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European Commission Criticizes Valve for ‘Geo-Blocking’ PC Games

Updated: The European Commission is slamming Valve, owner of the popular digital games store Steam, and five video game publishers for what it calls “geo-blocking” of PC titles.

The commission believes the companies in question prevented European Union consumers from buying and activating digital games outside their countries of residence, which is a breach of EU antitrust rules.

Besides Valve, the commission singled out Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media (which owns publisher Deep Silver), and ZeniMax (the parent company of Bethesda Softworks). It claims those publishers included contractual export restrictions in their agreements with a number of distributors other than Valve. This prevented the distributors from selling PC games outside of their allocated territories.

“In a true digital single market, European consumers should have the right to buy and play video games of their choice regardless of where they live in the EU,” said commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “Consumers should not be prevented from shopping around between Member States to find the best available deal. Valve and the five PC video game publishers now have the chance to respond to our concerns.”

Valve did respond to the European Commission’s concerns on Friday, saying 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 [European Economic Area],” the company said in a statement provided to Variety.

Further, Valve said it actually turned off region locks within the EEA starting in 2015, except in countries where it’s a local legal requirement, like Germany, or in areas where there are geographic limits on where a Steam partner is licensed to distribute a game.

Variety reached out to Capcom, Foucs Home, and Bandai Namco about the European Commission’s comments, but they did not immediately respond. Bethesda gave us the following statement:

“The company notes the announcement of the European Commission regarding its EU video games investigation and will be responding to the commission’s concerns. It is the company’s policy not to comment on ongoing legal matters.”

 

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