As we had reported the day before yesterday, to the regret of many German PC Gamers’ the German Steam Store has been stripped of 28 problematic games (as of June 1st, 17:30 CEST) and various bundles that contain these titles in the course of a great purge. Many of these games have spent their time for up to 20 years on the list “A” of media harmful to young people of the BPjM (a.k.a. the “Index”) and were waiting upon their automatic de-listing after 25 years or by a publisher’s request after 10 years. But apparently not one of the responsible developers or publishers have had an interest in a premature de-listing on request, thus maxing out the indexing period of 25 years for these titles.

Due to (preventable) region locks, an activation of keys for 13 of these games, which are “Store/CD Key”-Subs, is not possible from this time on. This was also confirmed by some of our members.

Valve doesn’t seem to care, whether German customers can activate or use their perfectly legally acquired keys form abroad without being compelled to violate the Steam Subscriber’s Agreement by masking their German origin. Circumventing these region locks with a VPN client or other masking techniques may result in whole Steam accounts getting banned and being rendered unusable. So far, there has not been a substantiated case in which this has happened but German customers – who by the way account for the Top 3 Traffic-rating of the world in Steam – are being left in a gray area of uncertainty on how to legally obtain games which they are legally allowed to buy and use. Valve is doing this not only for pricing reasons but also for a rather questionable and helpless or even blatantly wrong implementation of German youth protection provisions.

However, it would be rather trivial to remedy this awful situation. Valve is contractually partnered to a few payment services, which provide age verification services. “SOFORT Payment” and “Giropay” provide age verification systems (AVS), which are not only TÜV-certified and as such technically safe for the customer – they are additionally even certified by the KJM (federal supervision board) and can easily be implemented into the German store front since their systems are already in use in Steam. These services would make it a piece of cake to implement a “closed user group” of German adults, in which the sale of unrated games and games on lists “A” and “C” would be perfectly legal. There are practically millions of dollars to make in that possibility, just think about the popular Zombie Survival Genre in recent years…. On the other hand there is only a one-time development and integration process, which cannot be that hard for a software distribution giant such as Valve.

Why Valve chooses not to go down that road and give their partners the possibility to make more money but rather just cuts all profit prospects for these games is mindboggling. One thing is sure though: constructively tackling the problem is something they are not doing at the moment!

While Steam gifts may work for the time being, everyone has to decide for themselves if it is worth the risk of getting a traded game pulled from under them in case of trading fraud – recently Valve changed their policy so to not restore any frauded items anymore.

The case goes over the top as even games which are not even on the “Index” were pulled from the store. “Rise of the Triad” and “POSTAL Redux” have not yet been given a rating by the USK and the censored, rated USK18 version of “SiN Episodes: Emergence” have all been pulled.

Another consequence emerging out of this is, that gamers who already have these games activated in their account are now excluded from community features in the hubs, like writing a game review. For “Blood II:The Chosen + Expansion” and “Painkiller: Black Edition” only the purchasing options have been removed, leaving community interactions possible. Was that actually planned to go down that way?

It is unknown at the moment, who is responsible for the sudden purge and for what reason Valve has pulled the games. It stands to reason that a competitor of Valve has sued them on grounds of scewed competition or that the KJM has prosecuted them, even after they had always claimed to not being able to do so, since the American based company was not subject to German law. Another possibility could be the BPjM itself taking measures against Valve, since it has been under new management since April. A voluntary step by many publishers can be excluded, reasoning that they didn’t know anything about this, and even Valve wouldn’t freely take away business opportunities.

– Team for UNCUT!