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Valve silently changes the STEAM storefront policy to restrict usage of VPNs to buy games in other regions

Few weeks back I covered an article in which it was mentioned that ‘Horizon Zero Dawn’s’ PC release version got a price hike globally, due to people misusing VPNs in some countries/regions. Now, an updated policy from the ‘SteamDB’ indicates that Valve is taking measures to restrict users who use a VPN to purchase games at a lower price.

Simply put, STEAM client now requires users to pay corresponding to the local currency/payment method of that country, should they plan to use VPN to change their store region. The local currency should match with the buyer’s location. Users will now have to complete a purchase using a ‘payment method’ from the country they want to select, before Steam will allow them to purchase games in that region. Steam is forcing currencies used on the purchase to match those of the country where the purchase is actually being made.

This new policy has been implemented to stifle the use of virtual private networks (VPN) to bypass region restrictions (when gamers want to purchase games from other regions, because they are more expensive in their own country). This move by Valve aims to keep the pricing fair according to users’ and countries’ purchasing power and aims to protect users with lower purchasing power from the exploitation of regional pricing.

Few years ago VALVE banned some users who migrated to the Russian store to buy games. As the updated policy now reads, “Valve has recently made changing your store country more strict, which requires completing a purchase using a payment method from that country. This should hinder the ability of using VPNs to buy games cheaper.”

Many Steam users likely use VPNs, but those users shouldn’t be worried as long as they aren’t using the VPN to buy games in another region. Although buying games using a VPN is against Steam’s Terms of Service and policy, playing games and using Steam while also using a VPN at the same time, isn’t prohibited though. Games on Steam are often priced differently based on region. ‘Rainbow Six Siege’, for example, is $20 if you buy it from the American storefront, but it will cost only 829 Russian Ruble, which is equivalent to $11.42, if you select the Russian storefront region.

Steam’s new change of policy should hopefully now curb a significant amount of VPN abuse since acquiring a payment method of another country is a much bigger barrier/obstacle, rather than switching regions through a VPN.

Valve explained its new region purchasing policy as follows, “If you have moved to a new country, or are living abroad for an extended period of time, you can update your Steam country settings when you complete your first purchase using a payment method from that country”.

“Using a proxy or VPN to disguise your location is strictly against the Steam Terms of Service and may result in restrictions on your Steam account”. Valve also explained on its support page that, “If you attempt to redeem a region restricted game and your location is inconsistent with your past Steam activity, the following warning will appear: ‘Note that using an IP proxy or other methods to disguise the place of your residence to activate [a game] is a violation of the Steam Subscriber Agreement and may result in restrictions on this Steam account.”

Using a VPN to get a game for a lower price is against Steam’s terms of service, though people still take the chance. With some games, Valve and the publisher use geoblocking to stop the codes from working in other regions, though the European Commission considers that a breach of the EU’s antitrust rules. Valve is currently contesting this.

Steam new VPN policy