It's no secret – Steam's the place to go if you're after a game or two. And it has almost everything – from AAA sagas to indie games, epic RPGs to viral multiplayer titles! However, the prices of these games may vary from location to location.
That might sound fishy, but Steam does this to keep things fair across the board, especially in countries with a poorer economy. It's also why you'll find that games are more expensive in the USA or Europe. However, it is possible to trick Steam into thinking that you're actually living overseas!
How? Well, with a VPN! A VPN can mask your original IP address and assign you a brand new one based in the location of your choice. This way, you'll be able to shop around for the best prices– without those pesky Steam geo-restrictions getting in the way. There are pros and cons to this tactic, however, and I'll dig into them in this post!
🎮How does it all work?
Let's say that you and a friend live in different parts of the world and go to buy the same game on Steam. You might well find that one of you ends up paying more for it, and even if the prices don't vary by that much, it can still make a whopping difference if you're on a budget. Of course, there'll be some games where the price difference is considerable.
As for why, it all boils down to your IP address... and your country's native economy. Steam uses your IP address to determine where you are in the world and, armed with this info, lists all of its titles in your local currency. Handy, right?
Well, maybe not always – not if you end up paying double what your friend on the other side of the world is paying!
Luckily, VPNs are great at concealing IP addresses. You can check out a more in-depth explanation of how it all works check out how to hide your IP guide, but the long and short of it is that VPNs redirect your traffic through an encrypted tunnel to an external server. This makes your traffic unreadable to anybody who happens to be snooping on it, and prevents sites and services from figuring out where you really are.
You can pick which server, and which global location, to 'switch' to via the map or list in your VPN client, and once you have, Steam will think that you're physically located there, too. So, all the games and prices will be tailored to that specific region!Savvy saving
If you're serious about saving money, check out Steamregionalprices.com to see where the deals are. And don't forget that Steam has summer and winter sales each year! Tons of titles go on offer, so it's a good idea to plan your purchases around these events.
All that geo-hopping sounds great, but it was only a matter of time before Steam caught on to the tactic. Recently, Steam implemented extra measures to prevent folks from bagging bargains by switching up their IP addresses with VPNs.
Steam now uses your billing address to determine your location, and not your IP address, which makes bargain hunting more complicated. If you want to buy titles as though you were abroad, you're going to need a billing address that matches up to that location – and make a purchase using a regional payment method.
Obviously, this is an obstacle for anyone wanting to do some IP hopping, but it is still possible to purchase games even without a credit card. Instead, buy and gift yourself a Steam gift card! Just remember that Steam only allows you to have one currency in your Wallet.
🎯The best VPNs for the job
If you're interested in a VPN and want to scope out some savings on Steam, or just fancy shoring up your digital security, you'll probably wonder which provider will give you the most for your money. I've put together a list of the five best providers out there that'll hopefully come in handy – and if you fancy doing more reading, head on over to our detailed VPN reviews for the full picture.
ExpressVPN is virtually a household name – and for good reason! I like this provider because it ticks every box a VPN should tick; it's got servers in over 90 countries, super secure encryption, and the power to unblock virtually any site, service, or news source that you can think of.
You'll be able to download ExpressVPN apps for your Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS devices, and the provider is also fully compatible with games consoles! Obviously, this is great if you like to combine your PC and console gaming.
And like I said, ExpressVPN crushes it when it comes to security. It uses AES-256 encryption and the OpenVPN protocol, though gamers should check out the provider's very own Lightway protocol, seeing as it's built for speed and reliability. ExpressVPN also comes with an automatic kill-switch, known as Network Lock, and being based in the British Virgin Islands means that the service isn't beholden to any data retention laws. That means there's no logging to worry about, and ExpressVPN even invited the auditors round to prove it!
So, check out what ExpressVPN could do for you, on or off Steam, with a 30-day money-back guarantee!
The YouTuber's favorite! You'll have heard a few channels praising NordVPN, and gamers are pretty fond of this provider because of its vast network of more than 5,300 servers in 59 countries. They're bare metal, too, and there's even the option to connect to obfuscated servers that disguise the fact that you're using a VPN at all.
NordVPN gives its customers 6 simultaneous connections, and it has apps for pretty much all devices – and that certainly includes Playstation, Xbox, and Switch consoles. Though if you fancy a break from gaming, you'll be able to unblock a wide selection of Netflix libraries from overseas.
The provider keeps itself out of the reach of invasive governments with a headquarters on Panama, and NordVPN isn't interested in keeping tabs on what you get up to online. To reassure users further, NordVPN has had its service audited by independent auditors! NordVPN opts for AES-256 encryption and several protocols, including OpenVPN, and you can count on an automatic kill-switch to keep your original IP safe in the event your internet connection drops.
NordVPN comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, which lets you try before you buy without risking your money!
Besides having just the cutest mascot ever, CyberGhost is a powerful provider with a whopping 6,900+ servers dotted around the world. Optimized servers make streaming a dream, too, which comes in handy if you fancy tuning in to some Netflix or Crunchyroll content. I'm also majorly impressed that CyberGhost's servers are all bare metal!
