Valve Responds to Foreign-Purchased Orange Box Key Lockouts

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Valve Responds to Foreign-Purchased Orange Box Key Lockouts

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Valve has responded to complaints of foreign-purchased Orange Box keys being shut down on Steam by telling owners they are essentially out of luck.

Some U.S. customers looking to save a few bucks by purchasing the game from overseas vendors have recently found themselves locked out of the game. Although the games were purchased legally and activated without difficulty, starting about a week later gamers were met with "incorrect territory" warnings and unplayable games. Further, gamers who attempted to rectify the problem by then re-purchasing the game from U.S. vendors found the new copies still wouldn't run.

Doug Lombardi, Director of Marketing at Valve, recently responded by telling Shacknews that this is a normal aspect of Steam operation, and that Valve will continue to enforce regional restrictions. "Valve uses Steam for territory control to make sure products authorized for use in certain territories are not being distributed and used outside of those territories," he said. "In this case, a Thai website was selling retail box product keys for Thailand to people outside of Thailand. Since those keys are only for use in Thailand, people who purchased product keys from the Thai website are not able to use those product keys in other territories."

"Some of these users have subsequently purchased a legal copy after realizing the issue and were having difficulty removing the illegitimate keys from their Steam accounts," he continued. "Anyone having this problem should contact Steam Support to have the Thai key removed from their Steam account."

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Wow...I actually bought Prince of Persia from England (while I was visiting), and thankfully it worked on my computer. I guess I should remember not to do that again.

It's only an issue when you buy from countries with much lower RRPs than your own. England isn't one of them...though it would be nice if it was. :-)

I'm a pretty rabid Steam-hater to begin with, so for me this is just fuel on the fire. I'm buying a copy of the Witcher imported from the UK, which as far as I know won't have any activation limitations, but what happens in two or three years when every game is under some kind of Steam-style online control, and if you buy your game somewhere or some way the publisher doesn't like, you suddenly find yourself unable to play it? This is far more egregious than than BioShock activations fiasco, so where is the uproar?

There's not going to nearly be as much uproar from steam, people will literally bend over and put up with almost anything (see delays) for valve.

Isn't it wonderful when people just decide to bend over and take it? These games should not be region coded in any way shape or form. It is perfectly reasonable for people to buy games at a cheaper price due to exchange rates. It's also reasonable for people to purchase games (or anything else.) from a different region because said product has not been or will not be released in their territory for whatever reason. I wish sony would take the extra step and remove region coding from their movie releases as they have done for playstation 3 games. (and as hd-dvd does for their movies.)

I still haven't purchased the Orange Box because I refuse to pay extra for product I already own. Valve can spout all it likes about throwing in Half-Life 2 and Episode 1 "free," but the fact is that the Orange Box costs more than the Black Box was going to. It's driving me nuts to hear everyone yammering about how awesome Portal is, how awesome Episode 2 is, how awesome Team Fortress 2 is, but I won't pay twice for content I already own.

Which I suppose just goes to prove your point that people will put up with almost anything from Valve. But someday it won't be just Valve, it'll be everything. And you'll get in line and play what they tell you to play because you won't have any choice.

True, Valve ripped you off, but only after giving you what is essentially a very good deal anyway. Just about every gaming review site in the world agrees: Episode Two, TF2, and Portal are already worth more than $50.

"Hey, we'll sell you an orange for $2."
"Oh, that's cool!"
"Hey, we have a new idea. Let's throw in an orange peeler, no extra charge!"
"FUCK YOU! I already have an orange peeler."

The thing is, besides VAC-hacking, this is pretty much the only time I've heard of Valve intentionally disabling games on Steam accounts. I would actually have to say, at least compared to other forms of DRM such as iTunes (which expect you to keep track of your music after downloading, and keep it on one player) Steam is pretty lenient. The only thing I could acknowledge your frustration for is Steam's bugginess, which even I can't deny.

Episode 1 sold for twenty bucks. Portal is, what, two or three hours long? TF2 is great as long as you have an intention of playing it online. Guess what? I don't. Even if I did I have a hard time believing that those three titles are worth 55 bucks when Ep2 itself is only worth 20, but even if it's true, so what? I want Ep2 so I can keep up with the HL2 continuity, and Valve is forcing me to pay 50 bucks for it. Or I can get it over Steam, minus the box, manual and media, for the same price I paid for the first one which included the box, manual and media - not what I'd call a deal by any stretch, without even taking into consideration my own aforementioned objection to Steam's control over what I can and can't play. I'm not really seeing a "very good deal" here at all.

Also, bear in mind that "the only time" you've heard of Valve disabling games on Steam accounts is the same as saying it's "the first time" you've heard of it.

