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April 21, 2021
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European Commission fines Valve, others $9.4 million for 'geo-blocking' games

European Commission fines Valve, others $9.4 million for 'geo-blocking' games

January 20, 2021 | By Chris Kerr

The European Commission has fined Valve and five major publishers a combined €7.8 million ($9.4 million) for breaching EU antitrust rules.

The fines have been levied against Valve, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax, who were all found to have engaged in "geo-blocking practices" by restricting cross-border sales of certain PC titles based on where players were living within the European Economic Area (EEA). 

In doing so, the commission claims the six companies deprived players of the benefits of the EU Digital Single Market and the opportunity the shop around for the best deals in the EU. 

The geo-blocking practices themselves were used to restrict the sale of around 100 PC titles, and took the form of licensing and distribution agreements containing clauses that restricted cross-border sales within the EEA, and region-locked Steam activation keys that prevented the activation of certain titles outside Czechia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. 

"More than 50 percent of all Europeans play video games. The video game industry in Europe is thriving and it is now worth over €17 billion," said European Commission EVP, Margrethe Vestager, who's oversees competition policy. 

"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."

A breakdown of the fines for each of the five publishers involved can be seen below, with each company having been granted a reduction based on the extent of their cooperation. Valve, however, refused to cooperate with the Commission, and has such has received a total fine of €1.62 million ($1.95 million).

You can find out more about the long-running investigation, which formally began back in 2017, by reading the European Commission's full report.

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