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Valve was hit with a huge fine in the EU for geo-blocking games on Steam

Five big game publishers were also fined.

Steam logo with blurred background
Image: KnowTechie

A €7.8 million (around $9.5 million) fine from the European Commission (EC) is on the way to Valve and five large PC game publishers for geofencing Steam game sales inside the European Economic Area (EEA). That’s a big no-no, in violation of the EU’s Digital Single Market rule which legislates that any digital services or goods in the EU must be able to work in any other EU member state.

The source of the EC’s ire? Digital video game keys sold in Czechia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were prevented from activating in any other EU country. This geoblocking stopped gamers in countries with higher average wages from being able to save money by purchasing games from EU countries with lower wages, and correspondingly cheaper games.

The five game publishers fined were:

  • Focus Home – nearly €2.9 million (around $ 3.5 million)
  • ZeniMax – over €1.6 million (around $2 million)
  • Koch Media – almost €1 million (around $1.2 million)
  • Capcom – €396,000 (around $480,000)
  • Bandai Namco – €340,000 (around $410,000)

All of the publishers cooperated with the EC in their inquiries, resulting in their fines getting reduced by between 10 and 15 percent. Valve declined to cooperate, so have to pay the full amount of their fine, of over €1.6 million (around $1.9 million).

The geoblocking occurred between 2010 and 2015, which is when Valve says they stopped the practice, with limited exceptions. Valve tried getting out of their culpability, arguing that only a small number of games used region-locked keys, so they shouldn’t be liable for region-locks asked for by publishers. Nice try, but it didn’t work.

What do you think? Surprised that this was happening on Steam? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere. His hobbies include photography, animation, and hoarding Reddit gold.

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