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The European Commission just announced that they've now issued formal fines against Valve, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax for breaching their antitrust rules. An investigation that has been going on for some time now since early 2017, and certainly not the first fine Valve has dealt with for breaking some rules here. Note: statement from Valve at the bottom.

What's the deal? The EU say that Valve and the others restricted cross-border sales on the basis of their location inside the European Economic Area (‘EEA'). To put it simply: Valve allowed certain developers and publishers to block keys being redeemed in one country, that were purchased in another (where it might have been cheaper). Out of all those named, Valve is the only company that did not cooperate with their investigation and so they got slapped a lot harder.

The EU Commission made this handy chart for the issue:

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "More than 50% of all Europeans play video games. The videogame industry in Europe is thriving and it is now worth over € 17 billion. Today's sanctions against the "geo-blocking" practices of Valve and five PC video game publishers serve as a reminder that under EU competition law, companies are prohibited from contractually restricting cross-border sales. Such practices deprive European consumers of the benefits of the EU Digital Single Market and of the opportunity to shop around for the most suitable offer in the EU".

The fines:

Company

Reduction for cooperation

Fine (€)

Bandai Namco

10 %

340 000 EUR

Capcom

15 %

396 000 EUR

Focus Home

10 %

2 888 000 EUR

Koch Media

10 %

977 000 EUR

ZeniMax

10 %

1 664 000 EUR

Valve 0% 1 624 000 EUR

For a company as big as Valve (and the likes of ZeniMax), they won't be losing any sleep over fines that for them will most likely be a drop in the ocean. Valve especially, as the Steam store pretty much prints money for them.

You can see the full announcement here

Update: We reached out to Valve and they said this:

During the seven year investigation, Valve cooperated extensively with the European Commission (“EC”), providing evidence and information as requested. However, Valve declined to admit that it broke the law, as the EC demanded. Valve disagrees with the EC findings and the fine levied against Valve. 

The EC’s charges do not relate to the sale of PC games on Steam – Valve’s PC gaming service. Instead the EC alleges that Valve enabled geo-blocking by providing Steam activation keys and – upon the publishers’ request – locking those keys to particular territories (“region locks”) within the EEA.  

Such keys allow a customer to activate and play a game on Steam when the user has purchased it from a third-party reseller. Valve provides Steam activation keys free of charge and does not receive any share of the purchase price when a game is sold by third-party resellers (such as a retailer or other online store).  

The region locks only applied to a small number of game titles. Approximately just 3% of all games using Steam (and none of Valve’s own games) at the time were subject to the contested region locks in the EEA. Valve believes that the EC’s extension of liability to a platform provider in these circumstances is not supported by applicable law. Nonetheless, because of the EC’s concerns, Valve actually turned off region locks within the EEA starting in 2015, unless those region locks were necessary for local legal requirements (such as German content laws) or geographic limits on where the Steam partner is licensed to distribute a game. The elimination of region locks may also cause publishers to raise prices in less affluent regions to avoid price arbitrage. There are no costs involved in sending activation keys from one country to another, and the activation key is all a user needs to activate and play a PC game.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
Tags: Misc, Steam, Valve
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77 comments
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aokami 20 Jan
Quoting: ZlopezIn this case, treat EU like one country. Make the price same for all the countries inside it. I think it will not take long and the worldwide digital market will be without borders.

Standard deviation of income and price of life is nuts in EU. :/
If they smooth the price tags, it's likely to be based on the richest countries and leave many people behind.


Also I though geo-blocking (which in the end might not be great) was actually kinda helping against grey markets such as g2a which are a definite loss for game developers.
Dedale 20 Jan
Either the fines will stay that low and the law will be partially ignored or the regional pricing will disappear in the EU and the poorer EU countries will be de facto out of the market.


Last edited by Dedale on 20 January 2021 at 5:15 pm UTC
mirv 20 Jan
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EU does have a habit of getting more forceful if basic warnings like this (and that's all it really is so far) are ignored.
Nanobang 20 Jan
Wicked wicked Valve ... she is a bad person and she must pay the penalty. And here in the European Union, we have but one punishment ... you must tie her down on a bed ... and spank her!
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Quoting: DedaleEither the fines will stay that low and the law will be partially ignored or the regional pricing will disappear in the EU and the poorer EU countries will be de facto out of the market.
We are still speaking about videogames, then not necessity goods, for which there is already almost no regional pricing in EU countries, of course excluding a few exceptions (such as CP2077 in Poland).


Last edited by LordDaveTheKind on 20 January 2021 at 5:45 pm UTC
randyl 20 Jan
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Quoting: Egonaut
Quoting: rkfgThis is very bad and stupid. They basically force Valve to set the same prices everywhere, no matter how strong economic is in certain countries. I

No they don't. They force Valve and other Publishers to redeem keys all over the EU no matter in which EU country they have been bought. If Valve changes the Prices due to this, it's all up to them and not forced by anyone.
Valve doesn't set the price of a game, publishers do. Valve applies publisher set regional pricing and key validation restrictions so some countries don't have to pay the same price as more economically powerful nations and regions. This was asked for by both players and publishers.

This will just result in poorer countries paying more, or video game pricing going up for all. It sounds to me like richer Euros don't really care about that though. Let those poor nations eat video game cake if they can't afford bread!
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Quoting: randyl
Quoting: Egonaut
Quoting: rkfgThis is very bad and stupid. They basically force Valve to set the same prices everywhere, no matter how strong economic is in certain countries. I

No they don't. They force Valve and other Publishers to redeem keys all over the EU no matter in which EU country they have been bought. If Valve changes the Prices due to this, it's all up to them and not forced by anyone.
Valve doesn't set the price of a game, publishers do. Valve applies publisher set regional pricing and key validation restrictions so some countries don't have to pay the same price as more economically powerful nations and regions. This was asked for by both players and publishers.
I'm pretty sure Valve and Publishers alike did it for market reasons, not out of charity. Regardless of their intentions, blocking the access for someone from a different EU country to the same discounts is illegal.
x_wing 20 Jan
Quoting: LordDaveTheKindI'm pretty sure Valve and Publishers alike did it for market reasons, not out of charity. Regardless of their intentions, blocking the access for someone from a different EU country to the same discounts is illegal.

Of course it's for market reasons. From a publisher perspective, selling a copy on Germany or India has the same cost so the price that will maximize earnings on each market is completely different.

I understand the idea of enforcing the UE as one country but is kinda difficult to understand this mindset when the same UE doesn't enforce a minimum wage for all their members.
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Quoting: x_wingI understand the idea of enforcing the UE as one country but is kinda difficult to understand this mindset when the same UE doesn't enforce a minimum wage for all their members.
Actually they are trying to, but the laws have to be designed and approved in each member country:
https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1968
The_Aquabat 20 Jan
When we will do this in the Mercosur it's not a Union like the European but it's the same economic area, they just pee and s**t on our a laws and politicians do nothing.
I cannot gift a game to someone in Brasil or Uruguay.wtf


Last edited by The_Aquabat on 20 January 2021 at 6:59 pm UTC
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