Valve has unveiled a new pricing tool for its Steam purchasing platform as some gamers took advantage of falling foreign currencies to buy for less.
Steam, the most popular shopping platform in the PC gaming world, wants to put a stop to the abuse. With a worldwide presence, the online store – owned by Valve – manages a total of 39 different currencies.
In practice, developers must therefore enter 39 different prices when they market a game. So to make life easier for video game studios, Steam offers creators the option of pricing their titles in dollars. A conversion is then proposed by the sales platform to avoid companies to calculate a price according to all markets and currencies.
Argentina and Turkey, countries of permanent sales
But for several weeks, a phenomenon seems to be becoming widespread: many players tend to shop abroad, especially through the use of a VPN to locate their device in a specific country.
For example, a European will want to avoid paying for a game in euros and a Brit will prefer a currency other than the pound. With this method, buyers are looking for an advantageous conversion. The idea is to pay less for the same game in another currency.
Because some currencies have collapsed in a few months, mechanically melting the real price. In this game, Argentina and Turkey are the countries with permanent sales, as Eurogamer points out. The Argentinean and Turkish currencies have totally sunk since the beginning of the year.
An imbalance between the number of purchases and players
This summer, the French development studio Motion Twin had also revised the prices of its flagship game Dead Cells upwards in these two markets. “A significant part of the sales of the last year came from these two countries, without corresponding to an increase of the players on the spot”, detailed the studio in an information note.
In most cases, the percentage of sales in a country corresponds to the percentage of people playing from that country. However, the French company notes a percentage of sales in Argentina and Turkey three to four times higher than the percentage of players in these countries.
“It’s no coincidence that the price of Dead Cells and its expansions in these two countries is by far the lowest in dollars/euros,” the studio laments.
“So it’s extremely likely that people will switch regions to take advantage of a 70-90% price reduction,” Motion Twin suggests.
1.50 to £15.49
Called “Region hopping”, this practice is not limited to Steam. It has recently been used by an independent game on the Nintendo eShop. Released in November 2021 on PC, Let’s Build a Zoo received a physical version in September 2022. On the occasion of this new launch, the publisher was pleased with the large number of pre-orders on the Nintendo eShop, says Eurogamer.
The joy was short-lived. Mike Rose, the founder of No More Robots, the game’s publisher, quickly realized that 85% of the reservations came from Argentina. In a series of tweets, he explained that he initially regretted the massive purchase of Let’s Build a Zoo at a price of 1.50 dollars thanks to a very advantageous conversion. Against 15.49 pounds sterling in the UK.
The craze was perceived by the algorithms of the online store. As a direct consequence, the game was propelled into the recommendations of purchases. As a result, Let’s Build a Zoo has even reached the top 100 best sellers in the US market.
Suggested increases of 485 and 454%
But it’s because the endings are not always happy for developers that Valve has decided to toughen up. To combat “Region Skipping”, the company has decided to update its pricing tool – although this is only a recommendation.
Logically, Argentina and Turkey see their conversion corrected. From now on, for a game sold for $59.99, you will have to pay 3800 Argentine pesos or 510 Turkish pounds, an increase of 485% and 454% respectively.
The only problem is that this new pricing could penalize all players. If the development studios and video game publishers let Valve guide them, Europe would see its prices rise by 15 to 25%.