With one CyberGhost subscription, you'll get 7 simultaneous connections, and that's great if you want to share the love with roommates or family... or protect all of your devices as well as your gaming PC. Oh, and CyberGhost has slick apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and your consoles.
Because CyberGhost makes its home in Romania, the service doesn't need to keep tabs on its users' activity. You'll be able to browse and game and stream with no one watching, and this means that CyberGhost can live up to its no-logs claim. What's more, the service protects your connection with AES-256 encryption and a selection of protocols, and its kill-switch works at the system level.
CyberGhost stands out from the crowd with a 45-day money-back guarantee, which gives you well over a month to get a feel for the service.
Get CyberGhost VPN
When it comes to servers, Private Internet Access (or PIA to you and me) has the competition beat. There are over 35,000 servers in 78 countries, and that's great news for anyone wanting to shop around for games or unblock US Netflix libraries. Of course, there are obfuscated servers available if you need the extra security.
You'll have no trouble installing PIA on virtually any device that you own, and 10 simultaneous connections can keep the entire household's electricals secure. Now, some folks might be worried when they learn PIA is headquartered in the US, but the provider goes out of its way to prove itself trustworthy. PIA boasts a no-logs claim that's been proven in court on a few occasions, AES-256 encryption, and a kill-switch... though you'll have to remember to switch it on!
PIA lets you play around with its features for 30 days, and if you're not happy, simply request your money back!
Get Private Internet Access
Hotspot Shield might not be the most well-known service on this list, but that doesn't mean you should count it out! Hotspot Shield has an impressive network of more than 1,800 servers in over 80 countries, and I really can't overstate how quick they are! Hotspot Shield is a great pick if you plan to game online with friends, download DLC, or stream content via Netflix, Amazon Prime, and even YouTube.
Hotspot Shield has previously had some logging issues, but a recent revamp has seen the provider double down on its security offering. Now, you can count on AES-256 encryption and a proprietary protocol based on OpenVPN, known as Hydra. What's more, your original IP stays safe even if your connection drops thanks to a kill-switch – and you can toggle it on via the VPN settings.
Try Hotspot Shield yourself with a 45-day money-back guarantee, or, if you really want to stick to a budget, check out the 24-hour free trial!
Get Hotspot Shield
👩💻Okay, what else can a VPN do?
The answer is... lots! The security benefits of a VPN are what you'll see promoted on their sites and in their sponsorships, however. Because a VPN routes your internet traffic to a secondary server, and encrypts it, you'll be able to browse the web (and the Steam store) without anyone snooping on your activity. This means that your ISP, the government, hackers, and even your network admin will be none the wiser about what you get up to, or what you buy. You have a right to online privacy – so make sure you exercise it! A VPN's encryption also ensures that your details can't get sold off to third-parties and used to create annoying, and unnerving, tailored ads.
Gamers can benefit a lot from using a VPN, too! If you're worried about DDoS attacks, a VPN is a pretty good investment, seeing as they can prevent most attacks by concealing your original IP address. This makes it far more difficult for a bad actor to use it to launch a DDoS attack! If you're interested, I've written a separate post covering just how handy a VPN is for gamers, and you can check it out here!
Geo-hopping is, obviously, another major benefit – and why VPNs come in so useful for Steam users after a bargain. But you can also switch up your IP address to check out content libraries that aren't available where you are. You can use a VPN for Netflix to access more content, unblock Crunchyroll abroad, access other regional streaming services, and even locally censored news sources and blogs!
And speaking of restrictions, VPNs can easily bypass the sort of obstacles you might come across at school, at work, or a VPN can protect you on public Wi-Fi by rerouting your connection. Anything to do with gaming is often banned in these places – usually to keep you focused on what you should be doing – but I won't tell if you just want to procrastinate a bit.
A VPN is a massively helpful piece of kit for anyone who spends a good deal of time online – and that includes gamers! Whilst it's not as easy to catch a deal on Steam by geo-hopping as it once was, it's still possible with a bit of extra legwork, and if you're a fan of the latest AAA titles and hate paying extra just because of your location, it could be well worth it. Just remember that it is risky.
But a VPN can do far more than save you money. They can unblock geo-restricted content libraries on services like Netflix and Crunchyroll, and their encryption prevents anyone from taking a look at what you're up to on the net – ISPs, governments, and local network administrators included!
Probably not. We do have a number of free VPNs that we'd recommend checking out if you're interested in staying secure without breaking the bank, but they don't cut it when it comes to online gaming. You'll likely find that the connection is weak and unreliable, that the speeds are sluggish, and there's nothing worse than battling lag and zombies.
Free VPNs can also lack the necessary encryption measures to keep you safe from bad actors and hacking attempts, and may not prevent Steam from finding out that you're using a VPN to catch a bargain. And, worse still, some free VPNs can collect your information to sell on to third-parties. They do this instead of asking for a subscription free, so always remember to ask yourself if something sounds too good to be true... because it usually is!
Ultimately, it depends on what you're using your VPN to do. Steam could ban you for location hopping to save money, and it states as much in its subscriber agreement:
'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.
However, if you're planning to use a VPN to boost your privacy and online security, you'll be fine! Enhancing your safety in this way doesn't violate the Steam terms of service or Subscriber Agreement.