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EU charges Valve and 5 game publishers with unfair ‘geo-blocking’

Bullet Club

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EU charges Valve and 5 game publishers with unfair ‘geo-blocking’

The European Commission charged Valve, the owner of a video distribution platform, and five game publishers on Friday with preventing EU consumers from shopping around within the European Union to find the best deal for the games they offer.

The case is the latest move by EU antitrust regulators against cross-border curbs on online trade, key to what is seen as a major part of economic growth in the 28-country bloc.

The Commission, which oversees competition policy in the 28 EU countries, said that the companies were Valve Corp, the owner of the world’s largest video game distribution platform ‘Steam’, and five game makers – Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax.

“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,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

The Commission has sent what it calls a “statement of objections” to the companies, allowing them to reply and request hearings to present their arguments.

Companies found guilty of anti-competitive behaviour can be fined up to 10 percent of their annual global turnover.

The Commission said it was concerned that Valve and the five game publishers agreed to prevent cross-border sales by geo-blocking the ‘activation keys’ that enable consumers to be able to play games.

This may have prevented consumers from buying cheaper games available in other EU countries.

EU antitrust regulators opened its investigation in February 2017, at the same time also looking into online sales of electronics and hotel rooms.

EU rules prohibit geographically based restrictions that undermine online shopping and cross-border sales. Last month, it fined Nike for blocking cross-border sales of soccer merchandise.

Source: Venture Beat

Valve responded to: Tom's Hardware
Update 4/5/19, 9:20 a.m. PT: Valve sent us a statement in response to the European Commission's announcement. The company reiterated that the commission's issues don't involve sales through Steam, just Steam activation keys used by physical copies of games and said it neither receives compensation directly from the companies nor a portion of sales for providing this service.

More important is the company's claim that few titles were affected by geo-blocking, that it shouldn't be subject to any penalties for providing a platform on which other companies did wrong and that the commission's complaint arrived a few years late:

"The region locks only applied to a small number of game titles. Approximately just 3% of all games using Steam (and none of Valve's own games) at the time were subject to the contested region locks in the EEA [short for European Economic Area]. Valve believes that the EC's extension of liability to a platform provider in these circumstances is not supported by applicable law. Nonetheless, because of the EC's concerns, Valve actually turned off region locks within the EEA starting in 2015, unless those region locks were necessary for local legal requirements (such as German content laws) or geographic limits on where the Steam partner is licensed to distribute a game. The elimination of region locks will also mean that publishers will likely raise prices in less affluent regions to avoid price arbitrage. There are no costs involved in sending activation keys from one country to another, and the activation key is all a user needs to activate and play a PC game."
 
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TheUsual

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Interesting...anyone from the EuroGaf area can confirm that?
Big name games with different pricing in different areas of the EU?
Does accounting for 3rd party key sites mitigate this?
 

keraj37

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Interesting...anyone from the EuroGaf area can confirm that?
Big name games with different pricing in different areas of the EU?
Does accounting for 3rd party key sites mitigate this?

Confirmed. The only way prices are the same is if they are in euro currency, other currencies have overall different prices for the same game. But it is something normal, as the price needs to look like '15.99' in every currency so they need to change the price overall.
 

Shifty

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Hmm, started in Feb 2017? That's a while back.

The most noticeable thing for me is that GamesPlanet has started to standardize their prices across the UK, FR and DE storefronts. You used to be able to get a better deal with some creative use of google translate, but last I checked (for Sekiro I believe) the difference was mere pennies rather than pounds.

I'm wondering if that's related, or just circumstantial based on exchange rate and the fact that Sekiro is new.
 
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Shin

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Sounds like the EU with their hand out again
France would be their leader.
The great EU doesn't invent jackshit but fines everyone left and right to fund their local problems.
Valve isnt' the only store (game or otherwise) that's guilty of geo-blocking, companies are too slow with security and/or upholding rules.
 

Shifty

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Sounds like the EU with their hand out again
 

Spukc

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France would be their leader.
The great EU doesn't invent jackshit but fines everyone left and right to fund their local problems.
Valve isnt' the only store (game or otherwise) that's guilty of geo-blocking, companies are too slow with security and/or upholding rules.
pretty happy with EU law tho.. I can buy stuff online and return it no reason given within 2 weeks.
 

