Valve Responds to Steam Territory Deactivations (Updated)

By Nick Breckon, Oct 29, 2007 2:21pm PDT Update: Valve has sent along a shot of the Thai Orange Box packaging, which bears a warning on the front cover that reads: "For Sale In Thailand Only."

Original Story (published Oct 26): Some consumers who purchased Valve's Orange Box from vendors located outside of their home country--mainly in an attempt to save on cheaper products--have recently reported that their otherwise legally-obtained games have since been deactivated by Valve's Steam software for territory violation.

Talking with Shacknews, Valve's Doug Lombardi now says that the Steam software is merely carrying out this function by design.

"Valve uses Steam for territory control to make sure products authorized for use in certain territories are not being distributed and used outside of those territories," said Lombardi.

"In this case, a Thai website was selling retail box product keys for Thailand to people outside of Thailand. Since those keys are only for use in Thailand, people who purchased product keys from the Thai website are not able to use those product keys in other territories."

So are users who bought the game outside of their own country completely out of luck? It appears so, as Lombardi recommends purchasing a legal copy from a local shop in order to keep playing.

"Some of these users have subsequently purchased a legal copy after realizing the issue and were having difficulty removing the illegitimate keys from their Steam accounts," added Lombardi. "Anyone having this problem should contact Steam Support to have the Thai key removed from their Steam account."

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45 Threads | 250 Comments*

  • For all intents and purposes, whoever bought the game from a Thai distributor should not be punished. Why? "For Sale Only In Thailand" means just that; this item is to be sold in Thailand. Where was the seller? Where did the transactions take place? In Thailand. So what does that mean?

    I think what companies should do is say something to the effect of, "This product is not to be exported from _____" or "This product will not function outside of _______," because that is what they *really* mean.

    IANAL, so I don't know what the import/export laws are, but from a logical linguistics perspective, the buyers are not in the wrong.

    Is Valve obligated to honor their purchase? It's arguable. The admirable thing to do is at least offer all those people who had purchased copies prior to this becoming frontpage news a discount on a US-bought copy.

  • The more I've read and think about this, the less pissed I am...though I don't agree with region locking on principle, this really was a case where it was more about a price difference. If this was a game that you couldn't get outside of Thailand...then yeah I'd think its horrible...but given the context I have really mixed feelings (I'm the guy who doesn't like to buy used games unless I can't find said game new...but I also have imported games that weren't comingn out in the US).

    This is one of those things that is more about the precedent it sets and the potential for "abuse" of the system with Steam. I'm not so much ticked about what they did as I am about where this could go...I've always had vague worries about Steam and this sort of thing isn't reassuring. On the other hand, if there aren't situations where products ONLY come out in a specific set of countries and importing is prevented...then I'm more likely to be ok with this. This isn't nearly as bad as the rampant region locking in the console world...where games have arbitrary release schedules and some just don't fucking come out in some countries. Sony really irks me on that front after they sued Lik-Sang in multiple countries for selling import consoles to people (on the basis that PSPs in Japan might not be safe enough for Europeans...and after some of Sony Europe's execs bought import PSPs FROM Lik-Sang).

  • Wait, so, you can't activate a key from Thailand in other countries. That's fair enough. But what if you buy it in Thailand, activate it in Thailand, and then move to another country and try to play there? I'm assuming the region only matters while you are activating the product on Steam, not after the fact? In that case wouldn't it be easy enought to work around anyway just by changing your Windows region and connecting through a proxy? Or just selling a Steam account with the key activated? (Although that isn't legal I don't think.)

    I think that Valve has the right to allow keys to only be activated in the region they were bought in, but I don't think they should restrict the region the key can be used after it has been activated.