Check out our Monthly Survey Page to see what our users are running.

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
15 Likes, Who?
We do often include affiliate links to earn us some pennies. We are currently affiliated with GOG and Humble Store. See more here.
About the author -
author picture
I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
See more from me
77 comments
Page: «5/8»
  Go to:

shorberg 21 Jan
View PC info
  • Supporter Plus
There is so much wrong with this thread it is honestly kinda scary.

Quoting: mphuZ
Quoting: TheSHEEEPThis is NOT about regional pricing, it is about region locking within the EU.
Do you understand that one thing leads to another? No?
What do you think will happen if the geo-blocking is removed? That's right - everyone will run to buy games from other countries at a reduced price.

https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/slippery-slope

The geo-blocking has been removed for more than 5 years, and it didn't exist before Steam implemented it back in 2010. It only existed for 5 years and gaming did fine before and still does fine. The EEA has been around since 1994.

Quoting: mphuZ
Quoting: TheSHEEEPwent shopping (groceries, etc.)
Why are you comparing grocecies and digital products? You will not constantly order products from other countries for the sake of saving? I agree that this is not fair to honest users who bought the game on the territory of their country, and could not play it on a business trip because of geo-blocking. But this geo-blocking is aimed at freeloaders who want to get games for 10% of the price in their region.

Because that's how an economic area works, anyone living in the EEA have the legal and moral right to go shop wherever they want within the EEA, any company can choose to market their goods in the EEA as long as they play by the rules. We here might enjoy games more than most in the world but games are just another goods. Nothing special about it.

Quoting: mphuZ
Quoting: TheSHEEEPThose of us within the EU who know how to make a deal...
It is because of people like you that geo-blocking was created.
Can you suggest a better solution for sellers and buyers - suggest.

https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/ad-hominem

QuoteThe elimination of region locks will also mean that publishers will likely raise prices in less affluent regions to avoid price arbitrage.

Regional locks where never allowed, the companies listed broke pre-existing law and had to pay the consequence. If you are a EU-citizen and disagree with said law, contact your representative. But you better prepare some better arguments to get through the queue.

Regional prices for less affluent areas in the EEA or any other part of the world are not going anywhere. There are over 400 million people living in the EU, no sane publisher will limit themselves to only a quarter of that market.
I gotta say I'm confused. I've read the article, I've read the whole thread, and I'm still not sure what the relationship is, or is likely to become, between the "regional locking" that is being banned and the "regional pricing" that is apparently not being banned.
And I still don't understand exactly what Valve was doing--according to their statement it seems to have been a quite limited practice in the first place which doesn't seem to really map to either the regional pricing or any kind of enforcement of same, but I don't really get just what it actually was.
Arten 21 Jan
[quote=TheSHEEEP]The amount of made-up-fact posts in this thread is pretty ridiculous.
Quoting: mphuZThis is NOT about regional pricing, it is about region locking within the EU.
Regional pricing is not only legal, it is perfectly normal - you pay different prices for the same thing in different countries - the EU is no exception. I've been in seven countries within the EU (not counting airport stops) and went shopping (groceries, etc.) in all of them, and almost ALL prices differ from country to country.

If i remember correctly there are different rules for physical goods and purely digital. So, you compare apples with oranges.
kuhpunkt 21 Jan
The response from Valve, at least the second part, is just a copy/paste from 2 years ago
TheSHEEEP 21 Jan
View PC info
  • Supporter Plus
Quoting: Arten
Quoting: TheSHEEEPThe amount of made-up-fact posts in this thread is pretty ridiculous.
Quoting: mphuZThis is NOT about regional pricing, it is about region locking within the EU.
Regional pricing is not only legal, it is perfectly normal - you pay different prices for the same thing in different countries - the EU is no exception. I've been in seven countries within the EU (not counting airport stops) and went shopping (groceries, etc.) in all of them, and almost ALL prices differ from country to country.

If i remember correctly there are different rules for physical goods and purely digital. So, you compare apples with oranges.
There are different rules, but those are mostly tax related. Unfortunately, I had the "pleasure" of having to dive into EU tax laws for trading and the many differences between physical and digital goods/services.
This gave me a headache (seriously, VAT rules are bonkers), but while doing that it also became clear that regional pricing is not a problem (including digital goods).

What is a problem is regional discrimination: https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/consumers/shopping/pricing-payments/index_en.htm#shortcut-4
tl;dr: You cannot charge someone more or less in your local store (e.g. Polish Steam front) if they come from a different country (e.g. Sweden). In other words, if you went to the trouble of going to the Steam front of a different EU country, you cannot be charged more and most definitely cannot be prevented from playing in your own country.

