Valve to Face Antitrust Lawsuit Over Steam Gaming Platform

cageymaru

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Valve Loses Bid to End Antitrust Case Over Steam Gaming Platform
https://news.bloomberglaw.com/class...end-antitrust-case-over-steam-gaming-platform

US District Judge says that Valve will face antitrust ligation
https://www.gamesindustry.biz/artic...-says-that-valve-will-face-antitrust-ligation

Litigation link
https://www.bloomberglaw.com/public...ionDocketNo221cv00563WDWashApr27/3?1652196691

US District Judge John C. Coughenour has ruled that Valve is going to face an antitrust case over Steam. Wolfire Games has alleged that the company created a "most favored nation" type monopoly over the industry that exploits developers and consumers. Valve is accused of having so much control over games industry with the Steam gaming platform that the corporation even dictates the prices and manner in which a developer can sell their non-Steam-enabled games.

Judge Coughenour also rejected the claims that the Steam store and gaming platform operate separately.

"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," Coughenour said.

"These allegations are sufficient to plausibly allege unlawful conduct."
 

Lakados

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Valve Loses Bid to End Antitrust Case Over Steam Gaming Platform
https://news.bloomberglaw.com/class...end-antitrust-case-over-steam-gaming-platform

US District Judge says that Valve will face antitrust ligation
https://www.gamesindustry.biz/artic...-says-that-valve-will-face-antitrust-ligation

Litigation link
https://www.bloomberglaw.com/public...ionDocketNo221cv00563WDWashApr27/3?1652196691

US District Judge John C. Coughenour has ruled that Valve is going to face an antitrust case over Steam. Wolfire Games has alleged that the company created a "most favored nation" type monopoly over the industry that exploits developers and consumers. Valve is accused of having so much control over games industry with the Steam gaming platform that the corporation even dictates the prices and manner in which a developer can sell their non-Steam-enabled games.

Judge Coughenour also rejected the claims that the Steam store and gaming platform operate separately.

"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," Coughenour said.

"These allegations are sufficient to plausibly allege unlawful conduct."
I still hate Valve for how they brought themselves into being in the early 2000's, buying a boxed game, inserting the CD, and finding only the steam installer, a manual, and the redemption code. Then having to use my dial-up to install the steam client on an ancient shitty laptop so I could haul it down to the library and use their wifi so I could download the game and I could then transfer it from the laptop to my desktop then run the installer again so it could verify the files and complete the install...

But the Apple/Epic lawsuit opened a big ass can of worms, Apple based their business model for the app store off Steam and that call-out was guaranteed to land them in a lawsuit. Microsoft, Epic, GoG, and the smattering of others all fight for a distant second, and not having your title available in Steam at launch is a good way for it to die, unless Epic has paid you for that one year of exclusivity then you are covered financially, but your projected sales aren't going to be nearly as good.
 

Lakados

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I hope this get dismissed, I like having all my games on one platform. If developers don't like the cost, don't use it. It isn't like valve force them to use it.
Valve kind of does, something like 70% of all PC games get sold through Steam every year, if you don't release your game on Steam then it's dead. Epic is trying to claw that back with paid exclusives but the Apple lawsuit showed that it has lost them money every single time. That said it's their platform and their market and there are lots of alternatives so we can choose to either buy through Steam or not too, maybe if the other platforms did a better job at competing with price, features, blah blah blah,... Then we wouldn't be in this mess, but they are stuck with all having to fight over that remaining 25% so that doesn't leave them a lot of wiggle room for reinvestment.
 

Armenius

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Don't bury the lede. The reason this wasn't dismissed is because the judge found the argument that Valve has off-the-book conditionals for selling a game on Steam to be compelling. Now the plaintiff has to actually prove this is a practice at Valve in a court. If it can be proven then that will be one thing. If the plaintiff flounders and doesn't have anything at all, it will become a meme legend.
 

zamardii12

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I hope this get dismissed, I like having all my games on one platform. If developers don't like the cost, don't use it. It isn't like valve force them to use it.
100% this. The best service gets the most users. This would be like today's Myspace suing Facebook b/c more people like using Facebook. It's ridiculous. Also I have like a dozen launchers on my computer anyway, and some are even better than Steam as far as simplicity and speediness. Steam is still the primary one where I have most of my games... but I've been using Steam since the beta days when you couldn't even play Half Life 2 without installing it. So almost 2 decades of games are on Steam... yeah... Steam paved the way for the online PC gaming marketplace and will continue to stay there unless someone comes up with something better.
 

