Steam Responds to EU Commission Over Region-Locked Game Keys

Steam developer Valve responds to accusations from the European Union Commission over geo-blocking their games on the popular platform.

Recently Valve, developer of the popular PC gaming platform Steam, has landed itself in hot water with the European Commission over accusations of geo-blocking games throughout the European Union, which violates their antitrust laws. The Commission has given Statements of Objections to Valve as well as five other PC video game publishers: Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax.

Geo-blocking is technology that restricts access to Internet content based upon the user’s geographical location. The Commission believes that Valve and the five named PC video game publishers engaged in geo-blocking by entering “into bilateral agreements to prevent consumers from purchasing and using PC video games acquired elsewhere than in their country of residence.”

According to the Commission, “Valve and the five PC video game publishers agreed, in breach of EU antitrust rules, to use geo-blocked activation keys to prevent cross-border sales including contractual export restrictions in their agreements with a number of distributors other than Valve.” These distributors were then prevented from selling those PC video games “outside the allocated territories.”

Valve responded to the statements of objections in a new press release. According to Valve, the Commission’s charges do not relate to the sale of PC games on Steam and instead hinges on their activation keys. Specifically, that said keys “enabled geo-blocking by providing Steam activation keys and — upon the publishers’ request — locking those keys to particular territories.”

However, Valve asserts that they provide Steam keys for free and do not receive any share of the purchase price when a game is sold by third-party re-sellers. Furthermore, the region locks only applied to approximately three percent of all games using Steam, none of which are first-party titles and that their liability in these circumstances is not supported by current law. It’s interesting to note that Valve actually turned off region locks within the EEA starting in 2015 with a few exceptions.

The main issue here is whether Valve’s claims that they should not be liable for the actions of third-party re-sellers will actually hold up against the EU as this case moves forward. We will continue to update as more developments surface regarding this matter.

Valve has been in the news recently for other reasons, such as the reveal of their VR headset coming out later this year as well as the announcement that they’re reworking their CCG title Artifact after a disappointing launch. More interestingly, Valve president Gabe Newell has been spotted on a package of Chinese brand underwear. Take that as you will.

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Allisa James

Senior Weekend Staff Writer for DualShockers. Loves JRPGs, artbooks, and anime.

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