Monday, May 10, 2021

Humble Bundle Creator Files Antitrust Lawsuit Against Valve

While the legal battle between Epic Games and Apple rages on, a similar one has cropped up. This time though, it involves Wolfire Games and Valve. The former is an indie dev studio that started Humble Bundle, and the latter is, as you probably know, the owner of Steam.

The nature of the lawsuit is overall very similar to the ongoing one with Epic Games and Apple. The argument here is that Valve has a technical monopoly over the PC gaming market via Steam. This then allows it to take the 30% cut for games sold through the game storefront. And Wolfire Games argues that 30% is an “extraordinarily high cut”.

In the suit, Wolfire Games estimates that Valve, via Steam, commands around 75% of the total PC gaming market. The suit also lists a number of other competing digital storefronts, like the Epic Games Store.

By CEO Tim Sweeney’s own optimistic estimates last June, the EGS has a 15% market share. And this is after spending about US$330 million (~RM1.4 billion) to secure exclusives.

The suit also mentions restrictions to Steam Keys, which allow other storefronts to sell games with their own revenue split ratios. But an important stipulation for devs and publishers who choose this option is that they have to ensure that they are “not giving Steam customers a worse deal”.

On one hand, it makes sense, as no company would want to let their platform be used and get undercut at the same time. But the Wolfire Games suit argues that this ensures Steam will always have the upper hand.

Overall, this becomes another source of pressure for the ubiquitous PC games digital store. Over the weekend, Microsoft announced that it will be using an 88/12 split come 1 August.

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