M76

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This sounds like "waah, we can't sell our QWOP clone for $20 because other QWOP clones go for $10 on Steam."
They could argue that they are selling bellow costs, but they don't have a case. Steam is literally one of the most expensive places to buy PC games from.
Besides selling a digital copy of a game has no cost after meeting ROI they can sell the game for $0.001, or give them away for free.

Talking of which, If we want real anti trust epic's shenanigans of backroom deals and giving away games is where there is actually a case to be made. Using your capital to hurt other market players is literally the definition of anti trust.
 

Armenius

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They could argue that they are selling bellow costs, but they don't have a case. Steam is literally one of the most expensive places to buy PC games from.
Besides selling a digital copy of a game has no cost after meeting ROI they can sell the game for $0.001, or give them away for free.

Talking of which, If we want real anti trust epic's shenanigans of backroom deals and giving away games is where there is actually a case to be made. Using your capital to hurt other market players is literally the definition of anti trust.
The publishers and developers set their prices on Steam, so I would blame them.
 

LukeTbk

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The best service gets the most users. This would be like today's Myspace suing Facebook b/c more people like using Facebook.

The equivalent is not really good here, they are not getting sued by a competitor from my understanding but by Wolfire Games an independant games studios.

The fact that it is an independant game studio is important here, at a certain scale it is not realistic to say just start you own store (Like Epic, Ubisoft, EA, etc...).

Maybe a better equivalent if people buying service from Facebook (ads and what not) suing Facebook because they use their near monopoly of the world ads space in a certain way.

The claim are the following:
(a) the Steam Store and Steam Platform are distinct products which operate in distinct product markets (which Defendant unlawfully ties)
(b) Defendant unlawfully imposes an anticompetitive platform most-favored-nations (“PMFN”) requirement on game publishers,
(c) Plaintiffs’ resulting price-based injuries are distinguishable from those rejected by the Ninth Circuit in Somers
(d) Plaintiffs plausibly allege non-price-based injuries in the form of reduced game output and quality

Defendant also threatens game publishers with punitive action, including removal of their Steam-enabled games, if they sell non-Steam-enabled versions of those games at lower prices. For example, a Steam account manager informed Plaintiff Wolfire that “it would delist any games available for sale at a lower price elsewhere, whether or not using Steam keys.”

None of those claim sound like a MySpace suing Facebook because it is more popular, for a lot of those Steam competitor would not care and even like for them to be true.
 

LukeTbk

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The publishers and developers set their prices on Steam, so I would blame them.
From my understanding, they claim that it is not fully the case (at least for a small independent studio), even the price outside steam if you want to sell on it:

Defendant allegedly enforces this regime through a combination of written and unwritten rules. (Id. at 58–64.) According to the SAC, Defendant relies on provisions within Steamworks Documentation to impose conditions on how non-Steam-enabled games are sold and priced. (Id. at 8, 58–61.) Defendant also threatens game publishers with punitive action, including removal of their Steam-enabled games, if they sell non-Steam-enabled versions of those games at lower prices. For example, a Steam account manager informed Plaintiff Wolfire that “it would delist any games available for sale at a lower price elsewhere, whether or not using Steam keys.”
 

M76

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From my understanding, they claim that it is not fully the case (at least for a small independent studio), even the price outside steam if you want to sell on it:

Defendant allegedly enforces this regime through a combination of written and unwritten rules. (Id. at 58–64.) According to the SAC, Defendant relies on provisions within Steamworks Documentation to impose conditions on how non-Steam-enabled games are sold and priced. (Id. at 8, 58–61.) Defendant also threatens game publishers with punitive action, including removal of their Steam-enabled games, if they sell non-Steam-enabled versions of those games at lower prices. For example, a Steam account manager informed Plaintiff Wolfire that “it would delist any games available for sale at a lower price elsewhere, whether or not using Steam keys.”
This is clearly not practice as I haven't bought a single game on steam for at least 10 years, because they were cheaper elsewhere.
 

