Steam is an online content delivery system where you can purchase and download games. It also involves some social networking features. Steam offers some indie games that cannot be bought elsewhere, but it also distributes some big titles. In the past I have written about a few games I've downloaded from Steam.
Lately I have been contemplating pre-purchasing Civilization V which will be out in about five weeks. I might have purchased it already if it wasn't for Steam's ridiculous pricing policy: the exchange rate of 1 USD = 1 Euro! The basic version of Civ 5 costs $49.99 for US-based customers but 49.99 € for EU-based customers! The current real exchange rate is something completely different and the correct price in Euro would be 38.98 €. With the Civilization V Deluxe Edition the situation is slightly fairer: shopping from the US the price is $59.99 (46.77 €) but for European customers it's not 59.99 € but 54.99 €, which of course still leaves a difference of 8.22 € ($10.54)...
I was able to check the US prices using some proxy servers located in US. Basically my browser connects to a proxy server and asks for a web page, after which the proxy fetches the page and returns it to my browser. The target site (Steam) deduces the country of origin for each request and chooses the prices accordingly. When the proxy server is located in the US it looks like the requests are coming from US and Steam shows the prices in dollars even though it's me requesting the sites from Europe.
Anyway, while I was at it I decided to check the prices for the United Kingdom as well. Turns out Civ 5 is in discount at the moment: the regular version costs £29.99 ($46.78 or 36.49 €) and the Deluxe Edition £39.99 ($62.36 or 48.68 €). Still slightly more expensive than the prices in US. However, these were just the discount prices -- the normal prices are £39.99 and a whopping £49.99 ($77.97 or 60.82 €) respectively!
Alas, while writing this post I just found out I've been doing it all the hard way: you don't need to use a proxy to get the prices from different regions, just install this script to your browser! At least the US prices seem to be displayed correctly. However, for UK it only displays "N/A". For Australia it displays the prices 79.99 USD and 89.95 USD but I wasn't able to confirm those using a proxy. If the prices are correct, however, it's an enormous difference from the US price! I wonder how Steam can just keep doing this? There's even a Steam Community group called 1€ ≠ 1$ with more than twenty thousand members.