that you’re just being a dick for the sake of it though, so it’s fairly irrelevant discussion to have.

          • Pantalaimon says:

            These are digital commodities, they’re sold on a global market, the ‘fair’ market value is the cheapest they are available to someone, somewhere. At least until they made this change.

            However, this is not as doom and gloom as people are pointing out. All UK and EU users who suffer the ridiculous localised pricing will still be able to trade with North American traders.

          • fish99 says:

            Then by your own definition if you ever waited to pick up a game in a sale or looked for a retailer selling a game cheaper, you are also a cheapskate.

            The reality is games have different value to different people based on their tastes and interests. If I pick up a game at £10 on nuuvem but didn’t buy it when it was £15 on steam, that’s because it wasn’t worth £15 to me, and I was never going to buy it at that price, so no one has actually lost out. Some people paid £200 for Elite. To me it’s worth maybe £20 since I’m not into space sims. That’s just reality, I was never going to pay £200 for it.

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            Can’t speak for the rest of the internet, but I’d rather be a cheapskate than be completely unsympathetic to every single real, living, feeling person on the face of the planet who’s definitions of what is fair or just differ even slightly from my own. Let’s not even get into the possibility of people actually wanting to use Steam’s gift function for, yknow, giving people in other countries gifts. Generally condemning a massive number of people entirely off-hand just because their financial situations or definitions of a fair price are something you don’t share and thus don’t understand? I’m grumpy and I haven’t been to bed, but I’m pretty sure that’s one hell of a dick move no matter what time of day it is.
            And no, I’ve never used Steam’s gift function to buy something cheaper from another country. No, I don’t necessarily think doing that is altogether right. But up until now it’s been allowed and not even difficult and so people have used it that way. If valve are changing the rules, that’s fine and well, their call. But my girlfriend of seven years lives about 5000 miles away and gaming together is one of the few things we can do that allows for actual honest-to-god interaction, so we sure as hell like to buy eachother games. This move might not affect us specifically – in fact it probably won’t – but I’m in a position where I can easily understand how it WILL affect people like us, so I’m not going around telling people they have no right to be upset about it, even if it hasn’t upset me personally.
            I’m similarly not going around telling people that if they can’t or won’t buy things at their most expensive, they’re cheapskates. Because again, even though this move doesn’t affect me personally, I can understand too well how it could.

            For the love of god, it’s called empathy, you should try looking up THAT in the dictionary.

            Yes, I’m mad.

        • rcguitarist says:

          Games are at their fair market value. If a game released with a price of $500 do you think many people would buy it and the developer/publisher would make any money…no. If a game released with a price of a penny do you think the developer/publisher would be able to cover development cost and pay it’s employees…no. Game companies price games at what they know the majority of people will buy them at. If they didn’t they would go out of business.

          • fish99 says:

            Who decides what market value is though? If EA are selling DA:I at a ridiculously inflated £50 on origin, and it’s also £30 on simply cd-keys, which of those is the market value? If the publisher is going to manipulate the market by restricting availability and limiting competition, I’m not going to feel bad about trying to circumvent that.

          • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

            Anchoring is a powerful thing. Most gamers still believe games should all cost $60 because that’s what they’ve cost for a long time, and because gamers believe they should cost $60, devs release them for that price. Release the game for more, and you’ll be tarred and feathered, even if every reviewer would say that your game for $60 is great value; release for less, and your game will be considered cheap, for better and for worse, regardless of its actual qualities.

            Indie gaming has muddled this somewhat, but it seems we’re just settling on new $5, $10, $15 value tiers and games will get just as slagged for being sold on the ‘wrong’ tier.

            The solution is, of course, to go Paradox and release the game for $40 but then offer like $200 of expansions and DLCs. People get so confused they have to actually consider what the game is like.

          • socrate says:

            People seem to forget that video game are now digital and no longer material this alone should have dropped the price by 60% which alots of people claimed it would do and yet it never happened because people still paid that price for them…in reality they no longer have the cost of alots of the older workforce they had to pay and no longer the cost of material needed…so saying that video game have a fair price is just insane.

            People also seem to forget that the profit from country like russia and south america was stupidly insane for tons of AAA title…and yet they keep publishing there and hiring voice actor for these country…i just don’t get how people don’t realise that the gaming industry keep exploiting them over and over again and think that they make a loss publishing their game in these country….ffs i knew people were stupid but not to that point.

