Never underestimate the tenacity of the gaming community to figure out ways to exploit every loophole and cheat in your digital distribution platform. This is something Valve has had to be keenly aware of recently, particularly with last week’s fiasco with gamers exploiting the Steam Gems system to create billions of undeserved credit. Today, the company has region-locked its games to prevent them from being gifted across certain countries.
This change does not affect users in North America, Western Europe, Japan, and other territories with relatively stable economies. It does, however, very much affect regions with less robust economies. These include countries in Asia, South America, Eastern Europe, and most prominently, Russia, which as of late has been sliding into financial chaos over dropping oil prices and sanctions.
Because Steam games are priced locally, games that would sell for $60 in North America would sell for the equivalent in a poorer country’s economy, making it cheaper to buy than in a wealthier nation. As a result, gamers in places like Russia would buy loads of games on Steam, and then make a profit by reselling them at higher prices to users in the west, who would still be buying them at a cheaper price than directly through Steam.
This lockdown comes right before tomorrow’s Steam Holiday Sale and shortly after Valve instituted a new rule that would prevent users from immediately trading games purchased as gifts, requiring them to wait 30 days after the time of purchase. They can still be gifted at any time, as this rule applies only to trades.
Valve wouldn’t be the first online store to drop the hammer as a result of economic change, as Apple yesterday shut down online sales in Russia because of the country’s economic woes.
In the meantime, for a full list of countries affected and unaffected by this region locking, you can head on over to Reddit.