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Valve's response to Wolfire lawsuit: Deal with it

Updated: Valve has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought against it by Wolfire that alleged the company had created a monopoly with Steam, and was not earning its 30 percent cut on game sales.

Bryant Francis

July 29, 2021

2 Min Read

The Valve Corporation has filed a motion to dismiss Wolfire Games’ lawsuit against the company, denying the claims that its practices are anticompetitive and defending the notion that its 30 percent cut on sales accurately represents the services it provides developers.

Valve’s lawyers filed the motion in Washington State court three days ago, and pushed directly back on some of the specific anecdotes and evidence supplied by Wolfire Games and other plaintiffs.

In the initial lawsuit, Wolfire Games, William Herbet and Daniel Escobar alleged that Valve’s "anti-competitive practices" have led to them paying "supra competitive prices" for PC games. It also targeted Valve’s practice of requiring that versions of a game sold on Steam match the lowest price for a version of a game that developers sell on other marketplaces.

Wolfire Games founder David Rosen called out the latter practice in a blog post, saying that Valve would  “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.”

Valve's response aggressively defends the company's price-setting conduct, and pins Rosen's example as being one anecdotal piece of evidence that fails to demonstrate Valve’s alleged involvement.

In its motion to dismiss, Valve states that “the only factual allegation that Valve ever did this consists of a single anecdote of Valve allegedly telling one unnamed developer it shouldn’t give a non-Steam-enabled game free on Discord’s competing platform if it charges Steam users $5 for the Steam-enabled version of that game on Steam.”

Assuming this refers to the same anecdote Wolfire shared on his blog, describing how Valve would not let him sell Overgrowth on another platform at a lower price than Steam, the company might have a point. Wolfire said that while he’d experienced this himself, he “believed” other developers had experienced the same thing—no anecdotes or evidence provided.

Valve also states that it’s perfectly within its rights to require Steam Keys sold on other platforms to be price-matched to a game's Steam listing, pushing back against a core element of Rosen's complaint. “Valve has no duty under antitrust law to allow developers to use free Steam Keys to undersell prices for the games they sell on Steam—or to provide Steam Keys at all.”

The rest of the filed motion goes on to explain why Steam’s position in the PC video game business warrants the 30 percent cut on sales.

However the court rules, the last couple of years have shown that developers are becoming fed up with Valve’s 30 percent cut, even with its concessions to developers that make over $10 million in revenue on Steam. The 2021 GDC State of the Industry Survey showed that 97 percent of game developers don’t think that cut is justified.

This story has been updated to better clarify Rosen and Valve's arguments in their respective motions.

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