In late April, Wolfire Games announced it was filing a class action lawsuit against Valve Corporation. The suit alleges that Valve has broken antitrust laws with Steam, controlling developers through exploitative actions that prevent fair competition. The case revolves around Steam's domination of the PC gaming marketplace, its expensive 30% revenue share, and the rules it places on developers trying to sell games elsewhere. To provide further context, Wolfire founder David Rosen has written a lengthy blog explaining the decision.
Rosen starts with his personal experiences with Valve and Steam regarding Wolfire's game Overgrowth. As other PC storefronts began offering lower revenue shares, Rosen says he decided to try and offer Overgrowth at a lower price outside of Steam to "take advantage" of the lower rates. However, when he discussed this plan with Steam, he was told that Overgrowth would be removed from the platform if he sold the game at a lower price on other platforms.
Steam's orders, according to Rosen, made it impossible for him to evaluate whether Steam was "earning" its 30% revenue share. Further, no other developer would be able to, either. In other words, Steam's rules made it prohibitive for developers to succeed off of Valve's own platform. Rosen believed that other developers have had similar problems, which led him to begin discussing the subject with other teams.
Speaking with other developers led to the subject of Valve holding a monopoly with Steam and the possibility of it breaking antitrust laws. Those discussions led Rosen to pursue the advice of legal experts. That, in turn, led to Rosen and Wolfire filing the class action lawsuit against Valve.
The idea that Rosen posits is that Valve has created an environment on Steam where developers have "little or no choice" but to sell game on Steam. Further, that they then have to "do as they're told by Valve." It's this control over the market that Rosen takes issue with. He says Valve is taking away developers' freedom to use different pricing models, gamers' freedom to choose pricing and platform, and storefronts' freedom to compete. To that effect, Rosen says the lawsuit's goal is to insist "that Valve stop interfering with pricing on other stores."
It's worth point out that Rosen founded and was the CEO of the Humble Bundle storefront, which was sold to IGN in 2017. So on one hand, he has firsthand experience with the impact of Steam's rules on competing storefronts. On the other hand, while Rosen no longer runs Humble Bundle, there may be more to his reasons for the lawsuit than has been explained. Regardless, storefronts, developers, and gamers, will be watching Wolfire's lawsuit against Valve with much interest.
The Epic Games Store is nothing if not generous with its free games. For several years, the company has released a free game every week, and in the last few weeks, these free offerings have massively increased in quantity. This practice of releasing free games stands in contrast to a lot of Epic Games' more controversial business practices. Be it accusations of spyware, unexpectedly draining battery life with its store app, or the hordes of exclusives, Epic Games is no stranger to controversy. Combined with recent news that the store is hemorrhaging money for Epic, why is the studio only ramping up its delivery of free games?
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