Steam's lock downs are the reason game delivery systems like Steam will never work in the long run. The more they try to control how you play the games,the more you're going to support hackers who fuck up their programs. What companies don't get is the more they screw over the customer,the more the customer looks to screw them right back. What a lot of people seem to think is "bending over for the man" is actually "fuck them,we'll screw them out a buck when they're not looking". Unlike companies who feel the need to broadcast their "fuck yous",we the people just do it quietly and make them work to find out where the money leak is.

So let Steam screw all they want. They'll be humping air before long. They aren't the first to try this remote control crap and they won't be the last. But they're going to lose out just like everyone else.

Merlynn: You know that Steam's attempts at lockdowns are very different when you see people PREFERRING to buy games on Steam as opposed to boxed, non-locked editions. (there's far more than the HL games on there)
Malygris: The best damned reviewer on your site is preparing to kill you with the Weighted Companion Cube. Just because it's two hours, doesn't mean it doesn't count; the experience is extremely unique and there's already about an hour's worth of custom maps out. Less than a month after release.
I'm also a bit confused at your adversity to playing online. Are you just afraid that everyone else is so obsessed with the game that they'll be far more skilled than a new player? (as is sometimes my fear with games) I was completely new to the concept, and now I'm dominating everyone; it's built to be easy to learn. Surprisingly, the online players are actually intelligent as well (no more of that "OMFGFAG" from Halo)

Also: Steam does not control what you can't play. It has an offline mode whereas you can play SP games without being connected to the internet. The only way in which it would be legal for Valve to disable your game is if there's a horrible network bug. (true, this does happen. But they do their best to fix them. And let's face it. No game code is perfect.)

Yes,and those people are idiots who don't know about Gametap where you can play almost all the same games for 10 bucks a month. And that's only if you want to keep legal. If you don't mind breaking the law,you can just download games off the P2P networks for nothing. So in the end,Steam is already behind on service and can go fuck itself for all I care. The only Steam exclusive product they have that I got is the Orange Box and I bought that at the store. So tell me again about how Steam is this great innovation. I need another good laugh.

Oh noes, big brother steam is screwing over the common man with its game bundles and anti-piracy measures.

Curse you steam and your awesome orange box product.

Seriously though, if your missing out on one of the years best games/game compilations over a few bucks, then i feel sorry for you. Portal is one of the most original and cool games to come along in awhile. The rest of the package kicks serious ass as well.

Granted, I never finished the original Half-life 2 or played episode 1, so i am getting the whole package as fresh to me. I don't think I would get bent out of shape about it if i did already have those games. It's not that much money unless you're super poor or something, which begs the question, 'how do you afford a somewhat high-end PC if you can't afford a game?"

Or, if you refuse to buy it out of principle, then congratulations on such high moral convictions. In the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, your steadfast refusal to pay twice for a game you already have will surely usher in a new era of understanding and prosperity.

I think I'm gonna go enjoy the orange box now.

Merlynn:
Yes,and those people are idiots who don't know about Gametap where you can play almost all the same games for 10 bucks a month. And that's only if you want to keep legal. If you don't mind breaking the law,you can just download games off the P2P networks for nothing. So in the end,Steam is already behind on service and can go fuck itself for all I care. The only Steam exclusive product they have that I got is the Orange Box and I bought that at the store. So tell me again about how Steam is this great innovation. I need another good laugh.

While Gametap and Steam have a few games in common, I fail to see Bioshock (activation-free by-otch), Call of Duty 2, Darwinia, DEFCON, Company of Heroes, Civ4, Medieval 2, etc. I actually have a Gametap subscription, and am already quite tired of it, as they seem to get the bottom bin of games for the most part.

Why are you encouraging piracy? Are you saying Steam would be more up to date if it let you pirate stuff?

When Steam first came out, it was undeniably an innovation; you can buy games over the web, and download them over the web, and update them over the web. It took things further by letting you install the game anywhere you could install Steam, as well as allowing for backing up your games, and now the new Community interface, something a lot of people have really liked. Makes it just as easy as X-fire in joining games, and supports more games than X-fire for ingame chat. (in fact: anything using directx)

Besides that I've actually seen some pretty low-priced games there because of a lack of packaging. Whereas Prey was $50 at Wal-Mart, it was $20 on Steam. SiN Episode 1, though shitty, once sold for $5. Even if it was only halfway decent, that's pretty damn cheap.

Steam supports any small, independent developer so long as they can create an EXE file that is fun to play. Many people wouldn't have their games noticed at all were it not for Steam. Darwinia and DEFCON primarily became successes through Steam. So unless you have some bitter hatred for indies...

