One thing I often find myself questioning is the need for zones and regions of distribution in an era where you can simply download anything you want. Valve’s Steam client always seemed like a part of this. You pre-load your game, and when the time hits, Steam sends out an unlock code and you’re free to begin.
Publishers seem to view things a bit differently though, and to be fair, they have a lot of laws and red tape to deal with. For instance, in Australia the popular Left 4 Dead 2 is quite a bit less bloody due to that country’s regulations. Like everything else though, this seems to boil down to one thing in the end…money.
Publishers may decide to release a game for substantially less money in one region for a number of reasons such as economic conditions, competition, or trying to increase market share in a certain area. Gamers being the bright bunch they are, of course would just simply order the game from a cheaper retailer, costing the publisher money. Until now, Steam has had no regional locks on games, but that policy seems to be changing.
It could be due to the increased competition from other services such as EA’s Origin or GameStop’s Impulse that is driving Steam to be more competitive, or simply pressure from publishers to allow them more tools when releasing a game through Steam. All we have now is speculation. The one thing we can be sure of though is that with the release of Max Payne 3, Steam will be changing in a subtle, yet important way.