            The thing that make no sense here is that as long as they benefit from it you can do it aka me buying a game for someone in russia or south america….if its the opposite its not allowed….thats the mentality of rich country..it wont be a problem cause its not one now….who care if you pay a product 500% or more the cost of production since we have that kind of money…must be ok since we have more money..ffs

      • HunterPT says:

        Actually valve had already provided the tools for developers to not allow cross region trading, which was/is in fact called “AllowCrossRegionTradingAndGifting”, but a lot of developers actually chose to not use this, which is clearly evidenced by the fact valve once made the mistake of applying a similar lock on several games, and several developers complained about it, adding to that I believe the default behavior when creating a steam package was that it was locked by default.

        This move is only part of the wave of recent changes that valve has been implementing regarding trading.

        It started with valve removing the ability to directly trade copies of games (for the first 30 days), a change which really only benefited valve itself, since it didn’t change anything for developers, all it did was take the blame from valve when things went wrong, like say when a seller bought the gifted copy with a stolen credit card (or did a charge back), before this valve was actually kind of partly responsible, since the user made a transaction using valve system, while with the new method the user gave the items away without directly receiving anything in return, and said illegal copy was gifted to him, so the buyer couldn’t have possibly lost anything, after all he didn’t trade for it directly.

        The second change which I believe hasn’t entered in effect yet is that all items from CS, TF2 and Dota 2 now have a 1 week lock from the date of purchase, this OFC is also not in the benefit of the developers since well developers don’t handle any of this things.

        This latest change described in the post as I mentioned also doesn’t benefit the developers, because the developers were always able to lock down trading between regions.

        P.S. Not that I blame valve mind you, just saying that this changes are for their benefit not for the benefit of the developer/user

      • kevinspell says:

        Tell that to people living in countries labeled as EUR1 or EUR2 who have 5 to 10 times lower income compared to US or UK. The simple fact is if they cut the supply of cheap gifts and cd-keys in those countries piracy will once again explode since people can not afford 50€ for a new game.

        • Rwlyra says:

          @kevinspell – exactly this. I bought games from CIS vendors because the pricing they set for eastern europe completely beats my financial possibilities :P
          When I discovered steam trading I was like “cool, I can get non-pirated games now”! Oh well

      • Dilapinated says:

        “cheapskates with tiny wallets”

        So.. “poor people”, m’lord?

      • Myrdinn says:

        Please crawl somewhere and stay gone for a long time.

      • Kruleworld says:

        Quote: “Yeah, how dare Steam take the step to protect publishers and developers from people buying games in Russia when they actually live in America or the UK”
        So why does Steam have to charge ME more because i don’t live there? How is that fair?

  3. HunterPT says:

    “One popular trick to getting cheap games – whether for the buyer or to trade in Steam’s weird barter economy – has been to use a VPN (some Internet magic that lets you connect via other computers) to pretend to be in e.g. Russia and set up a Steam account to buy cheap copies and send them to your main account. Folks doing that could get games a lot cheaper.”

    Actually most people didn’t do that, what you had were people from Russia buying copies on demand, so if say someone from the UK wanted a copy at the CIS region (Russia, Ukraine and so on) price, they would contact said Russian and ask him how much that copy costs, he would give him the price (usually TF2 or CS:GO keys) and they would trade, or since steam locked trading of copies, the buyer would trade the keys to the seller, and the seller would gift the copy to the buyer.
    The method you described (and the method I described but with VPN) is still working just fine, since while using a VPN steam thinks you are in fact in the region of the VPN, just like using VPN still works to activate and or play region locked copies of games.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Yep, sorry, it’s late and I am so tired and grumpy.

      • HunterPT says:

        Not a problem.

        Should also be said that using a VPN on steam is a violation of their TOS, and as such they can take what ever measures they deem necessary.

        Also the lock isn’t just with trading, if I’m not mistaken they also locked down the markets between regions, on the day this happened for example the EU/US market was seeing a huge drop on the price of keys, from what was basically an all time high to a very low value (for a time where there was no sale on), while at the same time the prices of keys in the CIS region was increasing. Although the drop seems to have been mostly market speculation, given that the key prices quickly rose up to normal levels, but OFC quickly fell again due to the winter sale.

