Valve has implemented new region locks on Steam games that prevent them being gifted between certain regions. The move, according to a message reportedly sent to developers that found its way to Reddit, was made because of the tumbling value of the Russian ruble, but the net result for gamers is that a popular method of picking up cheap games has been cut off.
The nature of localized pricing on Steam means that what customers pay for a game in one country may be very different from what it costs those of another country. Assassin's Creed: Unity, for instance, is $60 in the US, but costs €60 in the EU, which works out to $74, and goes for $70 in Canada, which is the equivalent of about $60 US. In Russia, however, it costs 1300 rubles, which may sound like a lot until you realize that translates to about $21. (For a more in-depth look at how the system works, check out our September report, "The weird economics behind Steam prices around the world.")
Valve said in the message posted to Reddit that it's still "assessing the market" to determine how to best handle the situation, but for now it's putting limits on trading and gifting from Russia to keep people from cashing in on its weak currency. "Today we have propped a change that will affect all packages on Steam which will not allow them to be unpacked to an account, if gifted or traded from a lower priced region to a higher priced region," the message states. "This change is not retroactive and only affects new purchases. It also will not affect customers in that region from gifting a copy to other people in that same region. All customers will have proper warning when they are purchasing a gift prior to checkout in those regions as well."
The limits actually go well beyond the borders of Russia, however. Another post notes that games purchased from accounts based in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, and Singapore all have restrictions on where they can be gifted. The implication is that while the instability of the ruble may have catalyzed the action, the crackdown is being applied across the board to nations with weak currencies. And as Kotaku pointed out, the regional restrictions apply "to all games, regardless of specific locks (or a lack thereof) publishers might've had in place."
We've reached out to Valve for more information and will update if and when we receive a reply.