Gaming Firms Are Fined Nearly £7m For Restricting Sales Of EU



Image Credit – BBC


The owner of the PC gaming platform Steam, Valve has been fined £6.9m along with five other gaming publishers for restricting cross-border sales.

What geo-blocking actually means is that the games are locked. The sole reason could that the cheaper license which is made for the less well-off European countries cannot be used elsewhere.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that this geo-blocking is stopping the gamers to ‘shop around’.

The other fined publishers are Japan’s Bandai Namco and Capcom, German publisher Koch Media, French developer Focus Home, and US-based ZeniMax.

All of the five gaming giants have cooperated with the commission and so got their fines reduced. But the commission said that since Valve did not agree with that, there will be no reduction in the penalty (£1.4m).

However, Valve has denied this completely and said that it has “co-operated extensively, providing all requested evidence and information to the commission”.

The Firm’s spokesman Doug Lombardi said, “Approximately just 3% of all games using Steam (and none of Valve’s own games) at the time were subject to the contested region locks.”

He further added, “The elimination of region locks may also cause publishers to raise prices in less affluent regions.”

The companies are not supposed to segment the single European market. Some members of the European Economic Area (EEA) have lower income as the games are priced cheaper for those countries.

Valve makes games like the Half-Life franchise, which also owns Steam that is one of the largest online PC gaming platforms. It offers a total of 44,000 games for sale.

The gamers or buyers can buy the games directly from Steam, but also there are some ‘activation keys’ provided by the company. It helps the buyers to buy the games from other websites as well.

The core of investigation lies on these activation keys which were agreed by the publishers to region-block with Valve.

The publishers have geo-blocked over 100 PC games including the categories like sports, action, and stimulation.

According to the EU, Valve made deals with all the fore-mentioned publishers to issue the Steam keys that prevented the activation of some games in the regions like Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said, “Today’s sanctions against the geo-blocking practices of Valve and five PC video game publishers serve as a reminder that under EU competition laws, companies are prohibited from contractually restricting cross-border sales.”

He further added, “Such practices deprive European consumers of the benefits of the EU digital single market, and of the opportunity to shop around for the most suitable offer in the EU.”


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