Finally, they're not some corporate entity with a huge wall between them and their customers. Besides putting a bit of personality and sometimes office photos into their Update News, when you send an E-mail to Gabe Newell, the head of Valve software, it GOES to Gabe Newell, the head of Valve software. I have E-mail replies in my inbox directly from him.

I kind of doubt your opinions on Steam will change though...I'll try to avoid this thread now, so as to avoid flaming. Just say what you wish.

I'm saying Steam would be more up to date if they didn't make pirating seem more appealing. The copies bought were legit. Yes,international purchases can be cheaper,but that's nothing new. Nor is it unusual. Then there's the question of if it should be discouraged. Frankly,a lot of good things come from international game stores,like gadgets and dodads that let you do all kinds of stuff to improve your gaming experience. To deny they do just means you probably haven't used them before.

Was it wrong to try to shave some money off the cost of their game by going to an international store? I dunno,lets ask Wal-mart if it's fair that Valve offers the same game they've paid for to sale for 30 dollars cheaper. What,it's ok for Valve to do it but not anyone else? Kind of the pot calling the kettle black,huh?

And there was such a better way to handle it. Valve could've offered to let the people who bought the Thai keys get activation by paying the rest of the cost for the American version. It'd at least sting a little less and it'd make Valve seem a little more concerned for their consumer base. Instead,we get a big "fuck you,jerk bag" from Valve,proving where their concerns really lie.

I'd also like to point out that Overlord and Jericho are 40 bucks apiece. For 10 dollars,I can get both and play them for a month. Further,I'm not just getting those games,I'm getting EVERY game Gametap offers. I mean,if you consider SiN episode 1 worth 5 bucks,that's half of month of Gametap right there. And are you calling Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow the "bottom bin" of gaming? How about Dues Ex? Sam & Max are getting Season 2 next month and then there's Metal Slug,the Streets of Rage series. Speaking of series,how about some Darkstalkers,Samurai Showdown,Street Fighter,and tons more. All of which,while older games,look a hell of a lot more interesting than Darwinia. And I know you're not going to sit there and tell me those bland and boring FPS games they try to pass off as entertainment on Steam are supposed to compare to Serious Sam.

I'm already 70 bucks ahead just on those 2 games and I get metric tons more. Even if you focus on just the good ones,you're going to be playing for a VERY long time. Have you even tried Disciples 2? Heroes of Might and Magic? What about Beyond Good and Evil? Psychonauts? Quest for Glory series? Have you even *looked* at Space Quest or Zork: Inquisition? I bet you haven't played half those games I mentioned. I bet you haven't even HEARD of half of those games before.

So lets see about your "innovation" claims. Buying games over the web,been done for as long as there was a web to buy things over. People were downloading games since there was a web to download over. And not all of it illegally. Updates over the web,what are you smoking? Patching over the interweb has been around forever! Installing the game anywhere you install Steam,a lot of games let you install them on any computer that could run them,so this is a step backwards. Backing up games,could do that before they invented harddrives. Community interface,any game community anywhere on the interweb,again,nothing new. Finding servers,any multiplayer game worth it's salt would never rely on Steam to provide player access. Frankly,these days,not including a way to find servers in the game itself is considered a major oversight by the programmers.

Providing "start ups" for "indy" game makers. These days "indy" is just another word for "suck". Darwinia,looks like ass and I can't say I think it'd play any better. DEFCON,a game based on a movie...from 1983! Wow. I'm impressed. How could I not see how awesome Steam is? Tell you what,laughing boy,when Steam puts up Mugen,THEN we'll talk about supporting "indy" games. But thanks for the laugh. :)

That was highly amusing. I want to thank all of you for making me laugh. ^_^

See, I just bought Portal by itself. Twenty bucks. If you're not interested in TF2, then Portal and Episode 2 are cheaper than the Orange Box, whereas if you are interested in TF2, the Orange Box is a good deal.

Anyway, region lock-outs are regrettable but real, and not worth public outrage. Refusing to revoke the keys so that people can play a version that they got in the correct region, on the other hand, is just plain unprofessional, and it's a shame it's taken any hoop-jumping at all for people to deal with it.

@Merlynn:

I find it very humorous that you imply that people have never heard of or have not played Quest for Glory and then dismiss Darwinia out of hand for its sparse graphics. If we applied the "good graphics are a must" to all games throughout history, we'd end up with a very short current list worthy of playing.

Also, your dismissal of DEFCON for having been influenced by WarGames doesn't take into account that it remains a highly stylish, strategic game.

I'm sorry that you don't like Steam, but that's not really an excuse to trash the games that are available on the service.

It's one thing for an old game to not have state of the art graphics. It's another for a recent game to look bad. Darwinia looks bad. Gameplay looks simple and uninteresting to me. As such,it doesn't look like a great game TO ME. I'm not saying Darwinia is a bad game for everyone. I'm saying I don't dig it. Some people won't like Quest for Glory. That's their problem.

