Valve is on the verge of a new trial. This time, Steam owners are accused of “abusing the market power of the platform.” They say that the company prohibits developers from lowering the prices of their games in other digital stores.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, an antitrust lawsuit was filed by five Steam users. According to them, the Valve store is the largest in the PC segment. However, the store allegedly managed to achieve this position not because of favorable prices, but because of an unfair policy towards game studios.
The lawsuit alleges that Valve deliberately included a clause on “most-favored-nation mode” in the contract with the developers. It is usually used when they want to oblige the seller to treat a particular buyer no worse than everyone else. Here it also means that the price of games on Steam should be exactly the same as in other stores — not lower and not higher.
According to the plaintiffs, this behavior of Valve hinders the development of the video game market. Already existing stores like Epic Games Store and Microsoft Store can’t sell titles cheaply. Beginners cannot enter the market at all.
With its contract, Steam hinders innovation and creates an artificial barrier for new stores. The ability to distribute games at low prices is one way for a beginner to gain market share. If Steam didn't have an MFN clause and platforms could compete normally, then other stores could provide the same (or higher) margin for developers at a low cost of games for consumers.
By the way, Valve is not the only person involved in the case. A lawsuit has also been filed against CD Projekt, Ubisoft, Devolver Digital, Rust and the one-man indie studio kChamp Games. Users accuse these companies of agreeing to Steam’s policy.
Valve was recently mentioned in another antitrust investigation. Recall that at the end of January, the European Commission fined the company, along with five publishers, almost € 8 million. This was due to regional price tags in the store.