You’ve received news that a highly anticipated game has launched on Steam. Excited to play, you then visit the online store to purchase the game but are met with a disappointing error message: “This item is currently unavailable in your region.” In such cases, you may have thought of using a VPN to get around the geographical restrictions to purchase games. But is it allowed?
A simple search on YouTube will yield several tutorials on how to buy and play region-locked video games on Steam. Using a VPN is one of the suggested methods, as it essentially assigns you a different IP address so you can pretend to be in a different location.
Using VPN to buy Steam games in markets outside your home country is prohibited
If we’re to abide by the Steam Subscriber Agreement, the short answer to the titular question is no. As of this writing, the SSA obliges you to not use IP proxying and similar methods such as VPNs to spoof your home location for whatever purposes, including the purchase of games.
As to why Steam is enforcing this rule, one reason is that the prices of video games vary by region. A standard $59.99 game in the US may only cost Php2,000 (approx. $39.00) or even less when bought from Steam in the Philippines. Users are prohibited from changing store regions to abuse Steam’s regional pricing.
What happens if you get caught?
You decide bypassing restrictions is worth the risk, as you only want to access region-locked content and couldn’t care less about the different store prices. What happens then? If Valve discovers your actions and determines you’ve violated the SSA, you may permanently lose access to your Steam account and your entire library of your games.
See also: How to buy Steam games using GCash
Also, note that other common suggestions on how to buy and play region-locked games may also violate the SSA. These include having a friend abroad create and share an account with you, as well as receiving a region-restricted game as a Steam gift and then using a VPN to redeem and activate the game.
Stricter measures in purchases of region-locked games
You need to consider another roadblock if you decide to use a VPN to purchase and play region-locked games. As of 2020, Steam changed its store policy so that even if you change your region via a VPN, you will still be required to use a payment method that’s issued from the region you’re pretending to be located in
In other words, you can only change your default store country to another region once you provide and use an accepted payment method from that region. Doing so will then allow you to access and play region-locked games.
Why are some games region-locked on Steam in the first place?
Video games on Steam generally do not have region restrictions. It’s up to the game publishers to lock their products from certain markets or to give discounts on their products in some locations.