The European Commission has announced plans that, if passed, will turn the digital video games market on its head.
Currently sellers such as Valve (Steam), Sony (PlayStation Network) and Microsoft (Xbox Live) funnel customers through regional portals according to their location. This is done partially for rights reasons but primarily to allow for the setting of individual prices in each region.
Such pricing strategies, however, could be outlawed in the EU. The move would also pose problems for services such as Netflix, which currently ranges its content on a per-region basis.
Let us do away with all those fences and walls that block us online,” the Commission's VP for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said. People must be able to freely go across borders online just as they do offline.
Innovative businesses must be helped to grow across the EU, not remain locked into their home market. This will be an uphill struggle all the way, but we need an ambitious start. Europe should benefit fully from the digital age: better services, more participation and new jobs.”
Commissioner for the Digital Economy Gnther Oettinger added: Europe cannot be at the forefront of the digital revolution with a patchwork of 28 different rules for telecommunications services, copyright, IT security and data protection.
We need a European market, which allows new business models to flourish, start-ups to grow and the industry to take advantage of the internet of things. And people have to invest too – in their IT-skills, be it in their job or their leisure time.”
The report adds: Too many Europeans cannot use online services that are available in other EU countries, often without any justification; or they are re-routed to a local store with different prices. Such discrimination cannot exist in a Single Market.”
The news comes at a time when Steam, in particular, is trying to tighten its grip on regional pricing. Valve recently extended its restrictions affecting those who attempt to buy content in one region and then access it in another.
Steam was also criticised earlier this month when it appeared to change its rules to as to comply with the EU's 14-day refund requirement – only for users to discover that they must waive the right at the point of purchase.