Video game companies fined €7.8m for geo-blocking

Six major PC gaming platforms, including Valve, have been subject to fines for restricting cross-border sales

The six companies restricted cross-border sales of their PC video games so that cheaper licences for certain European countries, that do not boast the same wealth as other countries, cannot be used elsewhere.

The term geo-blocking is a type of technology that restricts access to certain Internet content based on a person's geographical location.

This resulted in the gaming firms being subject to a total of €7.8m in fines as gamers were not able to scan the markets for the best deals, according to EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

The six companies that were hit with these fines are:

  1. Valve - who also own the popular platform Steam
  2. Bandai Namco and Capcom (Japan)
  3. Focus Home (French Developer)
  4. Koch Media (German publisher)
  5. ZeniMax (US-based)

Out of these six companies, five of them saw their initial fines reduced since they complied with the authorities.

However, Valve were the only company who did not co-operate and this resulted in their fine settled at €1.6m with no possible reduction.

valve gaming

Having said that, Valve has denied these claims and told the BBC that they have "co-operated extensively, providing all requested evidence and information to the commission."

Doug Lombardi, a spokesperson for Valve, stated that only 3% of all games using Steam were "subject to the contested region locks" while none of Valve's own games were on the list.

It is believed that Valve were penalised due their reluctance to admit breaking the law to the European Commission.

According to the EU, Valve agreed deals with a number of named publishers to issue Steam keys which prevented activation of certain games in the Eastern European area including - Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Through these activation keys, it was found that publishers geo-blocked an estimated 100 PC games as the same publishers agreed to the region-block with Valve.

Furthermore,  Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager,  in charge of policy, stated that: Margaret Verstager

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.

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.

Valve are world-renowned in the gaming industry with popular video game franchises under their belt such as Half-life, and is also the owner of one of the largest online PC gaming platforms with over 44,000 games for sale.

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