NickFire

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Wait, don’t different EU states have different laws to worry about? Maybe I’m wrong, but I could swear that at least one country who calls loot boxes gambling is in the EU. I’m not defending loot boxes, but if companies have to worry about getting sued for violating laws in country x by allowing citizens of x to buy games marketed to country y due to EU rules, the end result is the most oppressive set of laws in country x become the standard for countries a, b, c, d, etc. if my assumption is accurate. If accurate, then eu’s position is absurd.
 
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Shin

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pretty happy with EU law tho.. I can buy stuff online and return it no reason given within 2 weeks.
Yeah those QoL rules I can get behind, but when it comes to technology they deal out more fines than they are inventing (yet as per usual we never see anything but it's for us...).
EU is right with this fine it's not that, I've been trying to buy a water pitcher that's sold out locally but the store that has it from another will only ship within the country.
Valve/Steam as a whole has been annoying with country switching/shopping through their store so it's good that they are being kept in check.

 
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Apr 25, 2012
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Key Trading has been the reason for buying quite a lot of games in my friendship circles. A lot of my peers would only ever buy 2-3 AAA games a year if it weren't for me and those sweet sweet key trader deals.
I haven't payed above 45 bucks for a triple A game at launch in many years and I always felt like this one of the few cases where consumers actually get to profit from international trading. I will NEVER feel bad because I pay 30 bucks for a mediocre "€60 game".

I remember publishers blocking this for a few games. I think Borderlands 2 was one of them back in the day. Just let to us not playing it.
This is not money they are losing, this is market share that wouldn't even exist without the better pricing on foreign keys.

Sounds like the EU with their hand out again

What do you mean? That's the EU enforcing costumer rights without anything to gain. This is what politics should be about.
 

Spukc

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Yeah those QoL rules I can get behind, but when it comes to technology they deal out more fines than they are inventing (yet as per usual we never see any more but it's for us).
EU is right with this fine it's not that, I've been trying to buy a water pitcher that's sold out locally but the store that has it from another will only ship within the country.
Valve/Steam as a whole has been annoying with country switching/shopping through their store so it's good that they are being kept in check.

Tbh big tech companies have been doing pretty fucking dodgy shit tax wise and europe just wants to cash in. No harm done tbh,
Funny thing is that your bill from steam .. states place Luxembourg BUT YOU can't use the same tactic to dodge high prices.
Serves them well .
I got a vpn for this. I keep buying games dirt cheap in whatever country it is cheap,
Big tech companies do this.. So can i.
 

Shin

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Hmm, started in Feb 2017? That's a while back.
Here's the original notice: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-201_en.htm

Tbh big tech companies have been doing pretty fucking dodgy shit tax wise and europe just wants to cash in.
Aware and they are right to do so but those fuckers always pass it on as it's for us but no matter how much of our data was leaked and what's not the money stays in their pockets.
The latter is what annoys me about the EU, though to remain on topic stuff like this is what I do like to see from the EU and/or expect from them. On that note they can fine Apple also for blocking apps/games because I've tried like 3 different games and they were all not available in this country but are in other EU countries I believe.
 
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TheUsual

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Confirmed. The only way prices are the same is if they are in euro currency, other currencies have overall different prices for the same game. But it is something normal, as the price needs to look like '15.99' in every currency so they need to change the price overall.
Thanks for the confirmation. Just did some searching and see there are some EU countries that don't use the Euro as their currency (didn't know that). So are people buying keys for games in those currencies from a 3rd party site (where I'm assuming the pricing can be cheaper) and get geoblocked while trying to activate it?
 

Spukc

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Here's the original notice: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-201_en.htm


Aware and they are right to do so but those fuckers always pass it on as it's for us but no matter how much of our data was leaked and what's not the money stays in their pockets.
The latter is what annoys me about the EU, though to remain on topic stuff like this is what I do like to see from the EU and/or expect from them. On that note they can fine Apple also for blocking apps/games because I've tried like 3 different games and they were all not available in this country but are in other EU countries I believe.
i think they are building a case to force apple to allow other appstores on their devices.
 

kMike

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- different versions for west / east europe (with different languages supported)
- different versions because of law e.g. here in germany we have problems with symbols
- different taxes across europe
 

wipeout364

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I misunderstood the thread, I thought it was about price differences, TheUsual clarified the issue (Thanks). I have to think about how I feel about this, when it was price differences in different countries I was on Steam side but with geoblocking I am not so sure whether I am as it seems like a practice that could be abused by Steam.
 

Fbh

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So if I'm reading this correctly Steam has some form of regional pricing within the EU and now the EU is pushing valve and others to allow EU residents to buy the games from whichever country its the cheapest.

