EU fines Valve, ZeniMax, and other gaming companies almost $10M for antitrust geoblocking

    
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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.”

Source: EC via Gamasutra, TVNZ via VG247
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Gfees

I’m sure these billion dollar companies are just terrified.

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Robert Mann

The EU has member states that make 1/12th-1/5th the average income of the top end (personal income) as a constant. There’s multiple members in that range. The ‘average’ grouping is more than 6 times the income of the lowest nation, and more than triple the income of at least 6 member nations.

Pricing equally means one thing: the people in those nations get a bad deal.

The problem, to me, is that the EU doesn’t care about this issue. They only care about their own tag lines, just like politicians tend to… and that means that companies which actually made an effort to respect this and are punished as a result come off as BETTER THAN THE EU to me.

Not that I love any of these companies overall, per se. Just I find the EU to be so obtuse it is causing major problems and pretending that they don’t exist.

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zaber

This is a hard one if your a company losing money over bad a actors trying make money from steam keys from other places that are to cheap. Anyone would ask Valve to step in to stop it. Is why see on youtube all over people trying push people to goto, and by windows cd keys on site that sell keys that push the 3 party market games.

We can’t have nice things over greedy generally.

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yoh_sl

Look Gabe, we don’t want you here. Just because your country is shitting the bed on Covid, doesn’t mean you can just hide away in a country like mine that isn’t run by a bunch of morons.
I don’t care for your special pleading.

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Loopy

Wouldn’t this increase average prices across poorer regions, making a lot of the gaming products and services unavailable to countries that can’t afford them anymore? The main benefit behind geoblocking was allowing poorer countries to have regional pricing rates.

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hugmonster

Publishers can still set different prices in different regions as they wish. But they cannot deny “European consumers the benefits of the EU’s Digital Single Market to shop around between Member States to find the most suitable offer.

Also, as a Romanian (which is one of the poorest countries in the EU) I can tell you that wages and living standards have come a long way in the past 30 years and gaming is generally affordable, especially on PC given Steam’s frequent sales and discounts.

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Robert Mann

Thing is, Steam will end up pricing everything at the highest tier as an end result. Just like other companies that complied did. It absolutely screws people in those nations, even if things aren’t as bad as they used to be back in the day. The idea that you should pay the same price as a nation with, in your case at near the top of the bottom 10 ~3 times as much income on average… is just stupid.

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BalsBigBrother

Oh hey I remember the EU I kind of liked them but something happened and we got kicked out of the clubhouse. I think it was to do with breakfast or something. Maybe we used too much black pudding and baked beans.

Oh well at least the EU folks might have some more buying option in the future.

*nibbles on some black pudding*

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Bryan Correll

too much black pudding

I’d say any amount of black pudding is too much.

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BalsBigBrother

Blasphemy!

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Robert Mann

End result is more likely 1-price. At either the most expensive, or an average of the area. Sadly, that means some people get screwed with games that, for the U.S. consumer, would be roughly the equivalent of $200+

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Bruno Brito

“situation that every game developer finds themselves in”

So…i think everyone in this site knows my father is a lawyer. What most don’t know is that he conquered his law degree from the deepest abyss of poverty. When young, he ate bananas as his lunch when he couldn’t pay for a meal.

And yet, 30 years and several chugs of alcohol later, if you ask him about other poor people, he’ll dismiss them. He’ll berate them, and be the overall piece of shit i knew him to be all my life. Like a scummy coach that screams for you to put 200% efforts in things he doesn’t put 10%.

He literally forgot what poverty was like. I think it’s a good cross-reference, because clearly, Gaben forgot what it is to be a rank-and-file developer who gets crushed by bad management, to say this kind of detached crap.