  4. sinister agent says:

    You insist on a market controlled by one company, you get a market controlled by one company.

    • airmikee says:

      Who insisted on a market controlled by one company? And who thinks a company that has a 70% share controls an entire market?

      • sinister agent says:

        The legion of people bleating about only buying anything if it’s on steam, and 70% is pretty much running the show in a market of non-transferable goods.

        • Kempston Wiggler says:

          Yep.

          For a while you couldn’t mention a new game around here without several voices piping up to ask IS IT ON STEAM? WHAT ABOUT STEAM? WILL THEY BE RELEASING THIS ON STEAM? DESURA, WHAT? NO LOVE FOR STEAM???

          • airmikee says:

            That’s just a fantasy the two of you have constructed in your minds. Please, find these legions of commenters and post some links, otherwise this is just cognitive dissonance working itself out of your systems in the RPS comments.

          • Emeraude says:

            Given you’re the minority here, I’ll take the wager that the mistake (not cognitive dissonance, thats not what it is) is on your side.

            There *has* been numerous comments here and elsewhere of people not wanting to buy games on PC if they weren’t on Steam.

          • ScottTFrazer says:

            Guilty as charged.

            I think my game ownership probably comes fairly close to the general marketshare: I’m going to guess 80% of my games are in steam, 15% are in GOG and the remainder I’ve forgotten about entirely because they are in Desura or GMG or something.

          • airmikee says:

            RE: Emeraude

            Then like I said, find those comments and provide some links. It should be really, really easy for you if there are legions of people demanding that only Steam sell them games. Go ahead and take a few minutes out of your busy day of commenting online to do some searches to back up your opinion with some facts. :)

          • Emeraude says:

            Reading comprehension. I’m not making the argument, I’ say Ill wager on the other side of the argument given my own experience.

            I’ll let other people do the digging if they find you worth the hassle as an interlocutor.

          • sinister agent says:

            But do many people like chocolate? Says who? Find me some links to prove it (smiley face)

          • airmikee says:

            Step 1. Make an argument, provide no evidence.
            Step 2. When asked for evidence, deny the argument was made.
            Step 3. Profit

          • sinister agent says:

            That’s not even remotely what anyone’s done, and literally every comment you’ve made to this post is an embarassingly obvious attempt to start a childish argument. I don’t know why you crave attention so desperately, but I’m not giving you any more of mine.

            Feel free to keep trying, though.

      • Dominare says:

        Well, the US legal system, for one. A market share of between 70 and 80% is considered the minimum to constitute a monopoly:

        Colo. Interstate Gas Co. v. Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of Am., 885 F.2d 683, 694 n.18 (10th Cir. 1989)

        • airmikee says:

          That only applies to the Tenth Circuit, since the Supreme Court has never laid out numbers. The Fifth Circuit says monopoly can’t exist below 70%, the Third Circuit says it exists at 55%, and the rest of America uses United States v. Alcoa, 148 F.2d 416 (2d Cir. 1945), where Judge Hand said it was 90%.

          • Jediben says:

            Ah but have you considered the Short Circuit, which states:
            “Fuck off and die in motorway traffic you petty little twat.”?

    • AngoraFish says:

      Actually, Steam has been one of the least agressive companies at enforcing market restrictions. One of the benefits of a monopoly is that the monopoly has the power to tell publishers to rack off. Compare GameFly, for example, which is far more restrictive than Steam. GMG was forced by publishers to introduce regional pricing despite having previously run a successful marketing strategy based around the opposite: link to kotaku.com.au . Even GOG enforces market restrictions, despite having an often stated fundamental philosophical objection to the practice.

      • sinister agent says:

        Good point, although there’s no reason a group of distributors couldn’t work together to get similar collective bargaining powers.

        And yeah, as a company Valve are pretty great, no question, but it’s still one company having inordinate influence. They’re as prone to mistakes or culture shifts as anyone else. And the way they’re set up, anyone wanting to tell them to shove it would have to kiss goodbye to their games in the process. At least with some other distributors (or other industries), you can simply stop dealing with them without losing anything.

        • mattevansc3 says:

          I would question that Valve are a great company, especially from a consumer point of view. If we were to ignore sales because lets be honest everybody does sales, they just get largely ignored whereas Steam sales get a disproportionate amount of news time, Valve does very little that could be considered consumer friendly, especially compared to other companies.

