Valve and five PC video game publishers have been fined a total of € 7.8 million (about $ 9.5 million) by the European Commission for restricting the sale of cross-border games in the European Economic Area. The commission said the companies blocked around 100 PC video games, prevented them from being activated and played outside some EU countries. It broke EU digital single market rules that prevent those types of blockages.
The European Commission states that the Games were to be stopped outside the geo-blockers Czechia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Geo-blocking enables gamers living in EU countries to protect people with higher average incomes from buying them in EU states where they are cheaper and then activating them on Steam. The European Commission stated that the activation key was geo-blocked between 2010 and 2015.
The European Commission’s Head of Competition said, “Today’s restrictions against the ‘geo-blocking’ practices of Valve and the five PC video game publishers are reminded that contracted cross-border sales to companies are prohibited under EU competition law.” . ” “Such deprives European consumers of the benefits of the EU digital single market and provides an opportunity to shop for the most appropriate opportunity in the EU.”
A total of five publishers were fined. Focus Home was fined around € 2.9 million ($ 3.5 million), ZeniMax € 1.6 million (about $ 2 million), Coach Media approximately € 1 million (about $ 1.2 million), Capcom € 396,000 (about $ 480,000) , And Bandai Namo € 340,000 (about $ 410,000). Because each of these companies cooperated in the investigation, their fines were reduced by between 10 and 15 percent. However, Valve decided not to cooperate, and was fined more than € 1.6 million (about $ 1.9 million).
The European Commission began its formal investigation into the practice of land blocking in 2017, and formally asked Valve to cease the practice back in 2019. Valve has already argued that only a few games used area-lock activation keys, and argued that it should not be held liable for area locks requested by publishers. It stated that it ended the practice in 2015 with limited exceptions.