The document also named Ubisoft, CD Projekt RED, and Devolver Digital.
The Hollywood Reporter got the lawsuit document (filed by Ohio-based Vorys Sater, a law firm), and in it, Valve is accused of abusing its effective monopoly on the PC gaming marketplace to force developers to sell their games on other platforms (such as the Epic Games Store) for the same price as they do on Valve. The suit mentions a provision, called Most Favored Nations (we will only call it MFN onwards) in the Steam Distribution Agreement. In it, the seller agrees to give the client (Steam) the best terms, not allowing Microsoft Store or the Epic Games Store (to name a few) to compete with Steam in pricing.
„The MFN [Most Favored Nations clause] has the effect of keeping prices to consumers high, as price competition by platforms would cause the prices of PC games sold to consumers to decrease. The MFN also hinders innovation and suppresses output, as it acts as an additional barrier to entry by potential rival platforms and as higher prices lead to fewer sales of PC games,” the document claims.
The suit also names CD Projekt, Ubisoft, kChamp Games, Rust LTD and Devolver Digital as defendants, as they „unlawfully contracted, combined, or conspired to unreasonably restrain trade in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act by agreeing under the Steam MFN that the game developer Defendants would not sell their PC game products through competing platforms at a price lower than what they offered through Valve’s Steam platform.” It also cites a tweet that was posted a year ago by Tim Sweeney, the head of Epic Games: „Steam has veto power over prices, so if a multi-store developer wishes to sell their game for a lower price on the Epic Games store than Steam, then: 1) Valve can simply say „no” and 2) Pricing disparity would likely anger Steam users, leading to review bombing, etc.”
The document also mentions that Valve takes 30% (by default) from the sales revenue, while the Epic Games Store and Microsoft Store keeps more for the developer, and yet, the pricing isn’t changed outside Steam. The lawsuit alleges that „developers are not independently choosing to price PC games at the same level across platforms; they are required to do so because they agreed to the Steam MFN. Without the Steam MFN, it would be in the game developers’ independent economic interest to offer their PC games at lower prices on platforms that charge a lower commission than the Steam platform because they could generate the same or even greater revenue per game as a result of the lower commissions while lowering prices to consumers. Because of the Steam MFN, game developers must account for the Steam platform’s supra competitive commissions and cannot and do not lower prices on rival platforms,” the lawsuit claims.
As PCGamer points out, you can find BioShock: The Collection for 60 dollars on Steam, but you can get it for 12 per month via Humble Monthly. Hitman III’s base edition is also 60 bucks on the Epic Games Store, as this is the base price for AAA titles. The document adds that the MFN clause „is anticompetitive and constitutes illegal monopolization and monopoly maintenance.” However, we don’t know why Devolver Digital was mentioned, but they are ready to defend themselves in court: „I have it on very good authority that everyone at Devolver enrolled in law school today so no one can answer this question until at least the first semester is over,” Devolver representative Stephanie Tinsley said in a statement.
So Valve has more on its plate than the case about the Steam Controller that we recently discussed. But isn’t it the publisher that defines a game’s price…?