Although some try to fight it, it is indisputable that Steam, as of today, is the leading platform when it comes to PC game stores. On the one hand, we have similar services, such as Epic Games and GOG, and on the other the code stores, where it is possible to acquire games for a lower price than on those platforms. The former have not managed to stand up to Valve’s store and, concerning the latter, the codes they sell are for Steam and other platforms, so we cannot consider them to be total competition (although they are in part).
Steam will further control the use of VPNs
One of the main reasons for the success enjoyed by these code stores is that they offer games at a lower price than what they have in the catalog when we see them on Steam. And although there are events, such as the summer sales that have started this very afternoon, there are many users who prefer to look for the titles they want for a cheaper price and, only if it is not available in those stores, they resort to buying it on Steam.
However, some go further. Although not everyone knows it, it is easy to imagine that Steam game prices often vary from region to region. When a distributor or independent developer uploads its game to Steam to market it, it must enter its price in US dollars, and the platform automatically suggests the appropriate prices for the rest of the world.
The key factor is that this calculation is not just about currency exchange. Steam takes into account the difference in the economies of different countries and proposes prices adapted to each local economy.
With these adjustments, Steam aims to bring games closer to users in those countries, since if they were to maintain the same price in all geographies, they would most likely be prohibitively expensive for most of them. The problem is that, as with practically everything, there are always some people who decide to take advantage of these measures for their benefit, and VPN services are particularly useful for this purpose.
This is not something new, for example, at the launch of Cyberpunk 2077, it quickly became known that CD Projekt Red had also adjusted its price in different regions, and that, thus, buying it for example in Ukraine reduced its price by a third. This was quickly circulated on the Internet, in forums, social networks, and websites, and eventually quite a few people, despite being in other countries with stronger economies, resorted to a VPN to buy the game at the Ukrainian price.
With Steam this is more complex, as it is a technique that Valve identified some time ago, and since then it has been establishing measures to prevent, for example, someone from some countries from buying games in store, which is one of the cheapest. And yet, there are still people who find a way to do so, since under certain circumstances, by modifying the country of residence of the account owner and using a VPN, it is possible to purchase games in other regions.
In a further crack down on people buying games in cheaper regions, Valve added a limit on how often you can change your Steam account's country.
Country may not be updated more than once every 3 months. Purchases can be completed using a payment method from your current region.
— Steam Database (@SteamDB) June 23, 2021
This, of course, has resulted in many users changing the location of their Steam account, using a VPN, and taking advantage of the substantially lower prices in countries such as Argentina. Once the purchase is complete, users reset their account to their home country and continue to use Steam as normal.
This, however, is going to change, as we can read in a tweet from Steam Database, Valve is going to introduce new restrictions, including that it will only be possible to change the country associated with an account every three months. In addition, the introduction of limitations on the means of payment, more specifically that you can only pay with means associated with the country in whose version of the store you intend to make the purchase.
It seems a quite sensible move on Steam’s part, as local prices have a very clear and defined raison d’être: to allow locals to access games that, if they were priced in other more powerful economies, could be inaccessible. This is even more evident in Argentina, where the tax burden on games is tremendously high. Thus, it is to be welcomed that Valve takes this kind of measures because the other option would be to end the local pricing policy, something that could be devastating for gamers in those countries, who would see how the price of games is completely out of their reach.