Valve Corporation, Game Devs Facing Anti-Trust Lawsuit

01/29/2021 - 16:14 | By: Robert N. Adams
CD Projekt Red, Ubisoft Among Co-Defendants

Valve Corporation and a number of game developers & publishers — including CD Projekt Red and Ubisoft — are facing an anti-trust lawsuit that alleges violations of the Sherman Act.

SteamDB creator Pavel Djundik highlighted the lawsuit earlier today. Colvin et al v. Valve Corporation et al aims to take Valve and several developers & publishers of varying sizes to task for its requirement that games on Steam must not be sold for cheaper prices on other storefronts.

Valve Steam antitrust monopoly lawsuit slice

What's the Valve Corporation Anti-trust Lawsuit About?

The lawsuit filed against Valve Corporation and several other game developers & publishers largely comes down to Steam's pricing requirements. In short, the Steam Distribution Agreement mandates that you cannot sell a game at a different price than you do on Steam.

 
 

Included in the lawsuit is a list of several different games including The Outer WorldsGears 5Oxygen Not Included, and others. A chart notes that many of these games are sold on Steam, the Microsoft Store, and the Epic Games Store, each of which charges developers and publishers a certain commission. (In most cases, Valve takes 30%,  the Microsoft Store takes 15%, and the Epic Games Store takes 12%.)

The now-shuttered Discord Store is also cited. The lawsuit alleges that Discord aimed to provide games at lower prices, but developers could not sell their games any cheaper than what they were listed for on Steam. The problem best encapsulated in this excerpt from the complaint:

1. Valve Corporation’s Steam platform is the dominant platform for game developers to distribute and sell PC games in the United States.

2. But the Steam platform does not maintain its dominance through better pricing than by rival platforms.

3. Instead, Valve abuses the Steam platform’s market power by requiring game developers to enter into a “Most Favored Nations” provision contained in the Steam Distribution Agreement whereby the game developers agree that the price of a PC game on the Steam platform will be the same price the game developers sell their PC games on other platforms. 

[...]

92. In a competitive market unfettered by the Steam MFN, as platforms compete for game developers via lower commissions, the Steam platform would have to either lower its commissions or otherwise increase the value of its platform to consumers. The Steam MFN saves the Steam platform from competing on the merits with other platforms.

Valve Corporation isn't the only defendant in this case, either. Several other game developers and publishers are named:

  • CD Projekt S.A. & CD Projekt, Inc.
  • Ubisoft Entertainment S.A., Ubisoft, Inc., Ubisoft L.A., Inc.
  • kChamp Games, Inc.
  • Rust, LLC
  • Devolver Digital, Inc. 

This lawsuit is seeking triple damages for the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs are just regular gamers (or parents of gamers), though — three times whatever these people have spent on Steam games would be a drop in the bucket for the involved companies. The greater implication is that this lawsuit, if successful, could potentially change the prices of games on other storefronts going forward.

Currently, this case is being considered by the court. We can't say for sure whether or not it will go forward or not or what the results may be, but it could certainly prove to be very interesting for game prices in the long run.

What do you think of the lawsuit against Valve Corporation and the listed game developers? Do you think the plaintiffs will be successful? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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A photograph of Robert N Adams
Senior Writer

I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I haven't stopped gaming since. CCGs, Tabletop Games, Pen & Paper RPGs - I've tried a whole bunch of stuff over the years and I'm always looking to try more!