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Capcom, Bandai Namco, and four other publishers fined a total of $9.5 million for 'geo-blocking' PC games in Europe

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • January 21, 2021 at 7:18 p.m. PST • Comments: 47

The European Commission has fined Valve as well as five gaming publishers for the practice of "geo-blocking" PC games in Europe.

Alongside Focus Home, Koch Media and Bethesda, Capcom and Bandai Namco (the companies behind the Street Fighter and Tekken franchises) are having to fork over their share of the $9.5 million penalty.

In certain ways, the world of gaming is getting smaller and smaller thanks to massive platforms like Valve's Steam, which allows users to both download and stream games. This massive platform is the go-to source for PC gaming for many across the globe, but some agreements between Valve and the aforementioned publishers put some illegal restrictions on users.

Geo-blocking is a process that essentially denies players the freedom to purchase games in other countries (often at a discounted price) and play them in another, and is prohibited by EU competition law.

Valve offered Capcom, Bandai, and the others a territory control function that allows for geographical restrictions upon activation of Steam keys for various titles. European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager offered a statement on the matter.

"More than 50% of all Europeans play video games," she starts. "The video game industry in Europe is thriving and it is now worth over € 17 billion. 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. 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.

Capcom and the other publishers have had their initial fines reduced for agreeing to cooperate with the EC by helping with the investigation and expressly acknowledging the infringements of EU antitrust rules.

After a 15% and 10% reduction, respectively, Capcom's final fee total landed around $480,000 while Bandai's landed at around $410,000. Valve chose not to cooperate and was ultimately fined $1.9 million.

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