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

Darnell Taylor
January 21, 2021

The European Commission has fined Valve, Capcom, Bandai Namco, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax a combined €7.8 million (~ United States dollars 9.4 million) over the practice of "geo-blocking", which the Commission says breaks European Union antitrust rules.

The game publishers fined.

The European Union (EU) has issued severe fines to an American video game company along with five gaming publishers.

This practice is referred to as geo-blocking since Valve provided those publishers with Steam activation keys that could be locked to various regions inside of the EEA's jurisdiction.

The Commission, the EU executive, said the companies' practices prevented European consumers from shopping around in a European market worth more than 17 billion euros. As a result, the Commission opened the antitrust proceedings in February 2017, which has led to massive fines for all six companies.

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There were varying geo-blocking agreements and "concerted practices" between Valve and the publishers from September 2010 through October 2015, according to the Commission.

"The fines imposed today serve as a reminder that the Under EU competition law, companies are prohibited from contractually restricting cross-border sales, because such practices prevent consumers in Europe from taking advantage of the digital single market and being able to choose the best offer anywhere in the EU". However, thanks to Steam activation keys and territory control functions, the report said that the "The publishers requested Valve to set up geographical restrictions and to provide geo-blocked Steam activation keys". All of them cooperated with the commission's investigation except Valve.

Valve chose not to cooperate with the investigators and will most likely continue to geo-block users.

The European Commission has fined Valve, owner of global gaming platform Steam and five games publishers a total of €7.8 million (or almost $9.4 million) in fines for illegally geo-blocking games in the European Union. "We disagree with these findings, and plan to appeal the decision", Valve said in a statement.

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