Quoting: mphuZDo you understand that one thing leads to another? No?
I understand that one thing does not lead to another. Didn't happen when large-scale geo-blocking was still a thing, and didn't happen since it isn't anymore.
People are - more than anything - lazy. The effort of going through a VPN or something similar to access a different storefront is already beyond the vast majority of people.
That laziness (and the same unreasonable fear) is also the reason a few devs/publishers don't set up regional prices - you want to blame those, not the few people who go the extra mile to save some money.

A bigger problem are illegitimate key resellers, since they are easy to access for everyone and some people don't care that developers don't get any money from sales on these platforms. But that's a very different topic.

Quoting: x_wingI really fail to see how forcing that the activation of a key on every country of the EU will not translate in the same rule for anyone that wants to buy a game using a VPN and a foreign credit card.
Thankfully, that fear has been proven wrong over the last decade and if you look at the store, somewhat varying prices within the EU are normal (for devs/publishers that bother to set them up to begin with, which some don't).
Laziness / convenience trumps everything - as long as Steam does not on its own and automatically offer you the cheapest price you could legally get, such a scenario won't happen.

Quoting: mphuZBut this geo-blocking is aimed at freeloaders who want to get games for 10% of the price in their region.
QuoteThose of us within the EU who know how to make a deal...
It is because of people like you that geo-blocking was created.
Seems to me you're envious of people who know at least somewhat how to make the most out of their money and are not afraid of going an extra step for that. You should always go where you are treated best - and so should your money.
Honestly, when it comes to games, even I don't do that - games are simply too cheap (and on sale often anyway) for me to bother. I was mostly talking about larger purchases when it concerns myself, e.g. I got my electric standing desk from a different country as I found a store there where I "only" had to pay 400€ instead of 700€ (incl. delivery).

Also, could you please point me to the mythical EU country that has 10% of another EU country's pricing? Sounds useful.


Last edited by TheSHEEEP on 21 January 2021 at 10:18 am UTC
View PC info
  • Supporter Plus
Quoting: Purple Library GuyHuh, obviously trying real hard. They're not shy about threatening to crash a member country's whole economy for disobedience if it's something they care about, like making sure you worsen your recessions with austerity.
Well, it depends: if the country has decided to join the EU and respect its founding moral principles and core values just in order to access to international funding, and later to deny those same principles to its own citizens, then yes, they deserve the austerity. In particular those country whose politicians and administrators use the EU as scapegoat for their own incompetence and/or corruption.
Windousico 21 Jan
Regional pricing was terminated with the elimination of region locks. It's a fact in Steam. Now we have the same prices in Poland, Spain and Germany (since 2015-2016).
tuubi 21 Jan
Quoting: WindousicoNow we have the same prices in Poland, Spain and Germany (since 2015-2016).
Just a quick look at some random games from bigger publishers at steamdb.info shows that the Polish Zloty prices tend to be anywhere from 5 to 30 percent lower than the prices in €. Maybe that's not a big enough difference, but clearly the prices are not the same. This is most likely true for the EEA/Eurozone though, seeing as pricing is set by currency.
mirv 21 Jan
View PC info
  • Supporter Plus
Interesting response from Valve. They basically just tried to lump all the blame onto publishers. Funny thing is, the EC covered that already: a publisher may well have requested it, but Valve agreed and helped. That makes Valve just as culpable.
x_wing 21 Jan
Quoting: TheSHEEEP
Quoting: x_wingI really fail to see how forcing that the activation of a key on every country of the EU will not translate in the same rule for anyone that wants to buy a game using a VPN and a foreign credit card.
Thankfully, that fear has been proven wrong over the last decade and if you look at the store, somewhat varying prices within the EU are normal (for devs/publishers that bother to set them up to begin with, which some don't).
Laziness / convenience trumps everything - as long as Steam does not on its own and automatically offer you the cheapest price you could legally get, such a scenario won't happen.

Bare in mind that most of the time is not only related to the laziness of one user. If you ban the majority of the counter measures a store can use, there is a chance that a third party can exploit this backdoor and create a business around it that will definitely simplify the steps that a user has to follow in order to get their games for cheaper. Eventually there will be a unique aftermath: In EU countries with higher income will get prices slightly down and the in countries with lower incomes will get them slightly up (the market will search for that point were a third party cannot get profit). And of course, is kinda sad that the ones that more have get a discount at expense of lower incomes markets.

IMO it's always better to keep things as simple as possible. So, maybe the rule should have been that if you get a key that you cannot activate in your country, the seller is obligated to refund your money.
While you're here, please consider supporting GamingOnLinux on:

Patreon, Liberapay or PayPal Donation.

We have no adverts, no paywalls, no timed exclusive articles. Just good, fresh content. Without your continued support, we simply could not continue!

You can find even more ways to support us on this dedicated page any time. If you already are, thank you!
Login / Register

Or login with...
Sign in with Steam Sign in with Twitter Sign in with Google
Social logins require cookies to stay logged in.

Livestreams & Videos
Community Livestreams
Latest Forum Posts