Lakados

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Defendant also threatens game publishers with punitive action, including removal of their Steam-enabled games, if they sell non-Steam-enabled versions of those games at lower prices. For example, a Steam account manager informed Plaintiff Wolfire that “it would delist any games available for sale at a lower price elsewhere, whether or not using Steam keys.
That line right there if factual could lose them the case, Valve's only defense there could be trying to say that the account manager misspoke or misunderstood something and they try to shift the blame onto them. That is strong-arm price-fixing at its finest, and given Steam's dominant market position not selling there is a death sentence for a title.
 

LukeTbk

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This is clearly not practice as I haven't bought a single game on steam for at least 10 years, because they were cheaper elsewhere.
How large of a simple of games of Wolfire level of publisher size/power did you bought at a significant lower price elsewhere ?
 

Blakestr

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That line right there if factual could lose them the case, Valve's only defense there could be trying to say that the account manager misspoke or misunderstood something and they try to shift the blame onto them. That is strong-arm price-fixing at its finest, and given Steam's dominant market position not selling there is a death sentence for a title.

I would be extremely surprised if was something provable as a policy of Valve - at the most, some manager might have intimated TOS violations which would get them delisted but there's not going to be anything listed as "If you sell your game somewhere else, we will delist you." They would have to have a crapload of whistleblower witnesses who stated, "Yeah, I was told by X to say this."

Admittedly I'm a classic Valve fan boy - they are a unique behemoth, almost a think tank as opposed to a publishing company, (let alone game studio). But they are not stupid and there is no way someone higher up would sign on to a policy that MIGHT make the company a little bit more more money but would be a phenomenally stupid risk.
 

realworld

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Death to all of these leeches and game launchers. I wish Microsoft would just take away all of their games from Steam and EGS and integrate them seamlessly with Windows 11 without need of any game launchers. Make it happen Microsoft. With GamePass, Bethesda and now Activision/Blizzard, you have way more commanding powers than before.
 

Darunion

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Death to all of these leeches and game launchers. I wish Microsoft would just take away all of their games from Steam and EGS and integrate them seamlessly with Windows 11 without need of any game launchers. Make it happen Microsoft. With GamePass, Bethesda and now Activision/Blizzard, you have way more commanding powers than before.
This triggered me in so many physical and emotional ways at once i cant count them all.
 

Lakados

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People like having the option of buying all their stuff at the same place is the reason that Valve is violating anti-trust law?
I mean, Apple successfully argued this in court and that’s why there’s no competing iOS store?
 

LukeTbk

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I don't even know how Apple and its closed platform that they completely control even relates to a storefront on a completely open platform.
Antitrust laws in the US tend to take the consumer point of views a lot.

If steam would fill all the things that made the iOS store not violate the antitrust pointed out by the court (Epic having fully access to iOS for example) and fill consumer preference well and not hurt them, they would apply her has well, maybe even more so in the context of competition existing on the platform.

That why some can get away with near monopoly (facebook/google/amazon) because those do not seem to hurt the general population, even being still free for them to use in many case and excellent service they love.
 

M76

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How large of a simple of games of Wolfire level of publisher size/power did you bought at a significant lower price elsewhere ?
I don't know what level wolffire is, I was speaking generally. But if I think about it from a small publisher's perspective, you put your game on steam for marketing and exposure but then sell it for half the price on your own site, that's not very good business for valve. That would be literally having the cake and eating it too.
 

sharknice

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People like having the option of buying all their stuff at the same place is the reason that Valve is violating anti-trust law?

People unwilling to buy from anywhere but Steam because they want all their stuff in the same place is what gives Valve the power to demand such high cut, and allegedly bully developers around by not allowing them to sell for cheaper elsewhere.

