Judge dismisses Steam antitrust case for lack of factual support

The Steam corporate logo repeats over a red background.

(credit: Aurich Lawson)

A federal judge has accepted Valve’s motion to dismiss an anti-trust lawsuit against company Steam’s store and platform, saying that plaintiff Wolfire Games failed to establish the basic facts necessary to sustain the case going forward.

Wolfire’s lawsuit in part rested on the argument that Valve was illegally tying its Steam game store (which sells the games) to the separate Steam platform (which provides game library management, social networking, achievement tracking, Steam Workshop mods, etc.). Wolfire argued that Valve was using its dominant market position in digital PC game sales (accepted in the lawsuit as 75 percent of the market for full PC game sales) to illegally prop up the platform in a way that was not conducive to competition.

In a ruling issued late last week, though, Western District of Washington Judge John Coughenour said that no illegal tying could take place because the Steam store and platform “are a single product within the integrated game platform and transaction market.” That’s because the revenues from sales of games on the Steam store go directly toward supporting the “free” services available on the platform. And in the rare cases that games sold elsewhere make use of the Steam platform, Valve lets developers create free keys to enable that integration, obviating any potential harm.

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