Valve Responds to Foreign-Purchased Orange Box Key Lockouts

Katana314

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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.
 

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
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Katana314 said:
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?
 

PvtRyan

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shadow skill said:
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.
 

Andy Chalk

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PvtRyan said:
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.
 

nagumo [deprecated]

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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.
 

Geoffrey42

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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.
 

nagumo [deprecated]

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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).
 

panthrjd

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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?
 
Sep 18, 2007
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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!
 

sergeantz

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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.
 

Andy Chalk

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Geoffrey42 said:
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.
 

Geoffrey42

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Malygris said:
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...
 

Andy Chalk

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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 ***** 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.
 

ROBO_LEADER

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Malygris said:
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 said:
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 [http://www.steampowered.com/v/index.php?area=subscriber_agreement], Valve is able to remove your access to any game, at any time.

Steam said:
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.
 

Katana314

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Malygris said:
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 ***** 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.
 

Geoffrey42

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Katana314 said:
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. :)
While it is true that someone said it, they didn't really provide anything to back up the claim. It would certainly appear that this is true, but I haven't seen Valve policy which indicates it is the case, or if it would even remain that way in the future. *EDITED TO AVOID GODWIN'S LAW* That Valve did this is indicative of something lacking in their billing/account control department in terms of trusting users, asking questions first, etc. It sets a certain precedent about just how much rights you have over the content you buy on Steam. Next time you do something that Valve decides not to like, don't expect warning, and don't expect fairness.

And, personally, I'm still pretty pissed about Sony and Lik-Sang.

@ROBO-LEADER: While most contractual agreements with the providers of the various services I enjoy employ those sorts of clauses, it's generally assumed that they would only be exercised under extraordinary circumstances. When providers start enforcing those clauses for what appear to be minor infractions, they start losing customers. Exercising those bits of the contract should be last ditch, not first responses.
 

Andy Chalk

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Nov 12, 2002
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Katana314 said:
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.
You can "think" all you want, but I've made my position quite clear on both the Orange Box and the potential repercussions of using Steam (and similar systems) to enforce regional encoding. You can read up a few posts if you're interested, but I'm not going to cover the same ground yet again.