The Steam Review

Comment and discussion on Valve Software’s digital communications platform.

Thai and Russian region restrictions

Retail and digital clash again :: October 25th, 2007 :: Events :: 35 Responses
The Orange Box
It’s really quite good…if you can play it.

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 been pointed out that Valve are being undercut by themselves by this, which is an incredibly obvious thing for me to have missed and puts the ball firmly back in their court. Read the following two paragraphs with this in mind, but also consider that any decision by Valve (or agreed by them) could have been implemented from the moment Steam left beta and earned them a lot more coin.

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.

If you have been affected by the new restrictions, your best course of action is to contact Steam support and have them remove the game from your account. You will then be able to buy a normal, unlocked version, and be free to sell your hard copy on…preferably to someone in the country you got it from!

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!

35 Responses to this post:


  1. Tom Edwards Says:

    Well, I ended up wrong on two counts here. That’ll teach me for rushing things!

  2. FunkyHippo Says:

    That’s fucking stupid.

  3. Anon Says:

    Oh hey, a company looking out for their own best interests for a change? Get the hell out of town!

  4. Zavaro Says:

    Yet we played for the product. A person could move. A person could have purchased the product off of eBay. It’s completely legal to those kinds of things.

  5. hahnchen Says:

    Valve have every right to clamp down on the grey market, although the way they’ve done it hasn’t been the best. It is in Valve’s best interest, and the legitimate retailers’ best interest to stop this trade.

    What Valve should do, is to only allow authentication of product keys from their country of purchase. After that, let them do what they want.

  6. Tom Edwards Says:

    All that would do is create demand for people in Thailand or Russia who take your CD key and account and bind the two together, then give them back to you. Or not give them back to you as would most likely be the case before long.

  7. hahnchen Says:

    The account binding service is a service that no one in the right mind would use.

  8. Tom Edwards Says:

    Neither is “[V]alve [S]team acount verifcaton service”…

  9. Greg Says:

    Your last bit about Russia and near by territories…steam has been using that error message since well before summer at the earliest.

  10. Tom Edwards Says:

    How come we’ve only just heard about it?

  11. Greg Says:

    Not sure what you mean – the recent Thailand thing may be new news, but Russia has had retail region locked games for some time, to the best of my knowledge.

  12. Tom Edwards Says:

    Oh well. Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered posting this in the first place!

  13. Vuong Says:

    Why have these been lockeD?

  14. ATimson Says:

    [quote comment=”3926″]Oh well. Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered posting this in the first place![/quote]
    I dunno. The retroactive locking was news to me…

  15. Newbie Says:

    Country lock for Russian versions is there even before Ep1 release – since local publisher Buka took over previous one and decreased prices to about $10

  16. chin Says:

    my account with russian key wich was rrestricted is working now for a week or so again

  17. Josh Says:

    yeah i bought the orange box game in india and i live in australia and got back here in australia the other day and tried installing in and it said that the cd key ur using only works in russia and nearbye territories!
    WTF?! This sux!
    i paid good money and paid pretty much the same price as it is here, but still now it doesnt fucking work!
    not cool ay, ive contacted steam support and its been a week now and they haven’t given a shit as of yet…arg!
    anyway any help would be greatly appreciated thanx all, oh bye the way the original starting article is well written man well done,

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