Written by. Nick Mosier based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2022-07-25 17:54 JST)
Game developer NumericGazer recently revealed that their adult game Hero’s Journey has been damaged by fraudulent sales in some countries on Steam. This issue has impacted many developers as they worry about how best to handle it.
What kicked off the conversation was a report from NumericGazer. The developer took to their Twitter account on July 25 (JST) to report that they were suffering damages due to Steam users disguising their country of residence to buy games cheaper.
Steam has a feature where when a price is set in one currency, it gets automatically converted and adjusted for other regions, taking regional economies into consideration. For example, a game that is set at $10 with this feature will be sold for the equivalent of $1 in Argentina and Turkey. NumericGazer says this is being abused by Steam users.
While NumericGazer has modified the prices of Hero’s Journey in those countries now, the company said they couldn’t modify it during the game’s launch week which really hurt their profits. They also wanted to share this information so others who are unaware don’t use the automatic price setting without knowing and regretting it later.
When looking at the image NumericGazer posted, we can see that it sold best in Argentina at 17% of sales, with Turkey sitting at number three. With the number one and three spots taken by countries that are selling the game much cheaper, if these purchases were made by users disguising their country of residence, it could be unendurable for the studio.
While it can’t be confirmed that the purchases were fraudulent, there haven’t really been reports of Steam being especially lively in Argentina compared to other regions, so the possibility seems highly likely.
There were actually similar reports from other developers and publishers a short while ago. One example is Over 9000 Zombies! in which the developer reported that 95% of sales came from Argentina during a sale in August of 2021 (VICE). When looking at the unofficial Steam database website SteamDB, we can see that many titles have been selling at low prices in Argentina and Turkey.
As mentioned before, this is because of the automatic price setting that takes regional economies into consideration. It’s likely many titles that used this automatic price setting have been impacted by users that have fraudulently acquired accounts from these countries to buy games cheaper.
Active Gaming Media, the owner of this website, continues to experience this issue as well, according to Shunji Mizutani of PLAYISM, a publishing brand of the company. He explains that when looking at the distribution of sales by country for games released by PLAYISM, Argentina often ranks in at 4th or 5th. This is likely through similar methods previously explained in this article.
However, PLAYISM currently isn’t taking any measures to deal with sales in Argentina and Turkey. When we asked why, Mizutani explained that they wanted to avoid making it hard for players who actually live in those countries to buy the games. When the publisher was considering how to best tackle the issue, they saw players from those regions telling companies that did take measures that the games were too expensive, and they couldn’t buy them. Though they still have to contend with fraudulent users, the publisher has left pricing in those countries as they stand to make the games accessible for local gamers. They have also told Valve their thoughts on the situation a number of times.
NumericGazer also stated in an apology to players in those countries, “We’re sorry to players in Argentina and Turkey, but the reality is there’s an unusual amount of people abusing the system.” As mentioned before, Argentina and Turkey take up the number one and three spots in sales for Hero’s Journey which is a level of misuse a smaller developer can’t likely overlook.
Valve continues to crack down on users breaking the terms of service by disguising their addresses, but as long as there are differences in price, the problem will likely continue. With many studios worried about whether to prioritize local gamers or measures against misuse, we can only hope Valve comes up with a suitable solution.
NumericGazer’s Hero’s Journey came to Steam on July 15. It initially released on other websites including DLSite as Under the Witch: Beginnings, but decided to use a separate name on Steam after the initial name got rejected by Steam. The game features high quality models but is rated “Adults Only” due to sexual content, so be aware if searching for it on Steam (You will need to verify your birthdate to access the Steam page).