May 16, 2022

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Judge returns Steam's rejected antitrust lawsuit from the dead

Judge returns Steam’s rejected antitrust lawsuit from the dead

Getty Images/Urich Lawson

Last November, Washington District Judge John Coginor next to the valve at Steam’s antitrust lawsuit dismissed that was Brought to you by independent developer (and creator of Humble Pack) Wolfire Games. Now, the judge himself is showing new respect for Wolfer’s arguments, allowing parts of an amended version of the complaint to proceed.

at May 6 rule (observed by Bloomberg Law), Judge Coginor said the allegations in Wolfer’s initial lawsuit were “low anecdotal” but that the amended lawsuit “provides additional context” and makes a case “sufficient to reasonably allege unlawful conduct.” As such, the judge refused to dismiss large portions of that amended case, allowing it to move forward through the lengthy judicial process.

Now I see it

In his original ruling, Judge Coginor rejected Wolffaire’s claims that Steam’s 30 percent fee for publishers was higher than what the company would charge in a more competitive market. At the time, the judge noted that Steam’s fees had remained the same since its launch in 2003 through its alleged “market dominance” in 2013 and later.

Despite this, in his new ruling, Judge Coughenour was receptive to the argument that Steam’s fees For the competition changed during that time, writing, “In those early days, Defendant was competing against distributors of brick-and-mortar toys, [but] The [amended complaint] It shows that the defendant did not need market power to charge significantly higher costs than the cost structure because these traditional competitors have a much higher cost structure.”

The referee also cites Valve’s 2001 purchase of Sierra Global Opponents Network, an early online gaming platform that shut down in 2004 after integrating its games into Steam. The judge wrote that the action made Steam “immediately … a must-have platform,” according to the amended complaint, and “indicates earlier market strength” than was previously acknowledged in the case.

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In his latest ruling, Judge Coughenour also appears to have recently accepted earlier arguments that Valve is using its monopoly power and locked-down player base to impose punitive restrictions on publishers who might otherwise decide to avoid Steam. The judgment refers specifically to “Steam Account Manager [who] The plaintiff informed Wolfair that he would “write off any games available for sale at a lower price elsewhere, Whether you use Steam keys or not [emphasis in original complaint]The amended lawsuit also alleges that “this experience is not unique to Wolfire,” which may be a factor in the developer’s proposed class action complaint.

Despite these changes, Judge Coughenour once again rejected Welfare’s argument that Valve had engaged in an “unlawful connection” between the Steam platform (which provides game library management, social networks, achievement tracking, Steam Workshop mods, etc.) (i.e. the part that sells games). Judge wrote that these two aspects of Steam constitute one market, because “the commercial viability of a platform is only possible when it generates revenue from an associated game store.” Moreover, the lawsuit did not show that there was any sufficient demand in the market for “fully functional gaming platforms that are distinct from gaming stores.”

Previously Valve’s so-called market-making power took center stage Epic lawsuit against AppleSteam was used as a comparison point for Apple’s 30% charge on the iOS App Store.