Valve boss Gabe Newell has been ordered by a federal judge to physically appear in U.S. district courts in Seattle and answer questions under oath.
Indie developer Wolfire Games has sued Valve (2:21-cv-00563-JCC Wolfire Games LLC et al v. Valve Corporation) for allegedly breaking antitrust law, and Gabe Newell has been ordered to show up in court to deliver deposition in the case.
Newell's legal counsel had previously asked to deliver remote deposition in the case and not have the Valve president show up in court, citing Newell's health concerns regarding possible COVID-19 exposure as the main reason. U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour has now weighed in on the decision, ordering (Docket #170) Newell to appear in court because Newell did not provide sufficient evidence that he was of particular risk of serious illness over the general public.
Judge Coughenour gives a brief rundown of the case and plaintiff's rationale for interviewing Newell in the opening order:
"This is an antitrust suit where Plaintiffs assert Defendant leverages its market power to charge supra-competitive fees. (See generally Dkt. No. 127.) Discovery is ongoing and Plaintiffs now seek to depose Mr. Newell, the company's co-founder, president, and largest shareholder.
"They contend Mr. Newell is uniquely positioned to testify on all aspects of Defendant's business strategy. (See Dkt. No. 164 at 21-22.) For this reason, Plaintiffs assert only an in-person deposition would allow them to adequately assess Mr. Newell's credibility."
The judge also ruled that Newell's deposition would have specific health provisions and require everyone in the courtroom wear a "tightly-fitting certified N95, KF94, or KN95 face mask" while Newell delivered his deposition. Plaintiffs also suggested the use of a "well-ventilated, large conference room, attendance by only essential people, and rapid at-home COVID testing for all participants."
On the onset of COVID-19, Newell had moved to New Zealand, a country that had one of the best response times to the global pandemic and one who had also significantly contained exposure rates.
The case's newer complaint, which was filed in May 2022, alleges that Valve abuses its power in a few ways:
II. Valve possess monopoly power in the relevant markets for PC desktop gaming platforms and PC desktop game distribution
A. the Steam gaming platform is dominant in the PC desktop gaming platform market
B. The Steam store is dominant in the PC desktop game distribution market
III. Steam has illegally monopolized the market for PC desktop game distribution
A. Valve distorts competition through the STeam key price parity provision
B. Valve restrains competition through the price veto provision
C. Steam store's discovery algorithm works with Valve's price parity requirements to artificially inflate prices across the industry
D. Valve uses its key-based model to block competition for third-party distribution
IV. Attempts at entry into relevant markets have failed because of Valve's conduct
V. Valve's anticompetitive practices directly harm both game publishers and game purchasers