Bethesda, Capcom, Bandai Namco, Deep Silver, and Focus have all been fined hefty amounts for keeping PC games region locked.
Importing video games from the US or Japan is something many people miss from the old days but with the rise of digital downloads it’s now rarely necessary, and so you’d think region locking would also be a thing of the past… but that’s not necessarily the case on Steam.
Although it’s not quite the same thing, geo-blocking prevents customers who bought a game when in one country from activating it in another and that’s the sort of thing the EU doesn’t like.
As such, the EU Commission has judged that Valve and five PC publishers breached EU competition laws and because Valve refused to cooperate with the investigation they’ve been hit with a heavier fine than the others.
Vale has been fined €1.62m (£1.43 million), while the other publishers have received 10 to 15% reductions for cooperating. Although that still means a fine of almost £3 million for French publisher Focus Home Interactive and over £1.5 million for Bethesda parent company ZeniMax.
‘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,’ said EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
‘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.’
That’s not necessarily the end of the story though, with the Commission inviting anyone that’s been affected by the practice to take the matter to court in their respective country.
Of course, the UK is no longer in the EU but if Valve and publishers are forced to change their practices to avoid future fines then that will likely affect everyone.
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