The European Commission has issued Statements of Objections to video game distributor Valve and five video games publishers over geoblocking of games.
Valve, which owns PC game distribution platform Steam, along with publishers Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax, received Statements of Objection from the Commission over alleged breaches of the EU’s regulations governing antitrust and export restrictions. The companies may now examine the documentation provided by the Commission, respond in writing and where relevant request an oral hearing.
The antitrust breaches stem from allegations that Valve and the publishing companies had conspired to prevent cross-border sales of their games by geoblocking the activation keys needed to play video games purchased on media other than Steam, such as physical disks. The geo-blocks, the Commission says, prevented consumers from buying games at potentially cheaper prices in other Member States.
Additionally, Bandai Namco, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax are accused of further flouting antitrust legislation in their agreements with games distributors other than Valve. The publishers are alleged to have included clauses in their agreements preventing distributors from selling certain games outside set regions, thereby restricting consumers from equal access to the affected products across Member States.
The Commission’s Statements of Objections outline its preliminary view: that the business practices engaged in by the distributors limited the ability of consumers to benefit fully from the Digital Single Market by partitioning sales between Member States.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “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. 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.”