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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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sprocket Jun 13
I don't think this lawsuit has much merit, to be honest. #1 and #3 are pretty easily disproven.

#2 on the other hand, I've never really considered it much, but I don't know if it's a strong enough problem. And if the lawsuit wins on this ground, it will cause all sorts of headaches for developers who publish their games on multiple platforms. This isn't the CD-ROM era anymore, after all.
Trinexx Jun 13
I work for a major publisher that operates on several storefronts; point 1 is outright false.
Sparhawk Jun 13
One word: Troll
hell0 Jun 13
Quoting: sprocket#2 on the other hand, I've never really considered it much, but I don't know if it's a strong enough problem. And if the lawsuit wins on this ground, it will cause all sorts of headaches for developers who publish their games on multiple platforms. This isn't the CD-ROM era anymore, after all.

Just realised that it also happen to be flat out wrong: case in point.
It's really frustrating how everyone calls it a blanket '30%' when in reality it's a 20% to 30% commission that varies depending on sales revenue. Which immediately makes Valve one of the best platforms for publishers. I can't think of any other hardware producing platform that offers a deal that good. Sony sure don't, neither does Nintendo, or Microsoft on their Xbox console, Apple charges 30% for everything, so does Google..

But aside from that, the stipulation that publishers must not offer customers on other platforms a better deal than what they get on Steam (does not imply there can't be sales or discounts on other platforms, just that Steam customers need to be offered comparatively good deals at some point before or after or during those sales), is actually warranted in Valve's case.

Unlike say for example Nintendo or Sony's stores, Steam allows developers to freely generate keys and sell them through external platforms and pay absolutely no revenue split to Valve. Something which again, makes them immediately fairer than Sony or Microsoft or Nintendo and so on ...

This means, if Valve was FORCED to allow developers to sell those keys at cheaper prices elsewhere, those developers could offer say, a 5% discount by selling those keys on their own websites, gamers could go there and buy the game for slightly cheaper, then activate the game on their Steam account.

The developer walks away with more money because they paid no revenue split, gamers walk away with a cheaper game, and Valve is left holding the bag paying for the hosting of the game's files, cloud saves, screenshots, discussion forums, workshop files, matchmaking, and so on... 'forever', or at least, as long as Valve, and PC gaming, and Steam, all exist, without a cent of revenue to pay for it. How is that 'fair'?

The only way this restriction could be lifted, is if Valve also eliminated the ability to sell a Steam key outside of Steam with no revenue split applied to it. How would that be 'better' for developers?
JustinWood Jun 14
As others have said, the Epic Games Store has a 12% revenue split, and yet prices on there are still the same as on Steam, on GoG, on Xbox and Playstation, and anywhere else games are sold. Valve does not set the price for games, publishers do, and lower revenue splits just mean they get more money, so why would they bother passing those savings on to the consumer? Maybe if they were somehow able to force that split on to every single distributor industry wide, but again, what's to stop publishers from taking the extra percentage for themselves?
TheSHEEEP Jun 14
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Quoting: gradyvuckovicThis means, if Valve was FORCED to allow developers to sell those keys at cheaper prices elsewhere, those developers could offer say, a 5% discount by selling those keys on their own websites, gamers could go there and buy the game for slightly cheaper, then activate the game on their Steam account.

The developer walks away with more money because they paid no revenue split, gamers walk away with a cheaper game, and Valve is left holding the bag paying for the hosting of the game's files, cloud saves, screenshots, discussion forums, workshop files, matchmaking, and so on... 'forever', or at least, as long as Valve, and PC gaming, and Steam, all exist, without a cent of revenue to pay for it. How is that 'fair'?
I think it is time to leave dreamland here.

First of all, you will already be able to find developers selling games on other websites cheaper than on Steam. And I'm not talking about shady websites, but the legitimate ones.
Just go on sites like https://gg.deals/ or https://isthereanydeal.com/ and check, you won't have trouble finding sales going on where games are cheaper on platform X than on Steam.
I highly doubt that is against the contract or it wouldn't be happening to this massive degree. So Valve is clearly okay with it.

Then, of course the developer still pays a revenue split on other websites. What, you think sites like fanatical, etc. take nothing?
The cut might be lower than Steam's, but there is definitely still a cut.

Lastly, it's not like Valve isn't getting anything out of the deal, they aren't running a charity.
They allowed (and fostered!) this environment outside of their own store in order to gain user numbers. And it works, obviously. Users flood to Steam and then buy most of their games there, regardless of what happens outside of Steam.
That's more than "fair".


Last edited by TheSHEEEP on 14 June 2024 at 8:44 pm UTC
sprocket Jun 15
Quoting: hell0
Quoting: sprocket#2 on the other hand, I've never really considered it much, but I don't know if it's a strong enough problem. And if the lawsuit wins on this ground, it will cause all sorts of headaches for developers who publish their games on multiple platforms. This isn't the CD-ROM era anymore, after all.

Just realised that it also happen to be flat out wrong: case in point.
These provide Steam codes, which still requires you having bought the game on Steam in the first place. You won't be able to use these DLC codes if you bought these games on GOG or Epic.
hell0 Jun 15
Quoting: sprocket
Quoting: hell0
Quoting: sprocket#2 on the other hand, I've never really considered it much, but I don't know if it's a strong enough problem. And if the lawsuit wins on this ground, it will cause all sorts of headaches for developers who publish their games on multiple platforms. This isn't the CD-ROM era anymore, after all.

Just realised that it also happen to be flat out wrong: case in point.
These provide Steam codes, which still requires you having bought the game on Steam in the first place. You won't be able to use these DLC codes if you bought these games on GOG or Epic.

You are indeed correct, but in my opinion having to use the code through steam is quite different to what they claim (which is that you have to purchase the dlc directly from steam).

A world in which one could transfer their games from one store to another or cross-install DLCs would be pretty great. I doubt it will happen on its own or any time soon though.
benstor214 Jun 16
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I perfectly understand that Valve Corp. is not my friend. This being clarified:

To me Point 1 and 2 seem to serve as smoke and mirror for point 3 - which may be the actual motivation behind this lawsuit.
I say this because both seem to be very hard to prove if not outright false in my eyes.

And point 3 seems to be much more important to the publishers than to the consumers.

You don’t need a lot of imagination to see this lawsuit as a tool of one market player trying to hurt another while using the consumer as a sort of shield for their shenanigans.

On a personal level I find the whole ordeal ridiculous…


Last edited by benstor214 on 16 June 2024 at 2:29 pm UTC
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