If people didn't have that mentality there could be much better competition between stores, not only directly to consumers, but also between the develoeprs and the stores.

A lot of people don't care where they buy a game, but there are also a lot of people that want them all on Steam.


I don't know if that makes anything Valve did illegal or whatever, but I know for certain it has negative affects that far outweight the positive.
 

Lakados

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People unwilling to buy from anywhere but Steam because they want all their stuff in the same place is what gives Valve the power to demand such high cut, and allegedly bully developers around by not allowing them to sell for cheaper elsewhere.

If people didn't have that mentality there could be much better competition between stores, not only directly to consumers, but also between the develoeprs and the stores.

A lot of people don't care where they buy a game, but there are also a lot of people that want them all on Steam.


I don't know if that makes anything Valve did illegal or whatever, but I know for certain it has negative affects that far outweight the positive.
The fact that it matters where you purchased it is the crux of it.

Back with physical media it didn’t matter you had the disks you had the code it was yours. Now your tied to a particular store. Some organization needs a central repository, your account, your licensed software, buy it or download it from anywhere use the one service for launching and management. Like Khronos but for games…
 

LukeTbk

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I don't know what level wolffire is, I was speaking generally. But if I think about it from a small publisher's perspective, you put your game on steam for marketing and exposure but then sell it for half the price on your own site, that's not very good business for valve. That would be literally having the cake and eating it too.
Yes, that in part why steam would dislike it a lot I imagine, being on steam being a big publicity/visibility boost I would imagine, they could easily have the feeling if you want all that, here are the conditions.
 
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sc5mu93

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Death to all of these leeches and game launchers. I wish Microsoft would just take away all of their games from Steam and EGS and integrate them seamlessly with Windows 11 without need of any game launchers. Make it happen Microsoft. With GamePass, Bethesda and now Activision/Blizzard, you have way more commanding powers than before.
office-space-ajau-naidu.gif
 

DukenukemX

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I hope this get dismissed, I like having all my games on one platform. If developers don't like the cost, don't use it. It isn't like valve force them to use it.
I don't mind this problem what so ever. I tend to run my games from a desktop icon, not by opening up Steam and searching for it. I don't want to enforce Steams power to "dictates the prices and manner in which a developer can sell their non-Steam-enabled games". From what it sounds like, Valve won't like developers sell their games for a cheaper price outside of Steam. I'm not pro-capiatlism but competition is one one aspect I agree with it. You can't let a company be as powerful as Valve and stagnate competition. This was the reason why everyone was upset with Epic and Apple as they literally created a techno feudalist market where the moment you step into it, you step out of capitalism. This also goes for consoles but in this system you don't have any direct competition with anyone. If Valve is punishing developers for trying to sell their games on other platforms for a cheaper price then that's anti consumer.
 

Derangel

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I would be extremely surprised if was something provable as a policy of Valve - at the most, some manager might have intimated TOS violations which would get them delisted but there's not going to be anything listed as "If you sell your game somewhere else, we will delist you." They would have to have a crapload of whistleblower witnesses who stated, "Yeah, I was told by X to say this."

Admittedly I'm a classic Valve fan boy - they are a unique behemoth, almost a think tank as opposed to a publishing company, (let alone game studio). But they are not stupid and there is no way someone higher up would sign on to a policy that MIGHT make the company a little bit more more money but would be a phenomenally stupid risk.

Valve is a multi-billion dollar corporation, of course they do things that are not strictly legal. EVERY large corporation does. Don't forget that it took a lawsuit to force them into offering refunds, they are not on the side of the consumer.
 

GoodBoy

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Steam is soo much better than Origin/Uplay/Epic. And Bethesda is getting rid of their launcher and moving everything into Steam. Hardly ever even fire up Battle.net, I do like the GOG launcher for some things.

The only possibly valid point in that complaint is pricing control for non-steam platform versions of the game. It's likely just to keep pricing even across them, may be some valid logic to it. Anything else sounds like sour grapes/jealousy. Steam is better for developers than Retail Box by significant amounts, even with the 30% fee.
 
