Valve, Koch Media, Focus Home, Capcom, Bandai Namco, and ZeniMax Media have been fined in the European Union for geo-restricting games, a practice that violates the Digital Market Union in the region.
The practice of geo-blocking Steam keys in certain regions in Europe has been investigated for the better part of the last two years, the Steam owners along with the other publishers have been fined collectively €7.8 million for breaching EA Antitrust Rules.
The geo-blocking practices concerned around 100 PC video games of different genres, including sports, simulation and action games. They prevented consumers from activating and playing PC video games sold by the publishers’ distributors either on physical media, such as DVDs, or through downloads. These business practices therefore denied European consumers the benefits of the EU’s Digital Single Market to shop around between Member States to find the most suitable offer.
The Commission has concluded that the illegal practices of Valve and the five publishers partitioned the EEA market in violation of EU antitrust rules.
The investigations probed that Valve and the five publishers had agreements to block certain steam keys from being activated outside of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Czechia, and Poland.
Is important to mention that Steam has been geo-restricting keys in some regions in the world since 2010, the main reason is to sell games at a cheaper price, something that may help low-income countries to still benefit from Steam offers. The main problem is that higher-income countries can bypass the regional lock via VPNs and publishers are always looking to impose higher restrictions to stay profitable in all regions.
Even if Valve’s intentions may be honest, the company refused to cooperate with the investigations conducted by the European Commission and it received a significantly heavier fine. Focus Home managed to receive the most severe a fine of €2,888,000 (about $3.400.000)