          They went to court to fight for their right to not allow 2nd hand sales of PC games.

          They’ve blocked users from their games for “excessive” gifting of games.

          As part of their Steamworks suite they made the Steam store a compulsory part of the DRM which required purchasers to register their offline games with Steam and have Steam running before they were allowed to play.

          Steamworks prevents gamers from selling or part exchanging their games.

          Valve forces its users to accept changes to T&Cs, even detrimental ones, by locking that user out of their library until they do. Because of Steamworks this includes offline games bought in brick and mortar stores such as Skyrim.

          Their customer service is appalling. I’ve been on the receiving end of it whereby I bought a game on their Christmas sale that was being advertised as 75% off but at the checkout they changed it to 50% off. Complained to them showing a screenshot of their store page still advertising it at 75% off ten minutes after I bought the game. Their response was that that sale price had ended and the price I was charged was correct. I sent them the screenshot again and stated they were miselling the game and all I wanted was the difference refunded. It took me three days and multiple messages before they gave me their final offer of a full refund with the game removed from my library or they don’t refund me anything and I get to keep the game.

          While Valve has brought some interesting technologies to the market such as in home streaming their customer focus is still in the monopolistic dark ages.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        But at least GOG has the decency to give you store credit for the difference. I also don’t see how Steam is less aggressive than most, especially to be considered one of the least aggressive.

        Steam has for years had regional pricing linked to your location.
        Steam has enforced locking release dates to regions.
        Valve have locked people’s accounts for excessive gifting.

        Valve are complicit in setting different regional prices. They’ve said it themselves and its on their website that prices are set by both Valve and the dev/publisher.

        Valve have done nothing to ease regional pricing structures let alone flex their monopoly to do so.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      It’s a fair point, though I’m not sure to what degree this kind of thing should be lumped on the consumers. Me, I’ve never ‘insisted’ on Steam being number one. I buy from GOG, I buy from little indies selling on their own sites through tiny little nameless third party things, and I buy from Steam. I buy from whoever’s cheapest, cuz that’s the boat I’m in. A lot of the time, that is definitely Steam, so a lot of my gaming library comes from there. Doesn’t mean I want everything on Steam, doesn’t mean I want ever dev to release on Steam, doesn’t mean I want it to be a required install for every gamer. I’m just talking for myself, yeah, but I’m willing to bet there are a ton of people in the same situation.

      I just feel like a lot of people are perfectly against the idea of a one store monopoly, but don’t want to completely boycott a place that gives them good prices and a lot of useful services (and as I write this I honestly struggle to remember what those ARE, steam is not in my good books at the moment. Still…).

      I’m just not comfortable with the attitude that gets thrown around that if you use Steam at all, you’re part of the ‘problem’. (And no, I’m not suggesting that’s what you’re saying, sorry if I came across that way).

      Also I bought Darklands and I haven’t slept at all and it’s all your fault goddammit.

      • sinister agent says:

        Nah, no worries, I totally get where you’re coming from, and in fact it sounds a lot like the position I’m in. I don’t hate Steam, and I have several dozen games on there, mainly because they’ve come up at a price that was too good, and/or all I could afford at the time. Most of my games are from gog though, or gamersgate, and like yourself, I buy from devs if that’s a practical option.

        I try to avoid steam though where I can, just because I don’t like what it is, even if I do like Valve. I don’t like the arrangement, and I don’t like the faffing about. Gog is my favourite not just because they finally made all those old games available after everyone else ignored us for years, but because once I’ve bought from them, I can download the game and it’s mine forever, no bullshit.

        Oh, and har har har, you’ll never stop hearing that tune in your head now :D

    • Rindan says:

      Eh. I don’t see the problem. If you live in a poorer nation, your games are still cheap. If you live in a richer nation, you can’t get cheap games by buying at a poorer nation’s rates. The alternative is that you just set some sort of global price to maximize the moniez. That would basically result in poorer nations getting the shaft, and the richer ones saving a couple of bucks.

      Region locking is evil. Different prices between regions on the other hand is perfectly reasonable if the price difference is due to wealth disparity.

  5. Monkey says:

    RIP Kinguin, it was good while it lasted…

  6. Synesthesia says:

    Meanwhile, dark souls is still region blocked in argentina for fuck knows what reason, and many poor souls are missing out on it.

