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European Commission fines Valve and 5 game publishers €7.8 million for violating antitrust laws

Razer Blade 15
Razer Blade 15 (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • The European Commission fined Valve, Bandai Namco, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax €7.8 million for violating EU antitrust rules.
  • The companies had geo-blocking practices that were ruled to partition the EEA market.
  • Bandai Namco, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax had fines reduced for cooperating with the European Commission.
  • Valve did not cooperate with the European Commission.

The European Commission fined Valve, Bandai Namco, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax a total of €7.8 million for breaches of EU antitrust rules. A post from the European Commission explains the violations and breaks down the fines for each company.

The violations come in the form of geo-blocking practices. The company restricted cross-border sales of certain PC games based on people's location within the European Economic Area (EEA).

The European Commission reduced the fines on the violating publishers because the companies cooperated. Valve chose to not cooperate with the European Commission and has been fined €1.624 million. Below are the breakdowns of the fines of the five game publishers.

Videogame publisherReduction for cooperationFine
Bandai Namco10%€340,000
Capcom15%€396,000
Focus Home10%€2,888,000
Koch Media10%€977,000
ZeniMax10%€1,664,000

Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president in charge of competition policy explained the violations:

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. Such practices deprive European consumers of the benefits of the EU Digital Single Market and of the opportunity to shop around for the most suitable offer in the EU.

The European Commission ruled that by agreeing to geo-block certain games based on people being outside a specific territory, that Valve and the game publishers partitioned the EEA market and violated EU antitrust rules.

Specifically, Valve and the five game publishers formed bilateral agreements that prevented the activation of certain games outside of specific countries. The European Commission explains:

  • Bilateral agreements and/or concerted practices between Valve and each of the five PC video game publisher implemented by means of geo-blocked Steam activation keys which prevented the activation of certain of these publishers' PC video games outside Czechia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, in response to unsolicited consumer requests (so-called "passive sales"). These lasted between one and five years and were implemented, depending on the cases, between September 2010 and October 2015.
  • Geo-blocking practices in the form of licensing and distribution agreements concluded bilaterally between four out of the five PC video game publishers (i.e. Bandai, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax) and some of their respective PC video games distributors in the EEA (other than Valve), containing clauses which restricted cross-border (passive) sales of the affected PC video games within the EEA, including the above-mentioned Central and Eastern European countries. These lasted generally longer, i.e. between three and 11 years and were implemented, depending on each bilateral relationship, between March 2007 and November 2018.

The European Commission first opened antitrust proceedings about these agreements on February 2, 2017. The Commission sent Statements of Objections to Valve and the five publishers on April 5, 2019.

Sean Endicott
Sean Endicott

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

3 Comments
  • So, these were (at the time) non-euro countries? And this in and of itself didn't "restrict cross-border sales" in any way shape or form. Just another EU fundraiser...
  • What are you talking about? Don't mix up being part of the EU free market and being in euro zone those are two totally different things....
    They all have been members since 2004 except Romania 2007... Don't talk about what you have no clue.... And geolock is a plague anyway it should be banned by the WTO... Heck free market should be the rule anyway a true capitalist doesn't want any of that sh@t...
  • > part of the EU free market and being in euro zone those are two totally different things As someone, who pays in zloty, I am well aware of the fact and my point is -- absence of the common currency within EU free market "restrict cross-border sales"... which it does. And, while I am not happy about geolock, I do understand that it allows companies to keep regionally adjusted price of goods, and have lower price for stuff in Poland (or, if you prefer, Romania), as compared to Germany or France.