Valve and five publishers fined millions for for “geo-blocking” PC games

Valve

January 20, 2021 A Valve representative has said it “disagree[s] with these findings, and plan[s] to appeal the decision”

Valve, the company behind Steam and some of the best Steam games such as Dota 2 and CS:GO, and five other videogame publishers have been fined €7.8 million by the European Commission (the executive arm of the European Union) for “geo-blocking” PC games.

The European Commission has posted a press release explaining that Valve and publishers Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax “restricted cross-border sales of certain PC videogames on the basis of the geographical location of users within the European Economic Area (‘EEA’), entering into, the so-called ‘geo-blocking’ practices”. The announcement includes a helpful infographic, included below, which helps to give an idea of how this “geo-blocking” works.

The organisation reports that the fines handed out to the other publishers amounted to over €6 million, and were reduced due to their co-operation with the Commission. However, the release says that “Valve chose not to cooperate with the Commission and was fined over €1.6 million”. We’ve reached out to all publishers affected for comment. A Valve representative tells us: “During the seven year investigation Valve has cooperated fully, providing all requested evidence and information to the Commission. We disagree with these findings, and plan to appeal the decision.”

Koch referred us to this announcement on its parent company’s site. We will update this story with any additional new information.

According to the EC, the “geo-blocking” practices in question “concerned around 100 PC videogames of different genres”, which included simulation, action, and sports games, and “prevented consumers from activating and playing PC videogames sold by the publishers’ distributors either on physical media, such as DVDs, or through downloads”.


Credit: European Commission / European Commission press corner

“Today’s sanctions against the ‘geo-blocking’ practices of Valve and five PC videogame publishers serve as a reminder that under EU competition law, companies are prohibited from contractually restricting cross-border sales,” Margrethe Vestager, executive VP in charge of competition, says.

“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.”

The breakdown of the fines (including reductions in terms of percentages) and more information on the EC’s investigation can be found on its press corner site at that link.

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