Thai and Russian region restrictions
Last Friday, Valve began preventing retail copies of their Source (i.e. post-2004) games bought in Thailand and Russia from being played outside their country of origin. The internet has exploded the story in the way only the internet can, and it’s high time for some rationality.
Who, and why?
It’s clear after a few moments’ thought that region locking is not Valve’s interest: Steam sells over the internet, making the reasoning behind and benefits of it utterly irrelevant. Though they may have been stolen, the CD keys were not pirated — they were all accepted by Steam — and were purchased at wholesale from Valve/EA at their asking price at some point.
The people who care about region of sale are retailers and local publishers. They reduce prices in regions with large piracy problems to see more net profit, and not unreasonably want to keep those low-priced SKUs out of regions where prices are normal. It seems clear to me that they have, again, not unreasonably, turned to Steam to enforce this.
What does stink about this whole thing is that it’s been done retrospectively. People who have been happily playing their HL2-era Valve games for up to three years are now locked out, unless they want to play Russian roulette with their account and authenticate over a proxy server (please, don’t try this!). It would have been fairer on consumers by far to stop at rejecting the activation and use of new keys, and I’d very much like to know who was pushing beyond that.
Thanks to Cam, who sent me a well-researched e-mail about this and offered to write an article on it. I’m not that much bothered about what retailers or publishers decide — but I’d love to find more of those sort of mails in my inbox each morning!