  7. AngoraFish says:

    Thankfully, looks like I can still VPN into the US and gift to Australia. Phew!

    • Cantisque says:

      Might want to avoid that for a while, they do ban for using VPN’s and in the current situation they might start looking out for these more actively. Personally, I think anyone who lives in Australia is justified to search for a better deal on games overseas, but unfortunately the tax man would likely disagree.

  8. Heliocentric says:

    Remember kids, only corporations are allowed to benefit from globalisation.

    • WiggumEsquilax says:

      Dammit Valve, in me you had a fan. Had.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      R.I.P. Lik Sang (1998-2006).

    • Anthile says:


      Valve S.à r.l.
      L-2450 Luxembourg

    • Marcus says:

      Everyone on the “locked” countries will benefit from this change, because otherwise they would have to equalise the prices.

      • P.Funk says:

        Why do they have to equalize anything?

        At the end of the day when you find a way to rationalize why they have to artificially create border distinctions via digital markets that do not suffer from traditional divisions* you quickly realize that the constructs necessary to ensure the types of divisions we have now are basically the same as the ones that free trade agreements are dismantling. Why must a digital product cost more here than in Russia? Its electrons. It costs nothing to move it there, to sell it there. Why aren’t all products the exact same price? Why in a global economy is the inability of one market’s citizens to afford a price not something that should benefit me when we all access the same internet?

        Quickly it becomes apparent that the nature of the internet screws with the type of market balance that corporations are accustomed to in real life.

        The only way to explain it is to say that this is not a free market, its a carefully managed one whereby scarcity is governed to ensure that prices are favourable to the manufacturer.

        *tangible products require transportation so the further they go the more they cost so markets are often defined by that or whether something is locally sourced instead

        • Rindan says:

          You are failing to understand capitalism. Consumer price selection is the holy grail. Imagine I make some coffee. It costs me $0.20 to make. So, if I sell it for $0.21, I have made a profit. Am I going to sell it for that much? Hell, no, I’ll sell it for whatever I can get for it. I set the price so that I get the most profit. Set the price too high, and while customers might pay more per coffee, I have fewer customers and so barely make a profit. Set the price too low, and I have piles of customers, but I am barely making a profit. In a businesses ideal world, people would pay the maximum amount before they go “fuck” and go somewhere else. So, if you could sell coffee to a homeless person for $0.25, and that same coffee for $10 toa rich guy, you would making the ideal amount.

          Places already do this. The price of an organic veggie isn’t real. It costs more, sure, but not as much as you pay. It is just a neat way to get richer people to pay more without scaring off poor people. Poor folks buy the stuff without the cute label that is cheap, richer folks buy the 100% certified fair trade organic stuff. You make far more than if you just sold cheap veggies or just organic veggies.

          This is really no different. Set Steam games at UK prices, and Russians won’t buy them. Set UK prices at Russian prices, and you are failing to get all of what the UK folks are willing to pay. You might find that icky, but that isn’t a sign of market manipulation. That is a perfectly functional market trying to maximize profit.

          If it makes you feel any better, doing this makes games more profitable. More profitable games means more games with bigger budgets. If all games were sold at Russian prices in Europe and the UK, games would have smaller budgets and fewer options for funding. “AAA” games would likely never get made without the glut of cash they can rack in from wealthier nations.

          • P.Funk says:

            I’m not failing to understand capitalism, you’re failing to understand that it doesn’t exist, not like they say it does.

            Market manipulation happens all the time. This is market manipulation. We are manipulating markets on a global level to cheat in favour of corporations while cheating against consumers.

            Take coffee and change it to labour, take the cost of a coffee and change it to a wage. Corporations are using free trade agreements that they basically write via lobbyists to make it so that you can drive down labour costs the way your theoretical scenario would drive down coffee prices. Corporations want to sell us the coffee for UK prices while making it for Russian prices. Thats globalization. In most real life situations corporations functioning on a global scale are doing this because they have the resources to open shops in one country, ship to another, and sell there. The average consumer doesn’t get to buy a product in Russia, ship it to the UK, and get the savings most of the time because shipping is expensive and its hard to shop that far away.