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DPI

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Death to all of these leeches and game launchers. I wish Microsoft would just take away all of their games from Steam and EGS and integrate them seamlessly with Windows 11 without need of any game launchers. Make it happen Microsoft. With GamePass, Bethesda and now Activision/Blizzard, you have way more commanding powers than before.
Hey Bill, how's it going?

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DukenukemX

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Death to all of these leeches and game launchers. I wish Microsoft would just take away all of their games from Steam and EGS and integrate them seamlessly with Windows 11 without need of any game launchers. Make it happen Microsoft. With GamePass, Bethesda and now Activision/Blizzard, you have way more commanding powers than before.
There's so much wrong with this I don't know where to begin? Giving Microsoft more monopolist control over another market is just bad. I'd like to see Microsoft broken up, not adding to it's monopoly. Microsoft did try this before and it failed because nobody wants to buy from Microsoft. Their app store is horrible and not as well defined as Steam. Also Valve is behind Linux and I've also made the switch to Linux Mint 20 for over a month now because Windows 11 is crap and I don't want to continue using Windows 10. I don't think GamePass would even work on Linux through Wine.

Speaking of GamePass I wonder how that's doing? With Netflix and Disney+ losing subscribers I think it's clear that due to this insane inflation we're going through that people are cutting out unnecessary expenses. I haven't even thought about GamePass until you mentioned it. They really don't have many compelling games for me to subscribe for. It's mostly Halo and Minecraft with a bunch of old dead Indie games.
 

Spaghetti

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Ideal outcome - It somehow becomes illegal to sell a digital game that's only valid on one launcher, and all the stores start selling universal 'CD keys' instead.
Likely outcome - Valve pays a tiny fine and nobody cares.
 

UnknownSouljer

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Ideal outcome - It somehow becomes illegal to sell a digital game that's only valid on one launcher, and all the stores start selling universal 'CD keys' instead.
Likely outcome - Valve pays a tiny fine and nobody cares.
While that might sound great in practice for the consumer, there would be no impetus then to run a game store.
That would essentially mean that Valve would see zero income from selling games and being a reseller and store front. At which point, without monetary incentive, you may as well just close the entire store and not pay money to host all of these games for these companies.

If you don't understand that Valve has more or less made it so that developers don't need a website, hosting, publishing tools, payment tools, or technical support - then you can't understand why Valve is as big as they are in the first place. If every indie company found it easy to host their own games, then they simply would and get 100% of the profit instead of using anyone else's launcher.

This can never be a question on whether or not Valve or any online reseller should get compensation. The question is how much compensation is fair and in the case of this lawsuit, whether or not they are doing things that are anti-competitive so that other distribution services have a fair shot.

----------

I personally think that Valve's cut is pretty fair considering that they built what they built, and their cost to game devs versus traditional distribution is a fraction of the price. Valve has been a boon to game development since the beginning - which is why indie titles (including crap ware) is able to flourish as much as it has.

However creating walls and other anti-competitive behavior is for sure a no-no. It's one thing to have a natural monopoly (especially if that reason is you have the best product at the best price), it's another one to have an artificial one where you create barriers to entry for competitors and are otherwise anti-competitive. If this lawsuits lowers barriers to entry, then I'm happy. I'm all for a bigger and free market place.
 
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DukenukemX

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While that might sound great in practice for the consumer, there would be no impetus then to run a game store.
Steam was originally built so Valve could sell their own games. Not only Valve can't make games that count to three but their store is far behind just selling Valve games.
That would essentially mean that Valve would see zero income from selling games and being a reseller and store front. At which point, without monetary incentive, you may as well just close the entire store and not pay money to host all of these games for these companies.
Why would they make no income?
If you don't understand that Valve has more or less made it so that developers don't need a website, hosting, publishing tools, payment tools, or technical support - then you can't understand why Valve is as big as they are in the first place. If every indie company found it easy to host their own games, then they simply would and get 100% of the profit instead of using anyone else's launcher.
Hosting isn't as much of an issue as getting your game sold. The reality is that if you want to sell a game on PC then it must be done through Steam. Not because of hosting, publishing tools, payment tools, or even technical support but because we all know that's all bullshit cause nobody would see your game to buy it otherwise.
I personally think that Valve's cut is pretty fair considering that they built what they built, and their cost to game devs versus traditional distribution is a fraction of the price.
You know what's a fair price? When Valve has to compete with other sellers. Look at what happened when Epic got into it and started charging less for developers to sell their games?
 

