A couple of weeks ago, Overgrowth developer Wolfire Games filed an antitrust lawsuit against Valve, alleging that it uses Steam's dominant position in the digital gaming marketplace to extract "an extraordinarily high cut from nearly every sale that passes through its store." In a blog post that went up last week, Wolfire founder David Rosen explained his rationale for the suit.
One of the central complaints in Rosen's lawsuit is that Valve prevents other storefronts from competing on price by making developers promise not to sell their Steam games at a lower price on other stores. Rosen said he ran into that issue when he decided to release Overgrowth at a lower price on other storefronts in order to take advantage of their lower commission rates.
"When I asked Valve about this plan, they replied that they would remove Overgrowth from Steam if I allowed it to be sold at a lower price anywhere, even from my own website without Steam keys and without Steam’s DRM," Rosen wrote.
"While talking to other developers about problems that they were having with Steam, they kept referring to it as a 'monopoly,' and saying that there was nothing that we could do. I wondered, has anyone actually checked if Valve is obeying antitrust law? So I consulted with legal experts, which eventually culminated in the complaint."
Rosen said most developers will earn the bulk of their PC game sales through Steam, but added that the inability to experiment with lower prices on other stores makes it impossible to determine whether Steam's higher rate of commission—30%, compared to 12% on Epic and Microsoft—is actually justified.
"I believe that Valve is taking away gamers' freedom to choose how much extra they are willing to pay to use their platform. I believe they are taking away competing stores' freedom to compete by taking advantage of their lower commission rates. I believe they are taking away developers' freedom to use different pricing models," he wrote.
"In my opinion, this is part of why all competing stores have failed. This suit insists that Valve stop interfering with pricing on other stores, and allow gamers and developers to make their own decisions."
In response to the blog post, former Valve writer Chet Faliszek, whose credits include Half-Life 2: Episode One and 2, Left 4 Dead, and Portal, challenged Rosen's assertion. He says that Valve doesn't actually stop developers from pricing their games lower on other platforms.
"His blog post reads like something you see posted on his forum based on something he heard his older brother talking about. His main point is false today," Faliszek tweeted. When asked what he meant about "today," Faliszek continued, "I am not going to make a conjecture of what he was told 10 years ago etc but you can see the proof online today this isn't true and it's not captured in the agreement so..."
Faliszek linked to two games—Dying Light: The Following and Ghostrunner—which at the time were priced lower on GOG than they are on Steam.
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