I started Steam today and was greeted with a new Steam Subscriber Agreement to agree to. Like every one of these EULA things, I just clicked through it without reading and then proceeded to do a Google search for what changed. It turns out that the changes might be a big deal.
Firstly, Valve is opening up an office in Luxembourg to better handle the EU side of their business. That seems pretty cool, I guess.
Next up, there's the new "dispute resolution process" wherein if you take Valve to small claims court, they'll foot the bill for you, up to a certain amount. I'm obviously not a lawyer, please correct me if I've got this wrong. However, this seems positive for the customer at first glance.
Lastly, class-action lawsuits can no longer be brought against Valve. Wait, what? Following in the wake of AT&T, Sony, EA, and others, Valve has decided that they want out of class-action suits, too. Though the article does do on to explain,
In far too many cases however, class actions don’t provide any real benefit to users and instead impose unnecessary expense and delay, and are often designed to benefit the class action lawyers who craft and litigate these claims. Class actions like these do not benefit us or our communities.
I guess this makes sense, but again, I'm pretty far away form having a decent understanding of the legal system.
Before everybody gets up in arms about how this new clause about class-action suits isn't enforceable in court, Forbes had a pretty swell article explaining that precedent has already been set that such verbiage in a contract is indeed enforceable.
I don't know how to feel about this one. On the one hand, Valve has always been pretty good to its customers and had more of a long-term view of the market. On the other hand, changes like this bring back the reality that Valve is indeed a for-profit entity and not inherently altruistic. Maybe 2012 really is the end of the world. Or maybe we're just overreacting. My money falls somewhere in the middle.