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Steam’s new currency support causes chaos for international PC gamers

On Monday, Steam rolled out local currency support for customers in 11 new countries, including Argentina, Costa Rica, Israel, and Qatar. Almost immediately, people started popping up with complaints about weird conversions, sudden price changes, and entire company catalogs becoming unavailable for some regions.

Idan Zeierman, a PC Gamer reader from Israel, says that new support for the Israeli new shekel caused a lot of prices to move around. "At least for Israel, [new shekel support] had good and bad effects. While the big publishers generally rounded the prices up, small publishers and indie developers (and Paradox!) actually lowered their prices in Israel as a result of the conversion." 

Checking out different storefront prices on Steam Database shows that Steam’s automatic suggested price varies across the 11 new currencies, with prices going down by 47 percent in Vietnam to up by 4 percent in Israel. Most of the new currencies have a default price around 30 percent lower than the USD equivalent, according to a Reddit post that did a lot of digging on the subject. If a publisher chose to use Steam’s default pricing, the new currency support was pretty much automatic.

Some publishers choose prices themselves, though, and the need for a personal touch has made huge chunks of the Steam storefront out of reach for customers in these 11 countries. Rockstar and 2K Games in particular haven’t set prices as of Thursday, and the "Purchase" button is simply missing from games like GTA V, Max Payne 3, XCOM 2, and Civilization 6. Weirdly, one of Civ 6’s expansions, Khmer and Indonesia, is available with a new price while other DLC and the base game itself are not.

In Argentina, new support for the peso is making Kerbal Space Program unavailable until the publisher, Mexico City-based Squad, sets a new price. "When you can't buy a game everything looks normal, it just doesn't have the buy button" redditor Pnoexyz, a moderator for the Argentinian gaming subreddit r/ARGaming, wrote to tell us."The devs have to set their price, and this could mean they just haven't got to that yet."

Kerbal Space Program, sans buy button.

Argentinians might hope that those prices stay undeclared for a little while. Though the default Argentinian price should be around 25 percent lower than the USD conversion, some publishers are cranking up prices seemingly at random: WB Games is selling Injustice 2 at a 60 percent markup. Konami, meanwhile, lists Metal Gear Solid V at 185 percent higher than the USD equivalent.

In Costa Rica, an error caused GTA V to be briefly on sale for 94 colónes—about 17 cents in USD. "Grand Theft Auto was being sold but had a pricing error so it was very cheap therefore they noticed and took it down," Leoxcr, a 28-year-old PC gamer in Costa Rica, says. "I [don’t] have a way of buying Call of Duty WWII either, just the DLCs."

Several of the people I spoke to have reached out to Steam for help, but so far they haven’t heard anything back. (Steam did not respond to a request for comment for this story.) Until publishers go in and manually sort out their back catalogs, customers will just have to complain about it on Reddit: a 10 percent increase in Kuwaiti dinar, a 28 percent increase in Israeli new shekels, a 5,400 percent price increase in Polish zloty.

International gamers are no strangers to weird regional price differences, and the weird economics of international Steam prices is always a tricky subject. Some customers feel ripped off by price differences caused by politics or inattention; aggravation over local buying power was a big motivator for a few of the software pirates we spoke to last year. Even after publishers spend the time to manually set new local prices for their games, the unpredictable confluence of economics, taxes, and local markets will keep making the global PC games marketplace a strange and frustrating one for customers.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated Argentina's currency was the colón, not the peso.