Is Darwinia a good game? I haven't played so I can't say. Just like Kat's probably not played most of the awesome games I listed. So is it fair to say there are no good games on Gametap when you haven't even looked? Why is ok to trash an entire library of games,but you get offended about 2? Riddle me that one,Batman. :p

Whether I agree with Katana or not, I found your statement to be the more hypocritical of the two. And while I'm not in a position to judge who is wrong or right on the issue, I'm perfectly capable of recognizing and being irked by hypocrisy. If an older game can still be fun, even if its graphics aren't up to date (currently, I'm having a blast with Deus Ex), then I see no reason why that should count against more recent games done on low budgets. I would prefer their limited resources be focused on GAMEPLAY instead of GRAPHICS.

Disclosure: I like Steam AND GameTap, even if my own personal preferences tend towards ownership over renting.

I'm not going to make an argument, just wanted to let you know I HAVE played the majority of those games.

I played Splinter Cell, and it gets frustrating quickly; wasn't my thing.
Dues Ex is very good, and is definitely one of the better games on Gametap (and according to PC Gamer, one of the best of all time!). My save file got corrupted though, and whereas in a normal installation I would copy the save out to a safe place, or get another one off the net...in gametap you just have to reinstall entirely.
I played Sam and Max and that was definitely fun while it lasted. Unfortunately, it's not a game you can really re-play.
I tried some of the arcade fighting games, and my big problem was that they just feel wierd played on a keyboard. Metal Slug was very fun, and that's pretty much the only thing I still play on GameTap.
I also played Darwinia, and found it to be a lot more interesting, and while it isn't "flashy" graphical, it has nice effects that look really good to a graphics-descerning gamer.
Yes, I played Serious Sam. Felt like a nice Quake throwback, but after beating one boss I was just bored of doing the same things over and over. Felt like MMO grinding.
I enjoyed Heroes III long before Gametap, so that one's sort of out. I have beaten Beyond Good and Evil, and I own Psychonauts on Steam (so that I can look at cutscenes, and move savegames). Some of the other games you mentioned, I tried, and just found dull and out of my tastes.

Katana314:
Malygris: The best damned reviewer on your site is preparing to kill you with the Weighted Companion Cube. Just because it's two hours, doesn't mean it doesn't count; the experience is extremely unique and there's already about an hour's worth of custom maps out. Less than a month after release.
I'm also a bit confused at your adversity to playing online. Are you just afraid that everyone else is so obsessed with the game that they'll be far more skilled than a new player? (as is sometimes my fear with games) I was completely new to the concept, and now I'm dominating everyone; it's built to be easy to learn. Surprisingly, the online players are actually intelligent as well (no more of that "OMFGFAG" from Halo)

Also: Steam does not control what you can't play. It has an offline mode whereas you can play SP games without being connected to the internet. The only way in which it would be legal for Valve to disable your game is if there's a horrible network bug. (true, this does happen. But they do their best to fix them. And let's face it. No game code is perfect.)

Two hours of awesomeness is still two hours. Does it justify boosting the price from 20 bucks to 55? I'm inclined to think it does not, and I'm more inclined to be pissed off at the fact that I'm not even given the choice to miss out on it. The fact is that Portal is a side-dish, and utterly irrelevant to what I want: Ongoing Half-Life 2 continuity.

I might - might - consider making a purchase over Steam when Steam offers me a discount commensurate with the fact that I'm not getting a box, manual, media and whatever else would normally be included with the game. Until that happens, why should I? And my reasons for not playing online have no bearing on any of it; TF2 is of zero interest to me and that's all that matters.

As far as Steam not controlling what I play, are gamers not required to validate new game purchases from Valve over Steam before they'll run? I had to do that with both HL2 and Ep1, and in the case of HL2 I couldn't play the game for almost two days after I brought it home. If the game has to be validated or unlocked before it'll run, how exactly is that not controlling what we play?

shadow skill:
Isn't it wonderful when people just decide to bend over and take it? These games should not be region coded in any way shape or form. It is perfectly reasonable for people to buy games at a cheaper price due to exchange rates.

They do have to be region coded, any sensible company would do so. Think clear for a second here, I believe the OB was selling for 17 dollars on the Thai site, and all you need for a Steam game is the product key and then you can legally download it. So your options are: buy the game through Steam for 50 bucks and download it, or buy them game from Zest for 17 bucks and download it through Steam, there really is no threshold so of course Valve doesn't want that.