            However, this is digital wares we’re talking about. This isn’t based on the normal economic model. There is no shipping, there is no assembly and there’s no moving things to customer through assembly from a manufacturing site. Its digital. In a digital sphere many of the things that change prices don’t exist. The price differences are basically 100% artificial outside of regional taxation or duties.

            If you were to treat a corporation going overseas to try and access cheaper labour the same way steam is treating the consumers doing the same thing for a cheaper game you’d be called protectionist. You’d be doing everything that global free trade agreements are trying to stop.

            This isn’t capitalism though. There’s no free market. This is a managed market. Digital distribution makes a mockery of traditional supply demand explanations because in order to make traditional business models work you basically have to artificially create the circumstances that make the little system you described work.

          • Rindan says:

            You will get no argument from me that there is fuckery going on in the world wide market. Linking that to price differences in digital goods based upon region though is not said fuckery at work. Charging different people different prices based upon what they are willing to pay is capitalism 101. You seem to be under the delusion that the price for something is determined by how much it costs to make and deliver. Those factors just determine how cheap you can sell it, not the max price. The max price is however much someone is willing to pay, digital or not. The trick has always been to figure out how to get each person to pay the most they are willing to pay and not a cent more or less. Regional locking is one way. Sales are another way, people who will pay full pay full price, those who won’t wait for the price to fall. Special editions are another, working like organic veggies to squeeze a few more bucks out of people willing to pay.

            The only manipulation you can really point to is copyright laws that prevent someone from simply copying a game and reselling it (or giving it away). Sure, without copyright the price of all games fall to zero, as does investment in said games. Outside of copyright laws preventing people from copying games and reselling them, regional price differences are exactly what you would expect. It is just another way in a long list of ways to try and charge the max price to different people. It might not sit well with you, but it truly is boring old capitalism 101. The price isn’t how much something costs to make and deliver, but instead how much you can get someone to pay.

          • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

            The problem, here, to go back to the earlier coffee metaphor, is that if the rich guy wants to go to the homeless guy shop and buy coffee for $0.25, he can. This is not stopping even that; this is stopping the homeless guy from giving his coffee to the rich guy if he so desires, for any reason. The coffee shop isn’t charging people what they want to pay, it’s charging them what it thinks they should want to pay on their situation.

  9. ashario says:

    Why not just make the gifter pay whichever regional price is higher, when gifting a game to a user in another region?

    • LionsPhil says:

      Presumably because their whole everything-must-go-via-the-inventory-next-to-your-trading-cards shenanigans means gifting isn’t gifting any more, it’s buying an abstract gift copy which is then traded to the recipient who then may choose to activate it.

      Rod for their own back, etc.

  10. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    I stopped trading after the last update to trading, i.e. had to wait 30 days. It was fun while it lasted. I got many games for really cheap, with my last one being Alien Isolation for $22 the day it came out.

    • HunterPT says:

      No reason to stop, you can always use dispenser, which automates the all process, it was already a pretty good system before valve changed things, but after they implemented the 30 day change, it became my preferred method of doing things.

      • J. Cosmo Cohen says:

        I forgot about Dispenser, probably because I only used it a few times. But I’m sure region-locking has taken care of Dispenser, too.

        • HunterPT says:

          For new games, yeah pretty much, unless some exploit shows up (besides VPN OFC), you won’t be getting new games that much cheaper, I mean you can still get them at US prices which are usually cheaper, and OFC it will still be very beneficial for when you want a game that has already been on sale but you don’t want to wait for the game to be on sale again, since you will still have people stockpiling games from sales and then selling them later.

  11. Christo4 says:

    Wouldn’t it have made more sense to, you know, make sure everyone has the same prices?
    I don’t know about you, but i find it terribly stupid that even in EU you pay more for the same game than in US just because there’s a different currency.
    So i guess it’s always good when it’s for the company to get more money off of the same product, screwing consumers who have to pay more, but if consumers want to buy it at the best bang for buck, the price THAT THE COMPANY ALLOWED!!!!!! then sorry, you are screwed again.
    And now you can’t even gift someone else a game who is in another region.
    I mean, fcol (for crying out loud), i was gifted dark souls 1 from australia in EU!

    • aiusepsi says:

      If the prices were the same everywhere it would make games too expensive in Russia and other markets that currently get reduced prices because they tend to have lower incomes.

