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A new lawsuit was filed earlier this month in the UK that alleges Valve, owner of Steam, has been "overcharging 14 million PC gamers and abusing its dominant position in the UK".

First reported by the BBC, the claim was filed by Vicki Shotbolt, the founder and CEO of Parent Zone. Shotbolt is also on the executive board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety and is a trustee for MILA the media literacy and information alliance.

There's even been a dedicated website set up for this lawsuit under steamyouoweus.co.uk, with Shotbolt setting up a company named Vicki Shotbolt Class Representative Limited to bring this action.

From the claim website:

Valve Corporation faces a £656 million collective action claim for overcharging 14 million PC gamers and abusing its dominant position in the UK. Valve owns and operates Steam – the largest digital distribution platform for PC games in the world.

Companies who hold a dominant position in a market are not allowed to charge excessive or anti-competitive prices. They also cannot impose other unfair trading conditions that prevent or hinder others from competing with them.

We believe Valve Corporation has been unfairly shutting out competition for PC games and in-game content, which has meant that UK customers have paid too much for these products.

Vicki Shotbolt, a leading campaigner for children’s digital rights, filed the claim, via Vicki Shotbolt Class Representative Limited, on behalf of all affected gamers at the Competition Appeal Tribunal 5 June 2024.

Vicki accuses Valve Corporation of shutting out competition in the PC gaming market by forcing game publishers to sign up to pricing restrictions that dictate the lowest price games can be sold for on rival platforms.

This has led to UK consumers paying too much for PC games and add-on content, and has enabled the gaming giant to continue charging an excessive commission – of up to 30% – to publishers.

Represented by Milberg London LLP, it's worth noting this is not their first rodeo, as they're also going after Sony for £5 billion.

Natasha Pearman, the partner leading the case, says: “Valve has a had a stranglehold on the PC games market for a long time and with this claim we’re challenging the status quo. Competition law is there to protect consumers and ensure that markets work properly. When they don’t work properly and consumers are harmed, collective actions of this kind provide consumers with a voice and a way of holding big companies, like Valve, to account. We’re delighted to be working with Vicki to seek compensation for UK consumers.”

It boils down to their three main issues that they claim:

  1. Price parity obligation clauses: We say that Valve Corporation imposes price parity clauses that restrict and prevent game developers from offering better prices on PC-games on rival platforms, limiting consumer choice and harming competition.
  2. Tying: We say that the restrictions Valve Corporation imposes, that mean the add-on content for games must also be purchased from Steam, restricts competition in the market.
  3. Excessive pricing: We argue that Valve Corporation has imposed an excessive commission, of up to 30%, charged to publishers, that resulted in inflated prices on its Steam platform.

The first point is one we've heard repeated many times before, but there's never been any proof on it. Which perhaps the Wolfire lawsuit and this may actually bring to light. An accusation doesn't necessarily mean they're right though. Something people get confused on often is Steam Keys, which are completely separate to Steam Store purchases. Valve do ask developers not to "give Steam customers a worse deal than Steam Key purchasers", but again, that's specifically for Steam Keys.

This sounds very similar to the case that Wolfire brought up against Valve in the US.

I've reached out to Valve press for any comments on it. Will update if they reply,

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
Tags: Misc, Steam, Valve
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57 comments
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whizse Jun 12
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Quoting: SeabyteFinally! First two are very good points. I mostly buy games on platforms other than steam, but they can't sell games that are also listed on Steam for cheaper. (Example: CD Projekt Red with *their* games on *their* platform (GOG))
I don't think we know this to be the case. It might be, and maybe something will come out in discovery. But it might well not be. It does seem like something a dominant platform would want to do . . . but it also seems like something a dominant platform might avoid doing, or at least avoid formally doing, for fear of legal complications.
williamjcm Jun 12
In the case of point #2, I'd like to mention there's a British game that actually allows this: Talisman Digital Edition (by Nomad Games). You can buy DLCs for the game on Android, iOS, GOG, or Switch, and use them with the Steam version just fine, as long as they're registered to your Nomad Games account. And except for the Switch version (Nintendo doesn't like games accessing DLCs bought from outside Nintendo's system), same the other way around, too. Bought a DLC on Steam ? You can access it from the mobile game, or the GOG version.