Wouldn't that just result in these companies adopting a standard €60 price across all EU countries which would benefit no one while hurting people from the countries where games are currently cheaper?
 
Apr 4, 2018
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So if I'm reading this correctly Steam has some form of regional pricing within the EU and now the EU is pushing valve and others to allow EU residents to buy the games from whichever country its the cheapest.

Wouldn't that just result in these companies adopting a standard €60 price across all EU countries which would benefit no one while hurting people from the countries where games are currently cheaper?

I don't think that this would be the result as the consumers of some countries just wouldn't be willing to pay that price. They would need to find the sweet point where they make the most profit and it will probably lie somewhere below € 60.
 

guggnichso

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Wondering what’s with all the knee jerk reactions against the EU when they for once do something right, like trying to get Online Publishing platforms to remove their stupid geolocking shit. Nintendo and Sony both implemented ways to shop all around the EU and both didn’t implode.

Geolocking / geoblocking is a fucking shitshow anyways

I regularly bought games from polish stores or UK Amazon when I was still buying physical copies, I never got why I shouldn’t be able to do this with digital games, just because some shareholders want to get more of my money.
 

Shin

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Bullet Club Bullet Club , Valve responded to: Tom's Hardware

Update 4/5/19, 9:20 a.m. PT: Valve sent us a statement in response to the European Commission's announcement. The company reiterated that the commission's issues don't involve sales through Steam, just Steam activation keys used by physical copies of games and said it neither receives compensation directly from the companies nor a portion of sales for providing this service.

More important is the company's claim that few titles were affected by geo-blocking, that it shouldn't be subject to any penalties for providing a platform on which other companies did wrong and that the commission's complaint arrived a few years late:

"The region locks only applied to a small number of game titles. Approximately just 3% of all games using Steam (and none of Valve's own games) at the time were subject to the contested region locks in the EEA [short for European Economic Area]. Valve believes that the EC's extension of liability to a platform provider in these circumstances is not supported by applicable law. Nonetheless, because of the EC's concerns, Valve actually turned off region locks within the EEA starting in 2015, unless those region locks were necessary for local legal requirements (such as German content laws) or geographic limits on where the Steam partner is licensed to distribute a game. The elimination of region locks will also mean that publishers will likely raise prices in less affluent regions to avoid price arbitrage. There are no costs involved in sending activation keys from one country to another, and the activation key is all a user needs to activate and play a PC game."
 

1.21Gigawatts

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France would be their leader.
The great EU doesn't invent jackshit but fines everyone left and right to fund their local problems.
Valve isnt' the only store (game or otherwise) that's guilty of geo-blocking, companies are too slow with security and/or upholding rules.

The EU is a godsend for consumer rights.
Institutions lick corporate ass all the time, and the EU surely is no exception, but when it comes to consumer rights and consumer protections the EU is doing a very good job.
The reason for it is that EU bureaucracy is complicated and almost nobody likes to bother with it, but those who do very often are successful. This is true for lobby groups, but also for consumer rights groups(which technically are lobbies, too).
The practical application of their pro-consumer policies isn't always great, though.
Better data security for example is a commendable goal and its nice that the EU is now able to slap several billions worth of fines onto Facebook and Co. for abusing user data, but the laws are so broad they also create huge problems for smaller companies and especially start ups.
Like with almost everything in the EU, its good intentions and flawed execution.
 
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DeliciousDoc

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I hope this expands beyond the EU. Right now theres a total war sale on humble bundle and I can't see a single game they are selling. Bandai bundles or sales are also terrible but there are a few titles to look at at least.
 

RedVIper

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So if I'm reading this correctly Steam has some form of regional pricing within the EU and now the EU is pushing valve and others to allow EU residents to buy the games from whichever country its the cheapest.

Wouldn't that just result in these companies adopting a standard €60 price across all EU countries which would benefit no one while hurting people from the countries where games are currently cheaper?

No, you see regional pricing within in Europe is bad, people from Germany should pay the same as people from Poland, Romania, etc, despite making 5 times the money they do, it's only fair.

Never mind that countries within Europe have vastly different laws, ex. Belgium and the lootboxes stuff, different taxes, etc.
 

gela94

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Tbh big tech companies have been doing pretty fucking dodgy shit tax wise and europe just wants to cash in. No harm done tbh,
Funny thing is that your bill from steam .. states place Luxembourg BUT YOU can't use the same tactic to dodge high prices.
Serves them well .
I got a vpn for this. I keep buying games dirt cheap in whatever country it is cheap,
Big tech companies do this.. So can i.

