Valve's Policy Change For Steam: Good Or Bad For Gamers?

By now most PC gamers should be well aware of Valve's mandate of the policy changes made for using Steam. They've enacted a couple of things that you may or may not jive with, including exemption from class-action lawsuits and the inclusion that you agree to all their terms of service or else you lose complete access to all your games. The real question is if these changes are good or bad for gamers in the long run?

Rock, Paper, Shotgun did a breakdown of what the exemption of a class-action lawsuit really entails for gamers, and it basically boils down to being entrapped in “legal issues”. But class-action lawsuits are kind of besides the point and even with an official statement from Valve trying to abscond themselves from any big fallout regarding this and other policy changes, it turned into a big hoo-hah anyways.

Some users tried calming the potential for heated flames by making a more dumb-down reiteration of the policy changes using a “TL;DR 5 minute breakdown” of the terms of service and agreements, but it still raised a lot of important questions: If you don't like what the company is forcing you to sign can you lose all your games on your account and should Valve be allowed to do so?

This very topic turned into a 25 page long discussion on NeoGaf where the issue received a ton of mixed views due to the following quote from Steam's Support, which stated...

Thank you for contacting Steam Support.We can permanently deactivate your account for you, remove any stored payment information and clear your Steam profile.Disabling your account will not result in a refund, as explained in the Steam Subscriber Agreement. games in your account will not be accessible for future use. It is impossible to make your games available once your account has been deactivated and your information deleted or archived. Once we have permanently deactivated the account, we will not be able to reactivate the account upon a future request.Please let me know if you would like to proceed.

The thing is, gamers were never required to sign waivers, end user license agreements or terms of service documents when buying retail games...EVER. You bought the game, took it home, popped it into your console and played to your heart's content. Whether someone wanted to file a lawsuit from the 3x3 room tucked away in their mother's light-absent basement was completely and entirely up to them and it didn't affect you in any way. That's not really the case here with Valve and Steam's new policy. If some guy tucked away in that dank little basement decides to get some friends together to sue Valve, the company's new policy is basically saying that it can't hold up if you agreed to the terms of service, in hopes of waiving any further legal actions. This even applies to you, the gamer who just went into the Steam store to buy Shiny New Game #3, where you're held to arbitrary terms and must abide by them even if all you want to do is play your freaking game.

As some of you know, Valve isn't the only one trying to avoid being put in the cross-hairs of a class-action lawsuit, Electronic Arts, Microsoft and Sony also hold up these kind of policy standards as well, and it makes some sense to avoid ending up exactly where Blizzard is right now, who is facing some serious legal action from various outfits, including a German consumer advocacy group, the French UFC-Que Choisir and Korean internet-cafe owners.

Most gamers suspect that this policy change is just a safeguard for Valve and the common response has been “Valve are good guys and there isn't a reason for us to file a class-action lawsuit against them”. While that kind of reasoning is fine, for now, I can't escape the questioning of why Valve would be so hasty to include such wording and put their good name at risk? I know for sure anytime EA does stuff like this we rail on them and usually with good reason, but I would be lying if I said red flags didn't go off after witnessing the new policy change get put into effect by Valve.

Some individuals suspect that this may be in regards to the recent EU ruling that enables digital goods to become available for resale, including video games. I can easily see some gamers trying to get a lawsuit going for companies like Electronic Arts and Valve to include facilitation of digital resale in their online digital distribution services, and Valve simply took the preemptive measure of adding the clause to at least curb the impetus of legal-hungry gamers to initiate a lawsuit.

The real question is, where do gamers go from here and how do you all feel about the new binding agreements that leaves you with the arbitrary choice of either signing over your rights or giving up your gaming collection?

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.