Valve and five publishers have been fined by the EU for breaking antitrust rules. With the commission finding that geoblocking techniques had prevented consumers from shopping around in the EU’s Digital Single Market.
The investigation has been running since 2017 with over 100 PC games on Steam involved. The core of the case revolve around the publishers agreeing with Valve that keys sold in easter and central europe, (namely in Czechia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) could not be activated in other countries in the EU.
That created a two-tier system, allowing for games to be sold for less in those countries, while retaining higher prices in western europe. “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 core issue wasn’t sales through Steam itself but instead geo-blocked codes which the publishers requested from Steam as part of their deal with the platform, which the publishers then distributed for sales.
Fines ranged considerably between the publishers, with all of the publishers involved cooperating with the investigation and receiving a reduction in their fines because of that.
Bandai Namco (10 per cent reduction) €340,000, Capcom (10 per cent reduction) €396,000, Focus Home (15 per cent reduction) €2,888,000, Koch Media (10 per cent reduction) €977,000, ZeniMax (10 per cent reduction) €1,664,000. Valve chose not to cooperate with the investigation and was fined €1,624,000.
There’s no immediate fallout from the results, as Steam and others have already moved to respect the EU’s single digital market. It merely underlines that the EU will take action against those who step out of line. Although, of course, it will be interesting to see if prices in the UK deviate from those in the EU now that option is back on the table.