Judge dismisses antitrust lawsuit filed against Valve

Steam logo
(Image credit: Valve)

In April, Overgrowth developer Wolfire Games filed an antitrust lawsuit against Valve, alleging that Steam's dominance in the PC gaming market enables it to extract "an extraordinarily high cut" of the sales made through its storefront. Valve responded in July, saying Wolfire's complaint failed to meet "the most basic requirements of an antitrust case," and asking the judge to dismiss it as a result. In a ruling filed today, the judge in the case agreed with Valve.

The ruling, available in full on CourtListener, says Wolfire's lawsuit falls short on two separate points. First, the claim that Valve is illegally tying the Steam store to the platform—essentially, using the near-monopoly of Steam as a library, launcher, and social media platform to force people to buy games through the Steam storefront—is rejected because the allegations in the lawsuit suggest that the Steam platform and storefront are in fact "a single product within the integrated game platform and transaction market."

Wolfire's lawsuit also claims that Valve uses its near-monopoly to charge an excessive fee to sellers—30%—that wouldn't be sustainable in a competitive marketplace. That claim resulted in some interesting conversations earlier this year, but the judge rejected the argument, noting that Valve's take has remained unchanged throughout Steam's history, even as other online stores charging lower percentages have come and gone.

"Therefore, it would appear that the market reality, at least as plead, is that [Valve's] fee is commensurate with the Steam Platform's value to game publishers," the ruling states.

There are other legal points and precedents cited in the judgment, but the bottom line is that Wolfire's lawsuit "does not articulate sufficient facts to plausibly allege an antitrust injury based on that market."

As a result, Valve's motion to dismiss the lawsuit is granted—but only in part. The dismissal was granted without prejudice, meaning Wolfire has 30 days to amend its complaint to address the cited shortcomings and then refile it. I've reached out to Valve and Wolfre for comment on the case, and will update if I receive a reply.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.