The price doesn't have anything to do with exchange rates, a European who bought the OB on Steam also profited from exchange rates. The price is so low because it's been made artificially low for a high piracy market, 17 dollars is not a price Valve can live off but it's better than charging 50 bucks and not getting any sales because then everyone in Thailand/Russia would pirate the game. The Thai copies are simply not meant for Europe/US because Valve/EA would be undercutting themselves. They have their low price for a reason and they should stay in the country they are meant for.

The only thing I disagree with is that the this has been done retroactively, people who had been playing their Thai-bought games for months were locked out. That was a very bad move, but as far as I know, that has been reversed and you're currently only blocked from registering a new Thai key in the US/Europe, but you can still use products you registered before this change.

And this isn't Valve's fault as much as it is the fault of the site who sold it. Because the box states the product is for use in Thailand only. Blame the store I say. The Shacknews article says it too, so nice objective newsposting!

Anyway, this whole region coding can be easily circumvented, but it's there to make the threshold of purchasing through those sites a little higher.

And what do you mean, with bending over for Valve? They haven't aggrieved me at all, so how exactly would I be bending over for them?

I still haven't purchased the Orange Box because I refuse to pay extra for product I already own. Valve can spout all it likes about throwing in Half-Life 2 and Episode 1 "free," but the fact is that the Orange Box costs more than the Black Box was going to. It's driving me nuts to hear everyone yammering about how awesome Portal is, how awesome Episode 2 is, how awesome Team Fortress 2 is, but I won't pay twice for content I already own.

You would've happily swallowed it if they boxed the three games for 50 dollars from the start and never even mentioned the Black Box, so why the whining? Ep1 and HL2 were originally added for console gamers, because if they haven't played HL2/Ep1 then they're not gonna buy Ep2 and if they have played it, it's likely they'll stick to the PC for Ep2. But if you add HL2/Ep1 to the package, the problem is solved. And then they were also added for the PC as a courtesy as well as a strategy (giving those games away to your friends will create new customers for Valve).

And selling the games separately simply isn't economically viable. You pay for marketing/shipping/boxes for three games AND you need three times the store shelves. The only reason a game like Portal was even made is because packaged it's viable to be sold as well as over Steam. A game like Portal would never be brought out as a stand-alone game.

Or I can get it over Steam, minus the box, manual and media,

Have you actually played any games the last five years? Boxes are cheap plastic DVD cases and proper manuals have been absent for many years. Retail copies are purely a physical carrier, they have no added value.

PvtRyan:
You would've happily swallowed it if they boxed the three games for 50 dollars from the start and never even mentioned the Black Box, so why the whining? Ep1 and HL2 were originally added for console gamers, because if they haven't played HL2/Ep1 then they're not gonna buy Ep2 and if they have played it, it's likely they'll stick to the PC for Ep2. But if you add HL2/Ep1 to the package, the problem is solved. And then they were also added for the PC as a courtesy as well as a strategy (giving those games away to your friends will create new customers for Valve).

Ah, sorry Hoss, but that's pretty much completely wrong. Have a look around; 20 bucks is the sweet spot for episodic releases, and 20 bucks is what I paid for Ep1, so where do you get this idea that I'd pay 50 bucks for Ep2? Did I give the impression that I'm stupid enough to have done it if only I hadn't been momentarily distracted by the shiny Black Box? Because I know damn well I didn't say anything about it. You're making assumptions that couldn't be further from the truth, and furthermore, your comments that Valve threw HL2 and Ep1 into the PC version of the Orange Box as a "courtesy" seriously undermines any credibility you might have otherwise had.

And selling the games separately simply isn't economically viable. You pay for marketing/shipping/boxes for three games AND you need three times the store shelves. The only reason a game like Portal was even made is because packaged it's viable to be sold as well as over Steam. A game like Portal would never be brought out as a stand-alone game.

Don't recall saying I had a problem with the three NEW games. Release Ep2, TF2 and Portal, charge 30 or 35 bucks for it, and I'm there.

Oh, wait.

Have you actually played any games the last five years? Boxes are cheap plastic DVD cases and proper manuals have been absent for many years. Retail copies are purely a physical carrier, they have no added value.

Okay, let me see if I understand you: Packaging, documentation, media, shipping costs and stocking fees add nothing to the cost of the game, so therefore it's perfectly reasonable that we pay exactly the same price with or without these extra components?

See, there's that credibility thing again.

Yes, the store in Thailand acted in bad faith. However, Valve did so as well. After reviewing the STEAM ToS and EULA for Orange Box titles, nowhere does it state anything about region locks. If this was so important to Valve, why have they not included any language about it in either end user agreement? It seems like Valve could have handled this in a more diplomatic fashion. Instead they acted like a jilted lover, completely irrationally.

