Steam continues to be one of the most dominant storefronts and platforms in all of PC gaming, but a recent ruling from a Seattle judge may have parent company Valve in facing antitrust litigation over the way it runs its gaming empire on steam. The recent ruling alleges that Steam’s “most favored nation” pricing and management has driven up the cost of games and exploited the market in various ways.
The ruling came down from Seattle federal Judge John C. Coughenour, who is letting the case move forward in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, as reported by Bloomberg Law. According to Judge Coughenour’s ruling, the complaints that Valve exploits its dominance in the PC space to threaten developers that attempt to sell games through other storefronts and launchers for less may indeed constitute antitrust legal action against the company.
“[Valve] allegedly enforces this regime through a combination of written and unwritten rules [on how even] non-Steam-enabled games are sold and priced,” Coughenour wrote. “These allegations are sufficient to plausibly allege unlawful conduct.”
Valve has been a nearly undisputable dominant force in the PC games space for sales and platform over the course of the last couple decades through Steam. During this time, Steam has faced numerous problems of curation, as well as issues with auto-moderation of games. The only groups that have even come close to competing are GOG and Epic Games Store, but Steam has still remained the dominant force by far.
Where the case against Steam’s alleged anti-consumer and anti-developer practices was dismissed, Judge Coughenour claimed a changing of times and the state of the market made Steam’s most-favored-nation pricing policies more of an issue.
“[Valve] did not need market power to charge a fee well above its cost structure because those brick-and-mortar competitors had a far higher cost structure,” Judge Coughenour said of the difference between Valve competing against physical locations and the digital market as it mostly is nowadays.
With this ruling, Valve seems to be in for a major legal battle. Stay tuned as we continue to follow for further updates on the case.