May 6th, 2021
Dear gamers and game developers,
I would like to explain why Wolfire Games is seeking to represent game developers in a class action suit against Valve Corporation. I felt that I had no choice, because I believe gamers and game developers are being harmed by Valve's conduct. While I am taking on significant personal risk, I am not doing this for personal gain. If there’s any monetary recovery, it will be distributed to all developers and gamers in the class.
I did not set out with the goal of suing Valve, but I have personally experienced the conduct described in the complaint. When new video game stores were opening that charged much lower commissions than Valve, I decided that I would provide my game "Overgrowth" at a lower price to take advantage of the lower commission rates. I intended to write a blog post about the results.
But when I asked Valve about this plan, they replied that they would remove Overgrowth from Steam if I allowed it to be sold at a lower price anywhere, even from my own website without Steam keys and without Steam’s DRM. This would make it impossible for me, or any game developer, to determine whether or not Steam is earning their commission. I believe that other developers who charged lower prices on other stores have been contacted by Valve, telling them that their games will be removed from Steam if they did not raise their prices on competing stores.
While talking to other developers about problems that they were having with Steam, they kept referring to it as a "monopoly," and saying that there was nothing that we could do. I wondered, has anyone actually checked if Valve is obeying antitrust law? So I consulted with legal experts, which eventually culminated in the complaint.
As the dominant platform, when developers list their games on multiple PC stores, the majority of their sales will come through Steam. I believe this makes most developers afraid that if they don't sell on Steam, they will lose the majority of their revenue. To those developers, avoiding Steam would add unacceptable risk to the already high risk of game development in general. I believe that most developers have little or no choice but to sell on Steam and do as they're told by Valve.
I believe that businesses are free to do whatever they want within the law. However, once a company reaches a certain level of power over an entire market, the antitrust laws forbid those companies from distorting competition. I believe that Valve is taking away gamers' freedom to choose how much extra they are willing to pay to use their platform. I believe they are taking away competing stores' freedom to compete by taking advantage of their lower commission rates. I believe they are taking away developers' freedom to use different pricing models.
In my opinion, this is part of why all competing stores have failed. This suit insists that Valve stop interfering with pricing on other stores, and allow gamers and developers to make their own decisions. That’s why I joined the lawsuit.