And Valve has been okay with this for years already.
pb Jun 12
It would be funny if Valve, in reaction to these lawsuits, just stopped generating steam keys and called it a day. You want to sell your game for $50 on Steam and $5 on your website? Suit yourself. You don't want to pay 30% commission? Then don't (btw you had to pay 0 commission on steam keys, remember?). You want to allow people activating DLC bought elsewhere in your steam game? Well go on and start coding it in, we don't mind.

I wonder how long until the "exploited" publishers do a 180.
pb Jun 12
Quoting: williamjcmIn the case of point #2, I'd like to mention there's a British game that actually allows this: Talisman Digital Edition (by Nomad Games). You can buy DLCs for the game on Android, iOS, GOG, or Switch, and use them with the Steam version just fine, as long as they're registered to your Nomad Games account. And except for the Switch version (Nintendo doesn't like games accessing DLCs bought from outside Nintendo's system), same the other way around, too. Bought a DLC on Steam ? You can access it from the mobile game, or the GOG version.

And Valve has been okay with this for years already.

There is a lot of games that have in-game shop where you can redeem (externally acquired) codes for items or in-game currency, like Brawlhalla, Dead by Daylight, Dying Light, Smite etc. etc. I have no idea how they found that "problem".
sonic2kk Jun 12
I don't see how any of these points are exclusive to Steam, nor how they are as damaging as this suit claims.

QuoteWe say that Valve Corporation imposes price parity clauses that restrict and prevent game developers from offering better prices on PC-games on rival platforms, limiting consumer choice and harming competition.

I would be interested to see if anything comes from this claim. I highly doubt it happens to the extent this suit claims given that you can find find games at varying prices on and off Steam.

It is also worth mentioning that in some countries, games with exclusivity deals on the Epic Games Store (meaning they got paid up-front, from a storefront which takes a lower cut) can cost more than on Steam, who take a higher cut. I don't think the price goes down once the exclusivity deal ends, either.

QuoteTying: We say that the restrictions Valve Corporation imposes, that mean the add-on content for games must also be purchased from Steam, restricts competition in the market.

I don't fault Valve for this, personally. I think this falls under the umbrella of DRM. But if a developer wanted to give this sort of freedom I'm not sure all of the responsibility here is up to Valve. How would Epic feel if people could buy DLC on Steam on a hefty sale? Likewise, I'm not sure Valve would like people buying some potentially paid-exclusive DLC on the Epic Games Store. And to top it all off, I think publishers are happy to let people buy a game's DLC twice.

I think this is a wider-industry thing. At worst, Valve is being passive here. But there is nothing stopping developers from offering keys on other stores for DLC or even the full game. Anyone who has bought an indie game on itch.io knows it is not uncommon to get a Steam key in addition to the content you bought, so that you don't have to buy it again.

I also think this is distinctly different from cross-console DLC for example, since on PC you have direct access to files (albeit usually marred with DRM).

QuoteExcessive pricing: We argue that Valve Corporation has imposed an excessive commission, of up to 30%, charged to publishers, that resulted in inflated prices on its Steam platform.

I don't think Valve do this to inflate the price of games on Steam. If they did, they wouldn't negotiate with developers and publishers.

The 30% tax is an industry standard, but that that makes it okay by default. It does have various benefits however. Compare the quality of the Steam Client to that of even competitors that take 30%, not to mention competitors that take less.

It has also been mentioned that charging 30% makes offering physical Steam Wallet gift cards far more financially viable. This may be exaggerated on Valve's part, true, but I recall Epic had trouble offering gift cards because their cut was too low.