Malygris, I think your target price of 30-35 dollars for the "Black Box" is a little unreasonable. First, you imply 20 for Ep2, then state 30-35 for all three? TF2 and Portal combined are only worth 10-15 bucks? Maybe to you, TF2 is worthless because you don't want to play online, but that doesn't mean Valve should give it to you for free.

I'm more of the view that the "Black Box" should've (and really, did) cost 50: 20 for Ep2, 20 for TF2, and ~10 for Portal, or maybe split TF2 and Portal 15/15. And all would've been well with the world, if they'd just priced the stand-alones at those prices, instead of artificially raising them to push the Orange Box. Then you could've bought the two you might've cared about, Ep2 and Portal, and only spent 30-35, while the rest of us could've bought the Orange Box, gotten all 3 that we wanted, and been given spare copies of HL2 and Ep1 to throw to our buddies who've apparently been living under the proverbial gaming rock for the last few years.

You and I both know that nobody's "paying" for HL2 and Ep1 again. They threw those in because they had to on the consoles, and because the alternatives on the PC were less than palatable. But, people are being forced to buy all 3 "NEW" games together, with no reasonable alternative for picking and choosing. From day 1, I've not understood the rage over the inclusion of HL2 and Ep1, but I am 100% sympathetic to those who've been caught between a rock and a forced bundle of games they may not want.

Here's the thing. You can sell your HL2 and Episode 1 codes for 10 to 20 bucks on Ebay or Amazon, and then the Orange Box is 25-30 bucks (25 if you pre-ordered at 45 bucks). That's what I did, sold it to a friend for 20 bucks (and that's a good value for both HL2 and Ep1).

Malygris: The extras such as documentation and shipping definitely increase the production price of the product, by several dollars over what is essentially a $.10 CD or an individually minuscule cost in bandwidth. While it may not seem like a lot to us, when you look at the big picture, if you sell 500,000 copies of a product, you're talking $500k plus in lost profits because you had to print documentation, package and ship it.
As far as the cost, if you've a couple of products packaged together, you definitely raise the prices on those, and make the bundled product cheaper to make it a valuable deal (to pull the extra couple of dollars off of the people who don't want everything, yet still make them happy).
As someone who started getting into Half Life with the Orange Box, I've obviously nothing to complain about, but Steam does let you just get Episode 2 by itself for only $20, and if you want Portal, another $20.

To finish up, with all this going on about buying cheaply from Thailand, couldn't one say tariffs should come into play in order to allow the package to be playable in America/England, coming up to the price of oh, say, $50?

Steam is amazing, and I completely agree with what they did. The people that complain are those who either can't afford games, or usually illegally download them. They have some of the nicest game support out there with Steam and I love it. Sucks for the cheaters/stealers though!

I read about half of the posts, so I'm not sure if this had been brought up yet. I think that the big sticking point is that the keys were from Thailand. For anyone who's never been there before, that country could easily be renamed "Bootleg World". I can't really find fault with Steam for locking the games out, because Thai keys throw red flags out all over the place. I would probably do the same in their place. I've never had problems with Steam, I think it's great that they're offering some of the same services as Xbox Live for free, and I won't place them in the role of evil digital overlord simply because they won't allow people to play foreign Orange Boxes that they probably paid five bucks for.

Geoffrey42:
You and I both know that nobody's "paying" for HL2 and Ep1 again. They threw those in because they had to on the consoles, and because the alternatives on the PC were less than palatable. But, people are being forced to buy all 3 "NEW" games together, with no reasonable alternative for picking and choosing. From day 1, I've not understood the rage over the inclusion of HL2 and Ep1, but I am 100% sympathetic to those who've been caught between a rock and a forced bundle of games they may not want.

I'd love to know how we "know" that. Here's what I know: The Black Box, without HL2 and Ep1, was going to sell at a lower price than the Orange Box, with HL2 and Ep1. By eliminating the Black Box, Valve forces gamers to either spend more money on the Orange Box or buy online via Steam. In spite of the fact that Ep2 via Steam offers no box, manual or media, and is no longer (and by at least two accounts somewhat shorter) than Ep1, Ep2 sells for $29.95, ten bucks more than Ep1 cost. Team Fortress 2 is also $29.95, while the 2-3 hour long Portal is $19.95.

Now, you could use those numbers as "proof" that the Orange Box is a great deal, because purchasing the three new titles individually would cost 80 bucks - Valve is charging barely more than half what the games are worth, and they're throwing in HL2 and Ep1 to boot! Or, you could say that the sudden and dramatic jump in price of a single episodic entry, as well as charging 30 bucks for what is essentially a refined multiplayer mod and another 20 for a puzzle game that will last an afternoon is nothing more than a ham-fisted attempt at justifying the Orange Box shenanigans with ridiculous and baseless price hikes.

