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Sometimes I want to buy some games on Steam, but certain games are not available in my country. Is there any particular reasoning for certain games being unavailable? I get that's not Steam's fault, and it's probably on behalf of the publisher, but I want to purchase for the game.

As I live in Uruguay there's not normally the option to purchase a game in a store, so is not an issue of different publishers for different zones (yes, I could always import the game myself, but then I have to pay an import rate of 60% of the CIF value, which I see as prohibitive).

We also don't have restrictive laws about violence in video games like some countries (such as Australia or Germany). Also, some of the involved games are completely family safe (as Civilization IV a few years ago). I can always get a gift, but that requires trusting or getting trust from some unknown individual (I have done it), and requires some effort. It also could break the Steam user agreement, and that is something I don't want to do.

As a specific example, Grand Theft Auto IV was not available to purchase on Steam in my country, but I am able to purchase Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City.

Why are some games unavailable in some regions?

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closed as off-topic by OrigamiRobot, kalina, Unionhawk, 5pike, 3ventic Nov 12 '13 at 15:34

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Would those games break your local laws if sold directly to you? And, WRT Steam, have you tried having a friend gift one of such games to you? –  badp Jun 17 '11 at 15:12
@badp: I answered on my edit. –  Doppelganger Jun 17 '11 at 15:18
By the way, I suggest contacting the publishers directly, and asking them to make their game available on Steam for your region... it worked for me. –  Oak Jun 17 '11 at 15:23
Yes, I sent an email to 2kgames about Civ IV, and they sent me a canned response. Anyway, I was able to buy Civ V in my region, so that particular story had a happy ending. –  Doppelganger Jun 17 '11 at 15:38
+1 good question. It happens sometimes to us kiwis, singularity springs to mind, purchasable in a retail shop, but can't buy or even browse to it on the steam store. –  Jared Jun 18 '11 at 3:36

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Your edit pretty much addresses why some games are region-locked - because there do exist restrictions by companies.

Sometimes these are from a legal standpoint - for example, the hassle of differences in trademark copyrights (the infamous reason why Super Robot Wars never gets to come to the US). It also may be that there are laws against specific content in that country (noting the examples you mentioned with Germany and Australia).

Sometimes it comes from a marketting standpoint. It may not be seen as profitable to market to the other audience - it might be expected that the other audience will not find it as entertaining, or may even be offended by the content. Alternatively, there could be greater profits in the regional divisions based on local or international tariffs.

Consoles also face their own hardware restrictions, which generally are implemented along the lines of the above. The closing point is, region locks exist to enforce restrictions as defined by the separate regions. Sometimes it's obvious legal points, others it'll feel arbitrary if not completely nonsensical. Whatever the particular reasoning is, the nature of the restriction varies based on both the game and the region, which prevents getting much narrower than the above as far as a general explanation of why games as a whole get region-locked.

It would be wise to figure out, perhaps with Steam support or with another appropriate channel, what the specifics for prohibition in your own specific region are.

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He wrote that the games aren't restricted by law in his country. I btw can't imagine a law against Civ IV and I live in germany so I can imagine a lot of bullshit laws against games... –  JustSid Jun 17 '11 at 15:29
@JustSid I'm not his country, though. Nor are any of us necessarily - point is, there's some reason, and we aren't really the ones who'll know it. The general reason why region locking exists is for restrictions. The proper course of action would be to check with Steam or the publisher as to what kind of restrictions are blocking those games. Arbitrary or not, there's always a reason behind it. –  Grace Note Jun 17 '11 at 15:30
I added an example of a locked game in an edit, I believe this exemplifies the nonsense. –  Doppelganger Jun 17 '11 at 15:40
@Doppel Nonsense or not, you should probably ask the people responsible for the locking. If you think it's nonsense, do you expect likeminded gamers to know any better than the companies/regions in question? You're preaching to the choir, to a degree. The general reason for region locks is restrictions either from a marketing or a legal standpoint. Anything else, is generally pretty specific or will otherwise be beyond what we'll know in a universal fashion. –  Grace Note Jun 17 '11 at 15:42
Yes, I see your point, but I asked here because I guess that maybe sometimes there are some hidden reasons, that wouldn't be answered by a PR employee. Also, probably many people in the gaming industry are lurking here, so they could give some insight. Finally, maybe some of you have had the same problem, and then you could have some generic answers to discuss. –  Doppelganger Jun 17 '11 at 15:50

While @Grace Note's answer is excellent, and covers a number of reasons that a game might not be made available in a particular location, it ignores one of the most frequent, and quite frankly, simplest reasons a game won't be available in a particular territory.

The publisher or retailer in question probably doesn't have the rights to sell the game there.

and there's no other option to get the games here, so is not an issue of different publishers for different zones

The issue with regional rights is not one of a particular publisher not selling a game for fear of not wanting to step on some other publishers toes - rather, the problem is that typically, when rights to license or distribute a product are sold, the contracts are drawn up in an affirmative manner - that is to say, 2kGames contract for the rights on Civ 4 likely explicitly authorized them to sell the game in the USA, Canada, Europe, and whatever other markets they do business in. Anything which is not explicitly permitted in such a deal is, implicitly, prohibited.

As for why they wouldn't include African rights in the same deal as all those other territories? Why bother? If 2Kgames has no presence in Africa by which to distribute the title, then there's no benefit to them to own those rights, and it leaves Firaxis free to make some other deal for publication rights in Africa at a later date.

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