Oh dear, someone isn't supporting our No Oceans campaign. Square-Enix have sadly region locked the boxed retail versions of the PC release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution across Europe. Retail copies sold in the UK will only activate on UK Steam accounts. It's a similar story for copies sold in Russia/Poland, and the rest of the EU makes up the third European region.
What possible motivation could Square-Enix have for restricting the range of choice that their European customers have when it comes to deciding where to buy their game from? Well I had a poke around, and for gamers in France, for example, the cheapest price I've been able to find for Human Revolution is €35.99 (or £31.51), whereas they would be able to import a UK copy for £23.49 + £4 shipping, a total of £27.49 (or €31.40). Looking at the pricing of buying Human Revolution direct from Steam, the UK price is £29.99 (or €34.25) and the Euro price is €44.99 (or £39.38). This region locking protects Square-Enix's policy of international pricing, and prevents customers who are in the EU from being able to avoid the price hike of ~30% Square Enix may or may not have decided to bestow upon their region.
It's interesting to look at how this reflects on Square-Enix because of the nature of the game's development. Local market factors meant that it was most cost effective for Squeenix to open their new studio in Montreal, so to save costs they took part in the global economy, and essentially bought development man-hours from the cheapest international seller. When local market factors result in it being more cost effective for their customers to take part in the global economy, and buy from the cheapest international seller, Square-Enix have coded a solution to prevent them from being able to do so. Interesting!
It also seems as if Square-Enix have done nothing to ensure retailers inform their customers about this region locking. I've just checked the listing for Human Revolution on pretty much every major UK online retailer, and not one of them has any mention of this region locking. Update: Amazon have now added a warning about the region lock, but none of the other retailers I have checked have done yet.
This also troubles any customers hoping to import the UK Augmented edition, which (I believe) is the only version that includes all the game content (with other regions splitting up the "bonus content" for various retailer exclusive promotions). Sorry, if you don't live in the UK you can't get the "best" version of the game.
Quite what the motivation for this isn't clear, but it's evidently wrapped up with both serving distributors and the decision to use Valve's Steamworks to control region activation. We've contacted SE asking for a comment on why they've decided to add these limitations to the retail version of the game.
More details on the region locking can be found in this forum thread. It's worth noting that codes sold through other digital distributors will not be region locked, it is just the boxed release that will be locked.
All together now: What. A. Shame.