On December last year, Steam began to lock PC games from some regions to prevent people from exploiting the low currency values in some nations. While the restrictions didn’t affect the purchase of Steam keys, anyone who bought Steam gifts from regions such as Russia would only be able to activate the games if they lived in the same region.
This kind of region locking is reasonably easy to crack. It did not take much time for the users to discover that they could activate Steam gifts through a VPN to an appropriate region and then play it without a VPN. But with Steam’s new regional restrictions on game gifting, this will not be possible any longer. Steam even warns that using a VPN to bypass the geo-fencing is a violation of the system’s terms.
Now, Valve has imposed that the users have to be in the same geographical location where they bought to activate the Steam gifts and to play. For those that are trying to buy extremely cheap games, this means using a VPN each and every time you want to play, which can be an unattractive option for multiplayer games in particular.
However, the restrictions are free from issues. The restrictions which have been applied retroactively to games gifted after December 2014, also affect those who actually live in cheap regions. People who have unlocked the game in these regions will not be able to play outside the country. So when the user travels or goes on an international holiday, access to their games is locked.
It is not very surprising to find that Valve is trying to cut down on people misusing the weaker currencies in some regions such as Latin America and eastern Europe. Also, its not the first time to see PC games locked with region: select games, at the discretion of their publishers, have had regional activation restrictions for years.
This restriction looks like a fair deal. People have been ignoring Valve’s territorial stuff for too long, getting games for less than market value – and giving places like G2A an avenue to sell illicit keys. The only issue – and it’s a real one – is that if people move countries (which is a thing that actually happens) they’ll end up being out of their games.