Earlier this month Valve updated the Steam subscriber agreement to include language that prevents customers with disputes from filing lawsuits against the company, and instead forces them to agree to the decisions of a Valve-paid-for “independent” arbitrator.
As bad as that is, we are now getting reports that users are being told that they have to either submit to the new terms or have their accounts permanently deactivated, and in the process lose access to all the content they purchased through Steam.
The news of this anti-consumer tactic comes from a Steam support message to a user who asked what would happen if they “don’t wish to accept” the updated terms. The Steam support tech responded saying:
Thank you for contacting Steam Support.
We can permanently deactivate your account for you, remove any stored payment information and clear your Steam profile.
Disabling your account will not result in a refund, as explained in the Steam Subscriber Agreement.
The games in your account will not be accessible for future use. It is impossible to make your games available once your account has been deactivated and your information deleted or archived. Once we have permanently deactivated the account, we will not be able to reactivate the account upon a future request.
Please let me know if you would like to proceed.
This type of forced arbitration language in end-user-agreements is, sadly, nothing new. Last year, after the PSN hack, Sony changed the PSN terms-of-service agreement to included similar statements. However, they also included a clause in the agreement that allowed their customers to keep their right to file a lawsuit, if they wrote a letter to the company stating that they wanted to opt-out.
Judging from the above Steam tech support statement, it does not appear that Valve has any intention of being so merciful with their customers.
Regardless of how this ends up working out, this is a good example of why gamers should not be excited for the upcoming all-digital distribution revolution, that video game publishers are pushing for. Often you are not buying a game, but simply a license to play a game. The problem with that (as evidenced by Steam‘s new subscriber agreement) is that the license can be taken away from you, at any time, for any reason, and without compensation.
Say what you will about GameStop, but I’ve never heard of them breaking into a customer’s house and taking back all the video games that they purchased from their store.