Valve, Five Other Publishers Fined For Geo-Blocking Steam Keys

The practice was found to be an antitrust violation by the European Commission.


The European Commission has ordered six game publishers--including Steam creator Valve--to pay the equivalent of more than $9.4 million for their role in "geo-blocking" game digital game access between territories.

In addition to Valve, the publishers fined for their role in the practice are Focus Home Interactive, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Koch Media, and ZeniMax. Koch Media owns Deep Silver, while ZeniMax owns Bethesda--and will soon be owned by Microsoft.

"Valve and the publishers restricted cross-border sales of certain PC video games on the basis of the geographical location of users within the European Economic Area ('EEA'), entering into the so-called 'geo-blocking' practices," the report said. "The fines for the publishers, totaling over €6 million, were reduced due to the companies' cooperation with the Commission. Valve chose not to cooperate with the Commission and was fined over €1.6 million, according to the Commission. Valve disputed this in a statement to PC Gamer. It also said it's planning to appeal the decision and that it has been an ongoing investigation for seven years.

Capcom issued its own statement regarding the investigation on its official website. The company agreed to pay €396,000, which is about $481,000. It said the fine will have a "negligible" effect on its overall business results.

The geo-blocking was made possible, according to the European Commission, because of Steam activation keys being territory-controlled, meaning players may have been unable to use them if they were in a different region than the key was made for. The game publishers who were fined had requested Valve set up these Steam activation keys with region-locking enabled.

"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 report continued. "The Commission concluded that the illegal practices of Valve and the five publishers partitioned the EEA market in violation of EU antitrust rules."

With any luck, this should mean European players have access to better game deals from here on out. However, it remains to be seen if other publishers will try to engage in the same practice again.

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