News

Steam: Valve, Capcom, ZeniMax and more fined $9.5 million for geo-blocking games in the EU

Looking closely, the offenders were geo-blocking about 100 video game titles in the European Union. Let’s check out everything we know around this new controversy about Steam here.

European Commission has just fined Valve, the company behind the popular video game distribution service Steam in the European Union. In addition to Valve, the regulatory authority has also fined five video game publishers for PC games. The authorities slapped a fine of about €7.8 million or about Rs 69 Crore for limiting access to games. Looking closely, the offenders were geo-blocking about 100 video game titles in the European Union. The information noted that as part of the geo-block, players could not active or play these games outside select EU countries. Let’s check out everything we know around this new controversy about the Steam platform here.

Steam developer Valve and five-game publishers fined, details

According to an announcement from the European Commission, geo-blocking video games in select EU regions violated market rules. At the heart of the issue, this move breached the “Digital Single Market” rule present in the EU. EC noted that Steam was limiting the purchase and activation to Poland, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Lithuania, Czechia, Latvia, and Slovakia. This means that the company was stopping Steam users located in EU countries with higher average income from purchasing games at a cheaper price. For context, the company was likely offering regional pricing for different EU countries. Regional pricing is not bad but restrictions on purchase and activation are the problem as per EU rules.

It is also worth noting that the problem was not really present on Steam itself. Instead, the problem stemmed from third-party websites that were selling Steam keys for the games. EC highlighted that the issue around geo-blocking video games was limited between 2010 and 2015. A report from The Verge also noted that Steam did this at the request of the game publishers. The list of offending game publishers includes ZeniMax, Capcom, Bandai Namco, Focus Home, and Koch Media. Valve issued a statement noting that it should not be held liable for the request.

As noted above, Steam ended this practice back in 2015 and limited the region-locks under certain circumstances. Talking about the specifics, four of the game publishers limited the cross-border sale between 2007 and 2018. The announcement also noted that EC reduced the fines for game publishers between 10 to 15 percent because they cooperated with the investigation. However, Valve did not support the investigation, so it won’t get any relaxation. Valve stated that it is planning to appeal the decision as it has “cooperated fully” with EC.