What just happened? Last year, a group of consumers and game developers filed a lawsuit against Valve, accusing the company of using Steam’s dominance in distributing PC games to control pricing. This week, a federal judge allowed part of the case to move forward.
On Monday, Seattle Judge John C. Coogenour rejected Valve’s statement about the termination of the antitrust case against Steam. Kugenour said it’s likely that Valve is abusing Steam’s market-leading position to stop developers from cutting their prices elsewhere.
The crux of the case is why games tend to be priced the same on Steam and other stores, despite some of them, like the Epic Games Store, taking smaller discounts. Publishers like Microsoft and EA sell games on Steam and in their stores for the same price, despite not having to pay a commission to anyone for the stores they own.
A year ago, one of the main plaintiffs, Wolfire Games, argued this is because Valve is threatening to remove the developers from Steam.
The plaintiffs allege that the Steamworks documentation contains a clause providing price parity between Steam and other storefronts. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney agrees. However, only the section on selling Steam keys outside of Steam offers price equality. “We ask that you treat Steam customers no worse than customers who buy Steam keys outside of Steam,” it says. Anonymous sources said Ars Technique is the same.
The case against Valve seems to lose weight when considering PC games that aren’t on Steam. Ars found that such games were almost always sold at the same price on the Epic store and on consoles, despite the fact that Epic charged lower fees than console manufacturers.
A similar case is seen with Ubisoft, which did not cut prices when it stopped selling new games on Steam. Without Valve’s cut in sales, Ubisoft seems to have just pocketed the difference by selling games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Far Cry 6 on its store and the Epic store.
However, Coughenour allowed the plaintiffs to make allegations of price parity. “These allegations are sufficient to credibly state illegal behavior,” he said.
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