The EU is cracking down on multiple games companies this week, finding them in violation of market regulations. The European Commission announced today that companies including Valve, ZeniMax and Bandai Namco will be fined a combined total of €7.8M ($9.4M US) for “breaching EU antitrust rules” specifically in regard to “restrict[ing] cross-border sales of certain PC video games on the basis of the geographical location of users” – i.e., geoblocking.
“The Commission found that by bilaterally agreeing to geo-block certain PC video games from outside a specific territory, Valve and each publisher partitioned the EEA market in violation of EU antitrust rules. […] The geo-blocking practices concerned around 100 PC video games of different genres, including sports, simulation and action games. They prevented consumers from activating and playing PC video games sold by the publishers’ distributors either on physical media, such as DVDs, or through downloads. These business practices therefore denied European consumers the benefits of the EU’s Digital Single Market to shop around between Member States to find the most suitable offer.”
“The fines for the publishers, totalling over €6 million, were reduced due to the companies’ cooperation with the Commission,” the report reads. “Valve chose not to cooperate with the Commission and was fined over €1.6 million.” ZeniMax’s reduced fine came out to €1.6M. Valve’s refusal to cooperate with, well, anyone will come as no surprise to gamers who remember Valve spending absurd amounts of money fighting Australia’s objection to Valve’s refund policies, which violated Australian law. (Valve lost its last chance for a reversal on the decision against it back in 2018).
In other Valve news, founder Gabe Newell, who is seeking New Zealand citizenship and potentially a new home for the company in the midst of the pandemic, spoke to TVNZ and chose to defend no less than CD Projekt Red, suggesting that the company’s Cyberpunk 2077 lawsuit/refund/crunch fiasco is akin to a “situation that every game developer finds themselves in” and that it would be “unfair to throw stones at any other developer.”