Top floor please!
The Ultimate guide to paying less for Steam games

The...
Ultimate
...guide to paying less for Steam games

What?

What indeed. But if you really need to ask then I shall explain it. Steam has region based pricing. This method of pricing can sometimes differ greatly between regions. For instance, did you know Australians once had to pay USD $89 for Fallout: New Vegas while Americans only had to fork out USD $50? Or for Soldier of Fortune III (Yeah, I know) Aussies had to cough up USD $54 while people in England only needed to pay USD $10.98?

But why?

Because Valve says so. If you would like a concrete reason then I have none to give you. You could go with the safest bet that seems to be thrown around: The publishers set the pricing and Steam are helpless... even though it's their own digital distribution platform. Anyway that's irrelevant, prices are high and unless you know how to get around them you'll be paying more than you need to.

How will I know if I'm being ripped off?

You won't, so check. There are a number of ways in which you can do this:

There are a lot more, but those are the most common. In those last 4 URLs you will notice a pattern. The cc stands for country code and the US/EU/UK/AU is for the country/region itself. Now you can compare any region against another. Prepare to be flabbergasted.

So what can I do?

You can do a number of things. The easiest would be to bend over and succumb to their greedy demands, but that involves paying more. Alternatively, by using some handy know how, you could use one of the following methods listed below. There are multiple advantages to all of this. For a start you pay less (when is that ever a bad thing?) and secondly you can purchase games that are not available in your region.

Keep in mind before doing any transfer that $100 doesn't equate to $100 in another currency, always do a conversion first. One way to do this is to go to XE or OzForex and use their currency converters to see. These will give you an indication of how much you will be paying, do not use these rates as a 1:1 comparison.

Fight back time!

RRRRRGGGGHH! Fight back time!

Method 1
Have somebody in another region gift it to you

What to do There's not much to this one. If you know or trust somebody in the region you want the game from then simply add them to your Steam friends list. Pay them the amount needed and they can gift the game to you after purchasing it themselves. Alternatively you can get them to gift it to the email address registered to your Steam account.

Risks None that I know of. A gift is a gift and there are no stipulations in the purchase process stating international gifting is against the rules. If Steam was against this they would employ measures to stop it. I have also asked on the official forums in the past and the answer I received (including one from a moderator) is that it's fine. This is the method I personally use, luckily realitves of mine live overseas.

Method 2
If it's on Steam, buy it elsewhere!

What to do Due to various reasons a lot of games have increasingly decided to use Steam / Steamworks as a form of DRM. Not only that - since the PC gaming platform is dying* it also seems to be the easiest and most popular way to obtain and distribute games.

*Dramatization, may not have happened.

If a game requires you to use and install Steam, then it's a Steam game. This method will work on any game you can get a Steam version of. Make sure of this, just because it's on Steam it doesn't mean all versions are made for Steam. You can buy it anywhere you please and as long as it comes with the activation key you can use that to activate the game, install it and play. Easy isn't it? The only hard part is deciding where to buy it from. Some user recommended (and not illegal) sites include:

You can also use other digital distribution sites to buy Steam only games, if the price is cheaper, it's worth it. It ends up on Steam anyway. Some sites include:

There are many retail games you can buy that only work with Steam, but be careful, a lot of games that have "Steam versions" also have versions that do not require Steam, such as BatMan Arkham City. I learned that lesson the hard way.

Risks None that I know of. This is buying the FULL RETAIL edition or a key from an authorised reseller, NOT buying a CD key from any old site and using that.

Method 3
Use a proxy or VPN and buy it yourself

What to do This one is a little harder. You will need:

PayPal will not work if the PayPal account isn't tied to the same country you're buying from, the same goes for debit/credit cards that report their locations upon processing payments.

Once you know which region you want the game from, go to that region of the Steam site. Login to your VPN / proxy. A VPN will most likely have a program associated with it. Alternatively you can use one you can obtain for your browser.

Once logged into your VPN / Proxy set your location to the area desired (if it isn't done automatically). Now refresh the Steam page. If you did it correctly the prices will change to match the region you are appearing from. Now select the game you are after and add it to your cart. If you are using your own account simply click purchase it for yourself. If it's for a friend or you are on a gifting account, send it through as a gift instead.

Purchase time

This is where it gets tricky for most people. For some reason or another (since no recognisable pattern can be found) some credit cards work, others don't. I'd chalk it up to user error myself, but you never know. You kind of have to hope for the best here, if the credit card is declined - you cannot use this method.

You will need to:

  1. Enter all of your details, including the ones for your credit card.
  2. Use an address that matches the location you are purchasing "from". Make sure the Country state and postcode all match up. For example the postcode 90210 is for Beverly Hills, California, USA. It will work fine. You can then use any address. Some people do not and have never needed to use one that matches their Debit / Credit Cards as long as the above (postcode, state, country) are correct.
  3. Agree to all the terms on this page.

Now you will either be taken to the next step in confirming your purchase or you will be given an error message. If you can proceed, congratulations it worked. If you have an error message then you have either entered the details incorrectly or your debit / credit card simply isn't going to work. Try another, get a different one or use another method.

Risks Minimal unless you bugger it up, getting items gifted is safer than this method.

Method 4
Buy a CD key from a non-authorized Steam reseller

What to do Dodgy sites that sell CD keys can be great. For Steam? It's up to you to judge the risk. If you're feeling adventurous and wouldn't mind parting with your hard earned money - then go for it. It's been stated time and again that if Steam figures out you're doing this the game may be removed.

Some decent sites include:

Risks Lots if you pick the wrong site. Try reading the experiences of others for CD key sites before purchasing from them yourself..

Method 5
Let somebody else do it!

What to do If you're clueless, old and useless, scared, can't follow instructions or simply cannot be stuffed - let somebody else do it. If you know they have a good track record and you can trust them then why worry? Pay and play. Just make sure you cover any fees incurred. The difference between this method and method 1 is that in method 1 the person lives in that country you are getting the game from, here somebody else is just doing the legwork for you using any method they choose.

Risks The only risk is the one associated with the method the purchaser will be using. Refer to all of the above.

Other useful links

The following is a collection of links with descriptions:

Awwww crap... It didn't work!

Awwww crap... It didn't work!

If you are having any problems relating to any of these methods, feel free to e-mail me. If you have messed up somewhere along the way and somehow feel I am responsible, forget it. You are using all of this free information at your own risk. By doing so you accept all responsibility. And no, I will not gift you games. Good luck.