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District court judge orders Valve to hand over Steam sales data to Apple


In context: Earlier this week, we reported on some new developments in the Epic v. Apple legal battle. To recap, Apple recently asked Valve to provide it with sales data on 436 Steam games, to help it understand the markets Epic competes in. Valve initially refused to hand over the data due to how burdensome it would be to fulfill the demand, but now, a judge has ordered the company to comply.

This is unfortunate news for Valve. As the company explained in its original position statement, since it’s a private firm, it is not obligated to store and disclose information to the same extent that a public company would. This means that Valve does not retain the sales data Apple asks for as part of its “ordinary course of business.”

Valve said that, for every single game Apple requested data on, it would need to access multiple databases that it ordinarily doesn’t, and collect “exhaustive” information on historical sales as well as every price change for the titles since 2015.

Judge Thomas Hixson, however, doesn’t feel that this process will be particularly burdensome for Valve. Apparently, the company verbally described the process during a hearing, and it wasn’t as complex as it made it seem in its position statement.

One of Valve’s other key objections related to privacy. By giving its data to Apple, Valve claimed, it would be surrendering the competitive advantage the confidentiality provides. Hixson disagrees with this, too, however, noting that the protective order that is allegedly in place should be more than enough to prevent third parties from obtaining the data.

On the bright side, Hixson has thrown Valve a bone — the company only needs to provide data on the requested games from the year 2017 and onward, not 2015 as Apple originally requested. The judge reasons that because the Epic Games Store didn’t come about until 2018, data from any dates earlier than that would not be relevant to Apple’s case.

You can read the Judge’s full opinion here, but we’ve summarized his two core arguments above. We’ll update you if Valve appeals the order, but assuming it doesn’t, the company will have until March 8 to provide the documents Apple wants.



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