Agree, companies use the advantages of globalization but people are fined(customs) or completely stopped from doing so
 

Solomeena

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This sounds rather anti consumer by Valve.

Aren't you the same guy that argues that Epic is not anti-consumer? And yet you think Valve is? You are such a troll. The EU is a piece of shit mafia looking to always fine companies that are not from the EU to line their pockets with, they can get fucked.
 
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michaelius

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Jan 5, 2012
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So if I'm reading this correctly Steam has some form of regional pricing within the EU and now the EU is pushing valve and others to allow EU residents to buy the games from whichever country its the cheapest.

Wouldn't that just result in these companies adopting a standard €60 price across all EU countries which would benefit no one while hurting people from the countries where games are currently cheaper?

Yeah this is what will most likely happen.
Or we will be getting gutted versions with only regional language and no english.
 

ymoc

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Feb 27, 2012
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Valve already retaliating. Steam servers are down across EU AGAIN. AGAIN! Last shutdown was just a few hours ago.
Instead of having a heard earned chill Dark Souls 3 session with my brother after a long week I get a no connection error all the time.
:raging inside:

I ended up installing Epic Launcher a minut ago. Yah.
 
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Torrent of Pork

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Wondering what’s with all the knee jerk reactions against the EU when they for once do something right, like trying to get Online Publishing platforms to remove their stupid geolocking shit. Nintendo and Sony both implemented ways to shop all around the EU and both didn’t implode.

Geolocking / geoblocking is a fucking shitshow anyways

I regularly bought games from polish stores or UK Amazon when I was still buying physical copies, I never got why I shouldn’t be able to do this with digital games, just because some shareholders want to get more of my money.

I have no idea where you are, but Americans generally have a casual hatred of our own government. The EU sounds like a nightmare version of the US federal government that consists solely of the Senate, and where in some countries you don't even get to directly elect them.

The only things the State is remotely competent in is destruction, and spending other people's money. They do these things very well, and the EU has way too much unaccountable authority over its citizenry for an American's taste.
 

Dargor

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All companies have some things they can get better at when it comes to costumer service. Sony with their prehistoric protocols for solving issues is just an example. I'm all in for these companies being forced to change their ways.

But in this case in particular, I have a feeling it will backfire, unfortunately, like some posters have already pointed out.
 
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Woo-Fu

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This sounds rather anti consumer by Valve.

Actually it sounds rather anti-consumer by the EU. Regional pricing allows countries with weaker economies---and by extension people with lower incomes---to pay a price more suitable. If you get rid of that you'd have to be borderline braindead(or an EU government official) to think that the lowest regional pricing will be extended to all regions. Of course that won't happen, just the opposite will happen. One price for all and it'll be the high price, not the low price.

It's charging what the market(s) will bear, while recognizing that you're selling into multiple markets(economies), not one homogeneous world market.
 
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Torrent of Pork

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Actually it sounds rather anti-consumer by the EU. Regional pricing allows countries with weaker economies---and by extension people with lower incomes---to pay a price more suitable. If you get rid of that you'd have to be borderline braindead(or an EU government official) to think that the lowest regional pricing will be extended to all regions. Of course that won't happen, just the opposite will happen. One price for all and it'll be the high price, not the low price.

It's charging what the market(s) will bear, while recognizing that you're selling into multiple markets(economies), not one homogeneous world market.

Charging NYC prices in Alabama will drive you out of business, charging Alabama prices in NYC will drive you out of business.
 

McCheese

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This seems dumb, imagine if they applied this logic to medicine costs and forced once price globally regardless of affordability. Companies would likely just roll with most profitable 'US price' across the globe and millions would die due to no longer being able to afford essential drugs.

Videogames are not life and death, but it's the same principle.
 
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Tesseract

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France would be their leader.
The great EU doesn't invent jackshit but fines everyone left and right to fund their local problems.
Valve isnt' the only store (game or otherwise) that's guilty of geo-blocking, companies are too slow with security and/or upholding rules.

i swear to god dude, this is such truth
 

Kenpachii

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Lol at people defending valve.

Valve should never have any power to decide if you can or can't use a game you bought somewhere else. They are just a platform to provide your game access towards and nothing more.

Valve tries to be anti consumer once again and get slammed hard for it.

If games get more expensive, people will simple not buy them which makes them again more cheaper. And if they decide to drop PC platform others will replace them. It's a non issue.

There reaction also isn't helping because there platform decides if they accept the key or not. So its 100% valve fault.
 
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