District Court considers policies plausibly ‘unlawful’
A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that publisher Valve Corp. should face antitrust litigation for the operation of its PC gaming platform and digital sales store, Steam.
As reported by Bloomberg, the dictum was handed down on May 6 by Judge John C. Coughenour of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Coughenour stated that, in his opinion, Valve is in a highly favorable market position and that this could potentially enable the company to use market dominance to exploit or intimidate its developers and customers.
“The company ‘allegedly enforces this regime through a combination of written and unwritten rules’ imposing its own conditions on how even ‘non-Steam-enabled games are sold and priced,'” wrote Coughenour in his ruling. “These allegations are sufficient to plausibly allege unlawful conduct.”
The case, initially filed by developer Wolfire Games in the spring of 2021, concerns several elements of Steam’s operation. These include the 30% commission taken by Valve on sales, the ability to withhold keys and revoke publisher privileges, and Valve’s favored use of controversial “Most-Favored-Nation” policies, a technique used by many online outlets to drive-up prices, particularly in the United States.
Previously, Coughenour had ruled preliminarily in Valve’s favor, partly dismissing the case in November and requesting that all consumer claims went into arbitration. However, it seems that the Most-Favored Nation concerns still stand, and as such Valve will have to face the antitrust suit, or at least its partial allegations.
Previously, Valve was among a number of publishers — including Capcom, Zenimax, Bandai Namco, and Koch Media fined by the European Commission over antitrust concerns. Despite online sales increasingly becoming the foremost form of modern retail, the rules and regulations in regard to consumer and distributor rights remain somewhat ungrounded.
Valve loses bid to end antitrust case over steam gaming platform [Bloomberg]