UnknownSouljer

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Steam was originally built so Valve could sell their own games.
That’s a very myopic view of the situation. Gabe had the vision to recognize digital distribution was the future before everyone else. It’s obvious that Steam was unnecessary at the time it was built for the distribution of “just” specifically Valve games. Most have noted they would’ve been happy with CD’s in the late 90’s and not online accounts to play games period.
Not only Valve can't make games that count to three but their store is far behind just selling Valve games.
Not relevant.
Why would they make no income?
If you’re buying a CD key that is usable ‘everywhere’ the implication is that the dev gets 100% of the money.

Or alternatively if the cd key seller makes some fraction of the sale, since all keys would become valid everywhere, it would be a race to the bottom in terms of “cd key” prices. Meaning basically grey marker sellers win the day.
Why would Valve want to support anyone that has paid them no money? Why should they be forced to provide a service for someone who has paid them no money?

It would be better to just be a key seller that doesn’t have to provide any of the hosting, advertising, support, or other services. Go back to letting the devs provide all that then.
Hosting isn't as much of an issue as getting your game sold. The reality is that if you want to sell a game on PC then it must be done through Steam. Not because of hosting, publishing tools, payment tools, or even technical support but because we all know that's all bullshit cause nobody would see your game to buy it otherwise.
Exactly. Thanks for providing another excellent point related to Valve essentially multiplying most small devs advertising budget.
You know what's a fair price? When Valve has to compete with other sellers. Look at what happened when Epic got into it and started charging less for developers to sell their games?
What happened? So far all I can see is that Epic is bleeding cash through giving out free games and paying for lock-ins (Tim Sweeney himself stating that the Epic game store is a loss leader and likely will be for some time) and that most of the community is annoyed at 1 year lock-ins and more or less just waits for games to be available on Steam.

Oh and that there is no games provided on any other launcher that isn’t also on Steam other than Epics paid for time launches? If Epic is so great why not just be exclusive with them forever then and always get the bigger cut? Simply because you make less money.

Here’s a fun quote/tweet from that Forbes article:
The results from Epic Games' buyout of games (offering minimum guarantees) are revealed in their Epic v. Apple case. h/t: @heylookitsalan
Every title except 2 lost money :/
For example, Division 2 and Metro Exodus had a shortfall exceeding $20M, each. Game stores are hard


As much as you don’t want to admit it, getting a bigger cut from Epic pales in comparison from the much larger amount of total sales devs get from Steam. You’re acting as if Epic is Valve’s first competition. They’re not and they’ve done little to disuade people from shopping and preferring Steam.

Heck, I bet CDPR gets more money from Valve than they do from GOG.

Basically the Epic Games store is a joke. You’re trying to use it as an example, but frankly it’s a completely unsustainable business model. If Epic didn’t have money pouring in from the Unreal Engine, there wouldn’t even be a TGS. A failing business is not a replacement for a good one.
 
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NightReaver

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I'm amazed to this day that anybody can take EGS seriously. Literally the only time I see any positive mention of EGS is when they're giving out free games or some timed exclusive. How is that healthy in anyway? I never hear anything good about EGS as a service or as a product. Only when they're giving out gibs.
 

sover

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People unwilling to buy from anywhere but Steam because they want all their stuff in the same place is what gives Valve the power to demand such high cut, and allegedly bully developers around by not allowing them to sell for cheaper elsewhere.

If people didn't have that mentality there could be much better competition between stores, not only directly to consumers, but also between the develoeprs and the stores.

A lot of people don't care where they buy a game, but there are also a lot of people that want them all on Steam.


I don't know if that makes anything Valve did illegal or whatever, but I know for certain it has negative affects that far outweight the positive.
Still not understanding your original argument. People want to use steam so steam is violating antitrust?
 
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