A post on Twitter by Steam Database reported that Valve Software has region-locked Steam games in some areas. That means items purchased in a specific region cannot be traded or gifted to individuals in other regions. The post said this move is in direct response to the recent Ruble drop, which has hit an all-time low.
"What we're doing immediately in response to the Ruble drop is limiting trading and gifting from Russia to prevent people from taking advantage of the situation," the post read. "We have been applying a gifting and trading lock of this type on all newly created packages on Steam since mid-2014."
The post said that as of Wednesday, the new change will be in effect for all packages on Steam. This change does not allow packages to be unpacked on an account if they are gifted or traded from a lower-priced region to a higher priced region. This change only affects new purchases, the company stated, and does not affect gifting/trading within the same region.
The post added that Steam customers in the affected regions will receive a warning during checkout prior to purchasing a gift. Meanwhile, Valve will keep an eye on the situation and make the necessary changes accordingly.
The region lock was first noticed by a NeoGAF user on Wednesday, who reported that all games purchased in Russia and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are region locked. The same lock applies to Brazil and the surrounding regions, as well as Indonesia and nearby regions.
News of the change arrives after Valve updated its gifting/trading rules in November. The company said that gifts purchased and placed in the buyer's inventory will be untradeable for 30 days. However, customers can send gifts at any time.
"We've made this change to make trading gifts a better experience for those receiving the gifts," Valve said. "We're hoping this lowers the number of people who trade for a game only to have the game revoked later due to issues with the purchaser's payment method."
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Sort of. Say that $30USD game is 120,000 RUS. You buy it for that from a Russian Steam Account. But now that 120,000 RUS is actually only $20USD because the price of the Ruble has fallen off a cliff. So you take that $20 game and sell it to your friend in the US for, say, $25USD. You make the equivalent of $5 profit, your friend pays $5 less for the game, and Steam loses $10.
Multiply over thousands of users, and it could be a problem.
Companies operate in other countries and have to exchange currency all the time, so are always vulnerable to currency fluctuations. The way this is usually countered is by striking a 1-year (or sometimes multi-year) contract with a currency exchange service to convert Rubles to USD at a fixed rate. Done properly, this (1) insulates Steam from fluctuations in the RUB vs USD rate, and (2) makes the exchange service some money since they pick an exchange rate favorable to them for taking on the risk of currency fluctuations.
So given your numbers, the way this is set up is Steam sets the price of a USD$30 game at 120,000 RUB. The currency exchange service bets the RUB won't drop more than 10%, so offers to pay Steam $27 per 120,000 RUB. Essentially they're providing Steam insurance against a drop in the RUB, and charging a 10% premium for it.
If the RUB doesn't drop, then the exchange service wins and pockets the 10%. If the RUB drops, then the exchange service ends up making less money or losing money. This arrangement basically shifts the risk of financial loss from Steam to the exchange service (who stands to make a 10% premium).
Next year when Steam re-negotiates with the currency exchange service, the new lower value of the RUB and its greater risk of decline gets taken into account. And the $30 game goes up in price in Russia to 180,000 RUB. During all this, Steam never loses any money.
At least that's the way the smart companies do it. And they don't just do it with currency too. When oil prices skyrocketed around 2008, Southwest airlines was minimally impacted because they'd struck a deal with an oil supplier for a fixed price. All the other airlines were bleeding money from the high fuel prices, but Southwest was still paying 2006 prices (its supplier was losing money because its contract basically forced them to sell fuel to Southwest at below-market prices). If there's anything which could wreak havoc with your company's finances if the price changes drastically, smart companies figure out a way to offset that risk. Stability and predictability is more important than bigger profits.
So there's really no internal rationale for Steam to be region-locking the game if they were smart about currency exchange. The only reason I can think of is that the currency exchange service demanded a clause in the contract stipulating that they will only exchange up to a certain number of dollars for the year. Put a cap on their potential losses basically. The RUB going down may cause sales to shift into Russia from elsewhere in the world, causing the amount of money exchanged to rise enough to trigger that clause. If that happened, Steam would be forced to shut down sales in Russia. So they may be using region locking to avoid that, and allowing them to continue selling games to Russians.
It's region locked because of the huge amount of scams coming out of Russia, making fake trades and stealing account information. This should prevent more of the scams online (Although any Russian with a VPN can get around it).
I live in India and travel a lot and while most of my games are not locked, some devs are starting to treat India exactly the same way as Russia, providing cheaper versions of their games that can't be gifted cross-region or played outside of India. I *hate* this. I have friends all over the world I like to gift games to for their birthdays or big holidays like New Year, or just because I want them to try a game I like, but Steam is slowly destroying what it originally stood for - uniting gamers from all over the world - just because it refuses to provide a way for those of us who want to be above these petty borders to gift and trade games even if we have to pay a little more. WHY?! I'm a paying customer, I'm not participating in any scams, all I want is my games available to me anywhere I travel and a possibility to gift and receive gifts regardless of region. Is that really so hard? Why is Steam trying to emulate a brick-and-mortar store with "localized" goods?
Region locking games is going back to the console ages, if I bought the games for myself, why can't I play it anywhere I like? Gifting? People are not going to own several steam accounts just to avail of cheap games outside of their region, especially if they own a steam account already.
I am already pee'ed off at SE region locking their games in ASIA, I can take gifting restrictions, playing restrictions crosses the line