Judge dismisses Steam antitrust case over lack of factual support | MCU Times

Judge dismisses Steam antitrust case over lack of factual support

The Steam company logo is repeated over a red background.

Aurich Lawson

A federal judge has accepted Valve’s proposal to dismiss an anti-trust case against Steam’s store and platform, saying plaintiff Wolfire Games has not established the basic facts necessary to maintain the case going forward.

Wolfire’s lawsuit was based in part on the argument that Valve illegally tied its Steam game store (which sells the games) to the separate Steam platform (which provides game library management, social networking, performance tracking, Steam Workshop mods, etc.). Wolfire claimed that Valve used its dominant market position in the sale of digital PC games (accepted in the lawsuit as 75 percent of the market for the full sale of PC games) to illegally support the platform in a way that was not conducive to competition.

In a ruling issued late last week, Judge John Coughenour of the Western District of Washington said no illegal binding could take place because the Steam store and platform “are a single product in the integrated gaming platform and transaction market.” This is because the proceeds from the sale of games in the Steam store go directly to support the “free” services available on the platform. And in the rare cases where games sold elsewhere make use of the Steam platform, Valve lets developers create free keys to enable this integration, and avoid any potential harm.

Judge Coughenour also said Wolfire failed to show that Valve’s 30 percent standard charge on Steam was “super-competitive.” On the contrary, this 30 percent fee has remained constant since digital downloads were at a “new stage”, long before Wolfire claims that Steam became “dominant” in the market in 2013.

What’s more, the judge writes, “other [digital storefronts] who charge less have failed even though they had significant resources at their disposal. Therefore, it appears that the market reality, at least as a plea, is that the defendant’s fee is commensurate with the value of the Steam platform for game publishers. “This value includes Steam’s massive player base, which Wolfire claimed was” locked “to Steam due to to “huge network effects”, but which the judge seems to accept in his judgment as an integral part of Steam’s value to developers.

In any event, Judge Coughenour also writes that Wolfire failed to establish how Valve’s alleged monopoly power directly harmed the developer. For example, although the court accepted Wolfire’s arguments that Valve’s actions led to an alleged “reduction in production and quality” across the industry, the original lawsuit “does not provide facts describing how Wolfire directly suffered” as a result.

Wolfire has technically 30 days to change its complaint to address the criticism and the absence of facts put forward in this dismissal. But the sweeping decision does not bode well for the future of the case, to say the least.

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