Now, I know what I believe, but I won't go so far as to say what I "know," because I'm not privy to that information anymore than you are.

None of which addresses the original point: That Valve is using their so-called distribution system to lock people out of legitimately-purchased software. Setting aside the irony of using the greatest worldwide communications tool in human history to enforce an arbitrary system of regions, the fact is that it sets a precedent I find more than a little uncomfortable. And what I find even more distressing is that so many people aren't just indifferent about it, but actually think it's a good idea.

Malygris:
Now, you could use those numbers as "proof" that the Orange Box is a great deal, because purchasing the three new titles individually would cost 80 bucks - Valve is charging barely more than half what the games are worth, and they're throwing in HL2 and Ep1 to boot! Or, you could say that the sudden and dramatic jump in price of a single episodic entry, as well as charging 30 bucks for what is essentially a refined multiplayer mod and another 20 for a puzzle game that will last an afternoon is nothing more than a ham-fisted attempt at justifying the Orange Box shenanigans with ridiculous and baseless price hikes.

I would do no such thing, and have already made statements in support of exactly what you're saying, in the same comment which you're responding to. The individual prices are inflated to push the Orange Box, I have no doubts about that. Ep2 is not worth 29.95, boxed or not. But, would you feel differently about the situation if they had left the individual versions (equally) ridiculously priced, released a Black Box at 50, and the Orange Box at 60 on PC and consoles? In that scenario, Valve kept their promise to release the Black Box for less than the Orange box, but people who only wanted 1 or 2 of the 3 new games are still just as screwed as they are right now. On the flip, keep the Orange/Black situation as it presently is, and fix the price-gouging on the individual titles, and then all is peachy-keen. At least, that's how I imagine it all, and why I think the real issue is the individual title prices, and not the elimination of the Black Box.

Apologies for using the verb "know". I meant no offense.

None of which addresses the original point: That Valve is using their so-called distribution system to lock people out of legitimately-purchased software. Setting aside the irony of using the greatest worldwide communications tool in human history to enforce an arbitrary system of regions, the fact is that it sets a precedent I find more than a little uncomfortable. And what I find even more distressing is that so many people aren't just indifferent about it, but actually think it's a good idea.

Too right. It's my personal opinion that regions have to exist, just because of the structure of the international economy. But, I don't think they should be so rigorously enforced (especially when certain media is not released in all regions). And in this particular case, Valve went about it every wrong way imaginable. Shy of banning those users altogether, which would've been the icing on top...

If Valve had done that - released the Black Box at 50, the Orange Box at 60 or 70 and left the Steam prices as they are - I probably would've bought the Black Box. I'd be pissed off about it, I'd bitch about it, but I'd likely do it. But under those circumstances, everything changes, because in that situation it's nothing more or less than a question of Valve gouging for a game they know is going to be in huge demand. My anger is less about the price - I'm going to pay damn near 100 bucks to bring in a copy of the Witcher from the U.K. (probably about the 11th time I've mentioned it) so price isn't necessarily a deal-breaker when it comes to good games - than it is about the fact that Valve acted in what I consider to be an underhanded fashion so that I would have no choice in the matter. I either pay 50 bucks for the Orange Box which includes a bunch of stuff I don't want and have already paid for, or I pay 30 bucks for Ep2 by itself over Steam, a 33 percent jump over the price of Ep1 in exchange for no hard copy. If it weren't for the fact that I long ago reached a few sad conclusions about human nature, I'd be surprised that there was no significant outcry over it.

So it pisses me off, but what I find truly disturbing is the use of Steam to lock out users who may have been trying to save a few bucks on the game, but still deserved adequate warning and some consideration from Valve before they were left high and dry. And if this becomes a standard practice for major developers and publishers - region-based activations, that is - it could become a real problem for those of us who don't always buy within the confines of our own country. I don't have a lot of European stuff - the STALKER collector's edition, the 15th anniversary edition of Another World, eventually the Witcher (there's number 12) off the top of my head - but with the growth in Very Cool Stuff from Europe that's not available here, combined with a simultaneous decline in PC game development in North America, I could see it becoming of much greater interest to me over the next few years. Region freedom, or at least some system of reasonable accommodation, is extremely important to me, and I think it should be important to any serious gamer with an eye to the future.

Malygris:
Valve is using their so-called distribution system to lock people out of legitimately-purchased software.

In all honesty I do not see what the problem is with region-coded games over Steam. Were a game or game package not sold over steam, or any other digital distribution method and was region-coded, would there be this large argument? Probably not. Attempting to argue about region-coding over Steam is like trying to argue about region-coding on a console. Say the Orange Box was never sold on Steam, in fact, let's pretend Steam doesn't exist for a moment.

