IN A NUTSHELL:
- Five gamers have sued Valve Corporation and several publishers - including CD Projekt and Ubisoft - over the so-called MFN clause, which prevents games from being sold on other stores cheaper than they are on Steam;
- According to the plaintiffs, the MFN has contributed to the overpricing of PC games.
Valve Corporation - owner of famed digital distribution platform Steam - was sued by five gamers this week (via Hollywood Reporter). The reason is the so-called MFN clause (shortcut of Most Favoured Nations) in the agreement regulating the rules of distribution, which guarantees that games will not be offered in other shops cheaper than on Steam. The case will go before a California court.
Steam colludes with publishers to inflate prices?
According to the plaintiff, in practice the MFN prevents fair competition and keeps prices higher, hitting gamers.
The documentation filed with the court also refers to a January 2019 tweet by Tim Sweeney - CEO of Epic Games, the company which manages Epic Games Store.
The authors of the lawsuit argue that if it weren't for Steam's MFN clause, prices on stores like the Microsoft Store and Epic Store would be lower, due to the smaller margin charged by the platform - selling games cheaper would simply be in the interest of publishers, who could feasibly make more money by doing so (increasing sales).
Of course, the matter is not so simple, because in practice the game keys available on Steam can also be purchased in other places (e.g. Humble Store). What's more, the games released exclusively on Epic Games Store are not sold cheaper than a typical title available on Valve's platform - this is evident, for example, in the case of Hitman 3, for which we have to pay $59.99 on EGS. That's comparable to what we'd pay for most AAA titles on Steam.
- Steam - official website
- Epic Games Store - official website