Valve and 5 publishers fined more than $9 million for “geo-blocking” practices

Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax are the other involved parties.

Screengrab via Steam

Valve’s video game digital distribution service Steam is the largest platform for selling and purchasing games in the PC marketplace. And The European Commission ruled today that the company and five publishers were violating EU antitrust rules.

Valve, along with Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax, is being fined $9,448,530 because the companies “restricted cross-border sales of certain PC video games on the basis of the geographical location of users within the European Economic Area,” according to the ruling.

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. That led to codes being unusable outside of Czechia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, according to the European Commission’s findings.

Restricting those options between 2010 and 2015 went against the EU’s Digital Single Market, a practice in place to allow consumers “to shop around between Member States to find the most suitable offer.” As a result, the Commission opened the antitrust proceedings in February 2017, which has led to massive fines for all six companies. 

But all five of the publishers listed in the antitrust proceedings cooperated with the investigation and have been granted reductions to the fines ranging from 10 percent for Bandai, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax to 15 percent for Capcom.

Screengrab via The European Commission

Valve “chose not to cooperate,” according to the Commission, and received the total sum of the $1,966,615.28 fine. Valve has since disputed this ruling, saying that the company did cooperate over the reported seven-year investigation. 

“During the seven-year investigation Valve has cooperated fully, providing all requested evidence and information to the Commission,” a Valve spokesperson told Eurogamer. “We disagree with these findings, and plan to appeal the decision.”

The Commission has also opened the door for follow-up investigations, saying that “any person or company affected by anti-competitive behavior as described in this case may bring the matter before the courts of the Member States and seek damages.”