Dear Steam: Geographical embargoes are stupid
At a time when piracy is putting a dent in video-game sales, Steam appears to be quite successful. Their success is due to two main factors:
- It's easier to buy a game on Steam than to pirate one
- Steam offers advantages over pirated apps
When you buy a game from Steam, it automatically downloads to your computer, and then you're ready to start playing. It eliminates most of the hassle of installing a new game (getting a refund if the game won't run, however, is something they need to work on).
And Steam offers some extras that pirates don't get, like access to an online gaming network.
So in short, Steam is successful because it removes all the friction that drives people to pirate, other than price. And that's why having geographical embargoes on games is so dumb.
Twice now, Steam has refused to sell me games because I live in Japan: once with Napoleon: Total War, and once with Civilization V.
Dear Steam: This is not the way to keep people from pirating your games. In fact, it's an almost perfect way to convince them to become pirates.
In most if not all cases, the geographical embargoes are mandated by the game publishers, and not by Steam. Japanese localization houses will sometimes require the publisher to give them exclusive rights to sales in Japan.
Back in the 1990s, giving up the rights to sales in Japan seemed like a good deal, since very few non-Japanese game publishers are able to handle selling in this country.
But this is a piss-poor excuse today, when you can sell in Japan through intermediaries like Amazon and Steam.
Steam, you have the clout to bop some sense into the game publishers. Convince them to let you sell their games worldwide, or face lost sales opportunities and a growing pirate population.