On 2nd February 2017, the European Commission has announced that they have launched an investigation into the Valve Corporation and five video game publishers over suspected anticompetitive practices and collusion. The press release names Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax as the video game publishers under investigation, along with Valve.
The focus of the investigation is on agreements between Valve and the publishers to implement geo-blocking - "where companies prevent consumers from purchasing digital content, in this case PC video games, because of the consumer's location or country of residence." This is what is more commonly known as 'region locking' in the sale of video games.
The main issue of contention is that digital video game keys "can grant access to a purchased game only to consumers in a particular EU Member State (for example the Czech Republic or Poland)" and this may "amount to a breach of EU competition rules" by "preventing or restricting the sale of PC video games across national borders within the European Economic Area."
This runs contrary to the European Commission's goal of a 'single market' encompassing all the European Union member states, which would also allow EU consumers to have access to cheaper prices in any member state.
E-commerce should give consumers a wider choice of goods and services, as well as the opportunity to make purchases across borders. The three investigations we have opened today focus on practices where we suspect companies are trying to deny these benefits for consumers. The cases concern the consumer electronics, video games and hotel accommodation sectors. More specifically, we are looking into whether these companies are breaking EU competition rules by unfairly restricting retail prices or by excluding customers from certain offers because of their nationality or location. - Commissioner Margrethe VestagerFor further information on the investigation, you can read the official press release here. Information about the investigation can be found on the public case register available here.
Do you buy games within the European Union? Would you prefer to have this 'single market' and freedom of choice regarding prices within the EU? Let us know in the comments below!