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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?

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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