Epic tried the lower-cut model and demonstrated that it didn't pay off. Whether that was due to incompetence, greed, or because the cut was simply too low to reinvest properly, I can't say. But Valve have shown, in my opinion, that they invest the approx 30% cut they take very wisely. Free online gameplay, free Cloud Saves, Remote Play Anywhere/Together, investments in open-source (Proton, DXVK, vkd3d-proton, funding KDE's Wayland work, throwing weight behind standardizing Wayland protocols instead of only making private ones (GameScope has some private protocols for now)), investments in hardware (previously the Steam Controller and Steam Link, currently the Valve Index and Steam Deck).

What I am getting at is, it is much easier to see where the 30% cut is going with Valve compared to other platforms. How much of that 30% is pure profit and how much do they actually need to invest in Steam is anyone's guess.

I believe Microsoft take a lower cut on the Microsoft Store as well, but it's easier for Microsoft to take that loss than it is for Epic.

---------

QuoteWe believe Valve Corporation has been unfairly shutting out competition for PC games and in-game content, which has meant that UK customers have paid too much for these products.

I believe that Valve hold a dominant position simply because they offer a better service than their competitors. I like supporting charity bundles on itch.io, I like buying games for preservation on GOG, but I buy games on Steam because I prefer the platform.

Even if Valve lowered their cut and allowed cross-store DLC, I would still go to Steam. Even though it's not unusual for a game to be cheaper on GOG, I still buy on Steam. I like my Cloud Saves, all-in-one co-op, ease of use on Steam Deck (GOG and Itch could do this too if they had better native Linux clients).

I don't feel like I've ever overpaid for a game on Steam or gotten a bad deal. Even though it is noted that they're going after Sony too, if they really think people in the UK have paid too much because of these practices, they'd need to go after a lot more than just Valve and Sony. If this is as much of a problem as they pose, then every major digital distribution platform has this problem.
TheRiddick Jun 12
Maybe they should go after MS Windows for the constant gatekeeping shit that goes on there.
Linux_Rocks Jun 12
Stupid or not, I don't feel bad for Valve and hope they lose money over this regardless of outcome. My view towards Valve has seriously soured over the past year or whatever since the new Steam client released. But needless to say, fuck the bullshit legal systems in the western imperialist countries and their allies too.


Last edited by Linux_Rocks on 12 June 2024 at 9:20 pm UTC
Cybolic Jun 12
Quoting: williamjcmIn the case of point #2, I'd like to mention there's a British game that actually allows this: Talisman Digital Edition (by Nomad Games). You can buy DLCs for the game on Android, iOS, GOG, or Switch, and use them with the Steam version just fine, as long as they're registered to your Nomad Games account. And except for the Switch version (Nintendo doesn't like games accessing DLCs bought from outside Nintendo's system), same the other way around, too. Bought a DLC on Steam ? You can access it from the mobile game, or the GOG version.

And Valve has been okay with this for years already.
And even outside of games that tie DLC to user accounts, there are plenty of visual novels that sell their "+18" DLC on their own site, outside of Steam, which can then be added to the game no matter where the user bought it - including Steam.

So far, I haven't seen any credible points in this lawsuit.
F.Ultra Jun 12
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Quoting: Cato-the-youngerHow do people not understand that filing ridiculous lawsuits means that nobody takes them seriously. And the fact that people are able to file these lawsuits means nobody takes the legal system seriously anymore. Certainly why I dont take legal systems where this is allowed seriously, a view them as a joke

Edit: everyone knows these people are just trying to use the courts to make money off of valve. Companies who engage in patent trolling or litigation trolling should be forced to pay.

That is how the legal system works basically everywhere. The filing clerk does not make any judgment over the quality of the case at all, instead the defendant (if they feel that the case have zero merit) will ask the court to dismiss the case and then list the reasons to do so. Once this is done a judge will look it over and might decide to throw the case out without a trial if the reasons listed are valid and the plaintiffs have not successfully argued against them.

And that is how you _want_ the system to work, making the filing clerk the arbiter on what can and what cannot be filed is IMHO a dangerous road to walk down.

Also if the case is seen as being frivolous then the judge both in the US and the UK can force the plaintiffs to pay a penalty for it.
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