You’re probably familiar with the typical “2020 Steam VPN – WORKING!” Google results. Yet nobody stops to ask: should you even use a VPN on Steam? Well, the answer is yes, but not for the reasons you’d expect. Here’s what we mean.
- Buying Games Cheaper with a VPN – Can It Be Done?
- Can You Buy Region-Locked Games with a VPN?
- Can You Play Region-Locked Games with a VPN?
- Will I Get Banned If I Use a VPN on Steam?
- Reasons to Use a VPN on Steam
- What VPN Should I Use on Steam?
Buying Games Cheaper with a VPN – Can It Be Done?
Many people believe that if they use a VPN on Steam, they can take advantage of cheaper regional pricing. While that may have been the case a few years ago, Valve has taken steps to prevent this practice.
How? Well, nowadays, your store region is set according to the last payment method you’ve used. They even mention on one of their support pages that if you’ve moved to a different country, you’ll need to update your payment method to make any purchases.
Steam wallet funds might not work either, as the currency in your wallet will not match the regional store currency. Have dollars or euros in your Steam wallet? Then you can’t spend rubles on the store.
You could try using a VPN to buy games cheaper on Steam, but it’s not worth risking your account over it. Some users have reported being successful, so maybe it’s worth a try on a backup account you don’t mind losing.
Even if it works, keep in mind that you’ll need to keep using the VPN to play the game you bought. Otherwise, you may not be able to play due to regional restrictions. That is unless Steam doesn’t outright restrict your account due to “suspicious activity.”
Can You Buy Region-Locked Games with a VPN?
While region-locked games are an uncommon sight on Steam nowadays, there are still quite a few of them around. If they aren’t available in your area, these games won’t even turn up in the Steam in-app search results.
Take this example, using the game “Super Robot Wars V.”
Trying to access the game’s store page through a Google result will instead take you to an “unavailable in your area” page.
You can access the game’s Steam page by using a VPN (tested with ExpressVPN) – but once again, the same payment restrictions apply. If you don’t have a local payment method, you’re out of luck.
Can You Play Region-Locked Games with a VPN?
Let’s say you want to buy a game that’s unavailable in your region through a third-party website (such as Humble Bundle). Do you need a VPN to play them? Well, it depends. These resellers have warnings for when games won’t work in your area – they are activation-locked as opposed to region-locked.
So if you’re in Germany and bought a game that’s activation-locked there, you won’t be able to play it – even if you use a VPN to change your region. It will just be added as a gift in your inventory and can’t be claimed to your actual library.
However, if you manage to get your hands on a so-called “global” key, the game should work even in countries that ban the game. You still need a VPN if the game has an online component you’re interested in.
Valve and five other publishers came under fire from the EU Commission for imposing such restrictions. To be fair, Valve isn’t fully to blame. They’re just following the wishes of the original game publishers.
What about free games?
It’s certainly possible to claim free, region-locked games with a VPN through the Steam app. However, this would still be against the Steam EULA and may get your account suspended.
It all falls under the “suspicious activity” rules, even if you’re technically not trying to abuse cheaper regional pricing. Changing your store region back and forth is enough to raise some flags with Steam.
Will I Get Banned If I Use a VPN on Steam?
Valve is pretty clear about what kind of activity may get your account suspended. However, some users believe that they can’t use a VPN on Steam at all. More specifically, they’re worried about this excerpt in the Steam EULA:
You agree that you will not use IP proxying or other methods to disguise the place of your residence, whether to circumvent geographical restrictions on game content, to purchase at pricing not applicable to your geography, or for any other purpose. If you do this, Valve may terminate your access to your Account.
The phrasing does seem to imply that your account may be banned simply by using a VPN when accessing Steam. Fortunately, this is not the case. The “for any other purpose” bit is basically legal speak so they can be covered if someone abuses the system in some unknown way.
One Reddit user received an official response from Steam support, confirming that it’s safe to use a VPN as long as you don’t attempt to circumvent regional pricing. The same goes for claiming free region-locked games, as mentioned in the previous section.
Reasons to Use a VPN on Steam
So is there any real point to a VPN while using Steam? Not being able to buy or claim region-specific games is a bummer, but a VPN can still benefit you. Here’s how.
#1 Prevent DoS attacks in multiplayer games
Ever get suspiciously disconnected right before (or after) winning a match? Then you may have fallen victim to a Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack. What happens is that the attacker floods your connection with a lot of spam requests, causing it to overload.
The “good” network requests get stuck in traffic, so to speak. By using a VPN, the hacker will essentially be attacking the VPN’s servers instead of your own network. VPN providers regularly deal with large scale Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, so a measly DoS attack shouldn’t pose any threat.
#2 Reduce ping in some games or prevent “connection lost” errors
Normally, a VPN will reduce your Internet speeds somewhat. This is because your data needs to travel a greater distance – to and from the VPN server and the services you’re trying to access.
Moreover, VPNs encrypt your data to protect it from hackers and other outsiders who might snoop in on your online activity. As you may have guessed, this process also has an effect on your connection speed.
However, you may actually see better performance in online games in some rare cases. See, for example, reports of users getting better ping in CS:GO or solving connectivity issues and being able to play GTA V Online.
Having connection troubles in online games? Read more about how to improve ping with a VPN.
#3 Get around firewalls on school and campus Wi-Fi
If you’ve ever tried to sneak in a round of CS:GO at that one boring lecture, you may have noticed that Steam simply won’t run on the school Wi-Fi. If your university is even stricter, gaming services won’t work back at campus, either.
The reason for that is that the network admins block Steam with a firewall at the port level. Just by blocking ports 27015-27030, you’re no longer able to log in or download games off Steam.
VPNs can help you bypass such firewall restrictions with ease. That’s because you’re technically not accessing Steam directly, as all network data passes through the VPN’s encrypted tunnel first.
Of course, that’s not the only benefit of using a VPN at school or on campus. You can unblock all sorts of services this way – social media, YouTube, streaming sites; you name it.
What VPN Should I Use on Steam?
Unlike Netflix, Valve doesn’t actively block VPN users. As such, choosing a VPN for Steam is much easier – your provider simply needs:
- A lot of servers – it’s rare (but not unheard of) for school or campus network admins to block VPN IP addresses. A provider with hundreds (even thousands) of servers will stay on top of anyone’s blocklists.
- Fast services – for the best download speeds and performance during online matches.
A lot of providers fit the bill for those two qualities, so check out our list of the best VPNs for a detailed comparison – including speed tests. If you’re short on time, here are a few quick recommendations:
- ExpressVPN – 3,000+ servers in 94 countries, five supported devices on a single account
- NordVPN – 5,400 servers in 59 countries, six devices allowed on one account
- Surfshark – 1,700+ servers in 63 countries, and you can link an unlimited number of devices
- CyberGhost VPN – 6,700 servers in 90 countries, can be used on seven different devices
Support for multiple devices is neat if you want to play with your dorm mates. Just remember to stay safe during your LAN parties!