      One important factor to consider in price differences between the U.S. and EU is that EU prices have VAT included, and the US prices don’t have tax. That’s one reason they’re more expensive.

    • jonfitt says:

      Well making sure everyone pays the same prices would mean that the Russians with their tumbling currency would have to pay a month’s rent in rubles for a new game. That doesn’t exactly sound like a great deal for them!

    • asmodemus says:

      Well Australia is usually crazy expensive for everything. Beyond Earth is still $54 (US) on the steam store which is the REDUCED price from $89.99. I have a funny feeling that’s not what US citizens are paying…

      • jrodman says:

        For this reason I have purchased many games for my Australian chums.

    • Marcus says:

      Nobody in Brazil would buy new AAA releases on Steam if the prices were the same, because physical copies would be cheaper.

  12. Neurotic says:

    For those of us living as expats in countries with weak EUR/GBP/USD exchange rates, this is quite disheartening. I usually buy my keys from CD key sites (there ARE some legitimate, quite good ones), and it sounds like I’m getting the ol’ screwgee here. :/

    • HunterPT says:

      You’re fine, at least for now steam has done nothing to change how CD keys work, this only affects people that buy copies that came from steam Russian store.

  13. elsparko says:

    Well this then kills one of the last ways to buy international versions of games that valve/$random_publisher doesn’t want us Germans to enjoy in an uncensored way.

    Of course the root problem is that most publishers think there would be some mandatory censorship law in Germany when in reality they just needed to make sure that the buyers are actually legal adults (age >= 18). And even that rule doesn’t apply to 99% of the “serious” games anymore.

    • jonfitt says:

      I’m interested in how that works. If you have a German Steam account and get gifted a game from the UK, is it the UK version when you play it on your account? Or are you just unable to buy some particular games but receiving them as a gift works?

      • elsparko says:

        For some games (e.g. older CoD’s, Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead 1&2) you can only buy the “german version” if you have a german steam account/ip. But if you buy the international version at a retailer or you get that version gifted to your account it is the genuine version without the censorship.

        For some newer games this didn’t work anymore. “South Park: The Stick of Truth” for example has a hard region lock because it’s usage of nazi symbols in the uncensored version. That is one of the only cases where you just can’t release a game in Germany unmodified without breaking the law. Still most companies outside of Germany think that topics like “violence” or “sex” would also warrant censorship which just isn’t true…

        • jonfitt says:

          But you could presumably just buy games from other places in your region like the UK or the rest of the EU?

          • elsparko says:

            Are you referring to the Steam UK shop? To be honest I haven’t checked what Valve thinks which region Germany now belongs to but in the past it was notoriously difficult to hide the country of your origin from Steam. If anything in your payment method (billing address etc.) or your IP suggests you could possibly be a German they will either cancel the payment or just silently give you the German deals. Also if your Steam account is branded as belonging to one region I think you can never change this again. So you need different steam accounts and VPNs and this is were (self-)gifting comes into play.

          • jonfitt says:

            Yeah. In the same way as you used to buy games from Russia, you can now buy them from another EU country. You’ll just need to find someone willing to set up a shop selling to Germans. Seems like a market opportunity if it doesn’t already exist.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Technically that’s not legal because as an EU member state neither Valve or the Publisher/Developer can hinder the traffic of goods or services from another EU member state.

      The European courts enforced that when the English Premier League tried to prevent an English landlord bypassing their exclusivity deals of £700 a month by buying a satellite box for a Greek TV station showing the matches who charged £800 for the year. link to bbc.co.uk

      Now seeing as Valve’s EU office is registered in Luxemburg, technically any game you buy is an import and Valve should not prevent you from buying the UK version.

      • Llewyn says:

        Member states can limit free movement, as well as bypassing various other EU competition rules, bsaed on several categories* of national interest. Limitations on drugs, obscene materials and most other things that governments are committed to restricting can generally be worked into these categories, as is the case here.

        *No, I don’t remember what they are (or know if they’ve changed) – Maastricht was still Big News last time I needed to care about this stuff professionally.

  14. derbefrier says:

    There goes steam reminding us they are in fact a company like any other.

  15. Devilfish says:

    Is there any way to find out which countries are in which region? Because right now I split my time between two continents while my husband has to stay home. He likes to send me games while I’m away, to get me through the rough times. Am I seriously hearing that we’re not going to be able to do that anymore? Because that would kind of break my heart.

