Last July, Steam started making it harder for people to purchase games from other countries. The issue here was that some countries sold games for WAY cheaper than they were being sold in others. Assassin’s Creed Unity, for example, was being sold for $20 in America, but just 28 Rupees in Indonesia. This allowed tech-savvy PC gamers to spoof their location and purchase games for pennies on the dollar just by faking where they lived.
This was a problem not just for game publishers, but also for residents in poorer countries. When outsiders suddenly all pile into buy games on the cheap, it drives up the price of that game inside the country where it’s being purchased, making it too expensive for poorer residents to buy it.
Plus, y’know, Valve and everyone else likes money, so Valve put a stop to that by locking your location to your credit card info.
However, that’s against EU antitrust laws. Geo-blocking, or preventing someone from buying a thing outside of their home country, is illegal under European Union law (at least, so long as you’re still inside the EU), so Valve preventing someone from Belgium from buying a game in France is actually a crime.
Even before this 2020 update, Valve and several publishers had been under investigation in the EU for a different sort of geo-blocking. Steam keys could only be activated in certain countries, with publishers signing on to this practice to prevent losing potential sales. The EU started investigating this nack in 2017 and found that Valve and five other publishers broke EU antitrust laws by locking Steam keys to a certain location. Those five publishers included Capcom, Bandai Namco, Focus Home Intreactive, Koch Media, and ZeniMax Media.
Since everyone but Valve cooperated with the EU investigation, they had their fines reduced between 10% and 15%. Valve did not cooperate with the investigation and was fined the full amount.
However, the fine varied depending on the volume of games sold. Bandai Namco was only fined €340,000 while the largest fine was handed out to Focus home at €2,888,000.
And even though Valve didn’t cooperate with the investigation, they were still fined a relatively small €1,624,000. Pocket change for a day of Steam sales.
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