You buy the game from another country, it's cheap, and the total cost including shipping is near half the price of going to the store a mile or two away and buying a copy. You load it up, only to find out it was region-coded, and will not run. I can assume that any normal person would be mad, spending money on a game that doesn't work. You must take note that at this point region-coding is in no way new, and is used as a way to profit by having people pay at the prices they will accept based on what part of the world they live in.

PvtRyan:
So your options are: buy the game through Steam for 50 bucks and download it, or buy them game from Zest for 17 bucks and download it through Steam...

...17 dollars is not a price Valve can live off but it's better than charging 50 bucks and not getting any sales because then everyone in Thailand/Russia would pirate the game.

In the U.S., the Orange Box sells for $49.95 because that is a price that most of the target audience will accept. In Thailand, the Orange Box sells for significantly less, because that is what the target audience there is willing to accept.

When people in the U.S. buy a game from Thailand for far less than the price they are intended to pay, the publisher and developer are losing out on quite a bit of money, thus region-codes are implemented to ensure that the two parties make as much money as possible without losing either side of the market.

Thanks to Steam, Valve is now not only a developer, but also a distributor. Even though the form of delivery is different, it's still content distribution, and follows the same idea of pricing the products based on what people are willing to pay. Should people attempt to circumvent that, it is completely within Valve's right to disallow people the ability to play a copy of a game which they were never intended to purchase. Under 13C of the Steam Subscriber Agreement, Valve is able to remove your access to any game, at any time.

Steam:
2. In the case of a one-time purchase of a product license (e.g., purchase of a single game) from Valve, Valve may choose to terminate or cancel your Subscription in its entirety or may terminate or cancel only a portion of the Subscription (e.g., access to the software via Steam) and Valve may, but is not obligated to, provide access (for a limited period of time) to the download of a stand-alone version of the software and content associated with such one-time purchase.

While this sounds harsh, the only time which I have ever heard this being done is when I read this article.

Malygris:
If Valve had done that - released the Black Box at 50, the Orange Box at 60 or 70 and left the Steam prices as they are - I probably would've bought the Black Box. I'd be pissed off about it, I'd bitch about it, but I'd likely do it. But under those circumstances, everything changes, because in that situation it's nothing more or less than a question of Valve gouging for a game they know is going to be in huge demand. My anger is less about the price - I'm going to pay damn near 100 bucks to bring in a copy of the Witcher from the U.K. (probably about the 11th time I've mentioned it) so price isn't necessarily a deal-breaker when it comes to good games - than it is about the fact that Valve acted in what I consider to be an underhanded fashion so that I would have no choice in the matter. I either pay 50 bucks for the Orange Box which includes a bunch of stuff I don't want and have already paid for, or I pay 30 bucks for Ep2 by itself over Steam, a 33 percent jump over the price of Ep1 in exchange for no hard copy. If it weren't for the fact that I long ago reached a few sad conclusions about human nature, I'd be surprised that there was no significant outcry over it.

So it pisses me off, but what I find truly disturbing is the use of Steam to lock out users who may have been trying to save a few bucks on the game, but still deserved adequate warning and some consideration from Valve before they were left high and dry. And if this becomes a standard practice for major developers and publishers - region-based activations, that is - it could become a real problem for those of us who don't always buy within the confines of our own country. I don't have a lot of European stuff - the STALKER collector's edition, the 15th anniversary edition of Another World, eventually the Witcher (there's number 12) off the top of my head - but with the growth in Very Cool Stuff from Europe that's not available here, combined with a simultaneous decline in PC game development in North America, I could see it becoming of much greater interest to me over the next few years. Region freedom, or at least some system of reasonable accommodation, is extremely important to me, and I think it should be important to any serious gamer with an eye to the future.

Ok, first off, this was said at the start of the thread.

It's only an issue when you buy from countries with much lower RRPs than your own. England isn't one of them...though it would be nice if it was. :-)

As for the pricing thing...I am becoming more and more convinced that you're just trying to twist your own opinion to hate Valve. Let's look at that potential black box scenario. With Halo 3 coming out for $60, Bioshock coming out for $60, Portal + Episode 2 + TF2 coming out for $60...I doubt anyone would listen to you if you started complaining about its price. Unfortunately, I cannot point to a study saying "YOUR OPINION IS WRONG!" so I can't actually DISPROVE what you say about price expectations.

I really just think you hate Valve. That's it. I don't know if you got beaten in Counter-Strike, or if you are unable to pirate Half-Life 2, but I think you just have some bias against them. There's worse stuff today than people NOT being able to get the orange box for $17. Yeesh, I would think if you were this concerned about the Orange Box thing, then you would STILL be angry at Sony's response to the PSP re-selling.

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