    Oh well. I guess it’s worth it’s if we can stop people from getting cheap games. Bastards. How dare they. They must be stopped, and that’s a fight anyone can believe in.

    • jonfitt says:

      I’m guessing if your husband and your accounts are of the same region type he should still be able to gift you games no matter where you physically are. I’m not 100% sure about that. But it seems to be trying to stop people with a Russian account gifting to people with UK accounts for exmaple.

      • Devilfish says:

        Well, I found out we’re in the same region type, so it doesn’t matter to us personally, but it may as well have. Allow me to be angry on behalf of all people in a similar situation to mine. All eight of us.

        • Geebs says:

          Godspeed, very specific bunch of eight people!

          Got me thinking: if every argument on the Internet required all parties to set a reasonable estimate and error bounds on the number of people they are really referring to, the world would be a much politer place.

  16. Nim says:

    With all the sales going on all the time, you wouldn’t imagine this to be an issue.

    • pepperfez says:

      Controlling of your customers is worth almost any price. They could take it all for free, if Valve said they could.

  17. JarinArenos says:

    You know what would stop cross-region gifting and shut down the “Gray market” problem?

    Selling games at the same bloody price in different regions

    • tnzk says:

      Maybe when the dawn of the New World Order arrives and the lizard men bless us with one global currency, we shall have the same prices for video games from Steam across the world.

      Until then, we’ll just have to settle with the fact that there are ~150 competing economies with different levels of wealth, power, and influence. It is absolutely not expected that prices for products and services are the same everywhere.

      • emperor_nero says:

        I for one love and respect our new reptilian overlords.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Then people in Russia and Poland and such would be screaming about having to pay Western prices.

  18. SparksV says:

    I don’t mind this. Yes, I can’t gift some of my friends games, but there’s less scammers and people abusing the system. About regional prices, those are totally up to publishers and publishers should really think about making regional pricing more fair (*cough* Ubisoft *cough*)

  19. Duke of Chutney says:

    Will this stop me sending and receiving gift games from my Brother in Korea?

    If so Boo to you steam.

    • Jody Macgregor says:

      Seems like the only parts of Asia affected are Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand. I was worried about the same thing, Duke of Chutney, because my girlfriend is in Korea but it should be fine for us.

  20. trjp says:

    This isn’t that new – they’ve had ‘no inter-region trading of gifts’ option on some games for a few months at least (SteamDB shows this if you query the App details)

    A more recent/important change is to make copies of games you buy into your inventory (rather than gifting directly) ungiftable for 30 days – so you have to either buy-and-gift or keep it sitting there for a month which will cut-down quite a bit of trading I imagine.

    As someone said tho – the proper solution is to allow us to take advantage of globalisation in the same way that – say – Valve do by being based outside the EU and thus not covered by it’s rules *coughs* or paying it’s taxes *coughs coughs*

  21. Maou says:

    Steam is getting greedy by the day, and the quality is dropping too, just look at the ridiculous games that are entering the store lately.
    It’s been 7 months since my last purchase on Steam, now GOG is my new favorite.

  22. eggy toast says:

    Honestly I was planning on getting about a dozen games this sale thru a Russian friend of mine, and now I will be lucky to get half that many.

    Saving an extra 40-60% was nice while it lasted :(

  23. emertonom says:

    Intriguingly, there was a related court case about this in the U.S. last year, in which a student from Thailand was buying textbooks at low prices in the Thai market and reselling them in the U.S. below their MSRP; the Supreme Court here decided he was allowed to do so, based on the First Sale doctrine. (link to arstechnica.com )

    I guess it’s not surprising Stream can do this, since other video game stores (Nintendo e-shop and the like) don’t allow trades or gifts at all, but it’s still interesting how this differentiates digital goods from their physical counterparts.

  24. Razumen says:

    This royally sucks, and I think it hurts customers more than those that try to play the system, I have a lot of friends overseas that I like to gift to, and luckily this doesn’t seem to affect me much as a Canadian, but it does mean that many of my friends overseas can’t gift me a game if they wanted to.

    Just another way greed and politics is screwing up another good thing.

  25. Raztaman says:

    Even EA allow people to buy from different regions to get cheaper prices on Origin. Do you really want to become worse than EA, Valve?