European antitrust regulators have opened an investigation into the Steam gamesÂ distribution platform operator, Valve, and five PC games publishers to determine whether geo-blocking agreements between them amount to a breach of the regionâs competition rules.
The Commission isÂ concerned agreements around how consumers can purchase digital content are reducing cross-border trade by preventing games players from buying cheaper games elsewhere in Europe.Â The five games publishers named in the probe are: Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax.
The investigation will focus on whether activation keys used toÂ confirm a copy of a game is not pirated are (or have been) usedÂ for the purposes of geo-blocking â thereby limiting consumersâ access to a purchased game, based on where in the region they are located.
The EC says such a practice âmay amount to a breach of EU competition rules by reducing cross-border competition as a result of restricting so-called âparallel tradeâ within the Single Market and preventing consumers from buying cheaper games that may be available in other Member Statesâ.
Weâve reached out to Valve for comment and will update this post with any response.
Also today, the ECÂ has announced a separate antitrust investigation into fourÂ consumer electronics manufacturers â Asus, Denon & Marantz, Philips and Pioneer â over concerns they mayÂ have breached competition rules by restricting the ability of online retailers to set their own prices for products made by the four, includingÂ laptops, household appliances and hi-fis.
âThe effect of these suspected price restrictions may be aggravated due to the use by many online retailers of pricing software that automatically adapts retail prices to those of leading competitors. As a result, the alleged behaviour may have had a broader impact on overall online prices for the respective consumer electronics products,â the EC furtherÂ notes.