Valve Really Doesn’t Want You Using VPNs To Get Cheaper Games

Valve Really Doesn’t Want You Using VPNs To Get Cheaper Games

Ever since Valve began selling Steam games with different prices for different markets, people who live in the more expensive regions have been trying to find ways to get cheaper video games. Ways that Valve knows about, and is continuing to quietly crack down on.

As SteamDB recently discovered, Valve has “added a limit on how often you can change your Steam account’s country”, with users now only able to switch them once every three months.

Any purchases users are making must also only be made using methods from the region you’ve currently got selected.

Why/how would users be doing this? Well, let’s say you’re in the US, and a game you’re interested in is $US50 ($64). For someone in some European markets, that game might cost a lot more, and for someone in certain South American countries, it might cost a lot less.

As an example, here are the results of a study done by VPNPro back in January, looking at the average cost of a Steam game around the world. As you can see, what people in the US and Canada are paying is not what people in Brazil or Russia or India are paying.

So a Steam user being disadvantaged by local pricing — or just trying to get a cheaper game, let’s be honest — might try and get a better deal by switching their account to a different country and tricking the storefront into letting them buy their games there.

I’m going to guess that the restrictions based on how often you can change it are to stop people in, say, the US moving their account to a different country to buy then moving it straight back to play (as opposed to simply leaving it in the cheaper country for good) because using a VPN can suck if you’re playing multiplayer.

This move comes a year after Valve first tried closing this pricing loophole, when they made buying things from different regions harder by forcing users to use a local payment method (so you couldn’t use an American credit card to buy a game in Poland, for example).


  • If publishers didn’t insist on massive price gouging for refund like Australia, this wouldn’t be as much of a problem.

    It’s weird to see Valve take a supply issue and crack down on it as if it were a demand issue. Addressing supply issues to stop piracy instead of cracking down was exactly the reason Gaben gave for Steam’s success years ago.

  • It’s really a bit of a poke in the eye – and hopefully an eye-opener – for those people who claim that Devs need to charge for lootboxes etc to make money.

    The devs almost certainly aren’t making a loss selling into, say Brazil, yet they charge half the price they do for the UK and Australia.

    Because of VAT/GST and some localisation fees, even assuming 50% of the extra $20 is extra local fees – 10% tax plus 40% extra random costs – there’s no way developers would be “making a loss” if games cost less in those territories.

    … and people wonder why some gamers still pirate.

    • That’s not how it works. Developers have an overall budget that they need to recoup, not a budget per unit. These are not game consoles or automobiles we’re talking about here.

      There is no selling “at a loss”, other than to the extent that every single sale is “at a loss” until enough copies are sold somewhere for the publishers to recoup enough cash to cover the game’s development and marketing costs.

      Just because a virtual product is sold for $2 in Kazakhstan doesn’t mean that it can be sold for $2 everywhere and still break even.

      Costs are recouped across the total worldwide sales, and ultimately some cash is better than no cash, so if the publishers can pick up a few extra pennies in South America or the former Soviet republics then that’s just gravy.

      Take the analogy of running a theatre performance every night – your rent, power, staff, actors, royalties are all fixed costs regardless of whether every seat in the theatre is full or if the theatre is half empty. If half an hour before curtain you still have 10 seats unsold and can flog them at the theatre door for $10 each to random backpackers who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford to see the show that’s $100 you wouldn’t otherwise have made. The tickets sold to backpackers aren’t being sold at a loss, but that doesn’t mean that the performance as a whole would be profitable if every seat in the theatre is sold for $10 each.

  • That sounds dreadfully inconvenient. Of course, I’d only do the region change thing to buy games that we’re locked out of since they weren’t high profile enough for Valve to thumb their noses at OFLC over.

  • One of these days, Valve will recognise that the internet is a global marketplace and prevent producers from setting regional pricing. In the meantime, people will continue to find new and innovative ways to get around Valve permitting discriminatory price gouging.

  • I’m not particularly well off, I should get a discount… I mean that is how regional pricing is decided right? 🙂

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