Valve denies responsibility for geo-blocking Steam games within EU

Valve has responded to the European Commission’s accusation that the company is violating European law with geo-blocking within the EU. According to Valve, this involved 3 percent of the games, the practices were discontinued in 2015 and they are not to blame.

Valve head Doug Lombardi sent his response to multiple news media, including Tom’s Hardware. The 3 percent of Steam games in 2015 amounts to about 187 titles, can be deduced from numbers from SteamSpy. Lombardi calls that quantity ‘small’. The company underlines that this also does not include Valve games.

The main argument Valve made is that it believes it is not legally liable. Valve provides a platform that others can use to serve their digital content. The fact that the users of the platform, in this case publishers and gamekey sellers, subsequently applied geo-blocking within the EU, cannot be attributed to Valve, according to Lombardi.

Despite referring to the publishers and sellers of Steam keys, Valve states that it still banned geo-blocking in 2015. This in response to the same ‘concerns from the European Commission’. The only games that still have a regional blockade today are games where it is legally required, such as censored games for Germany and games that a Steam trading partner is not allowed to sell in every EU country.

Valve further argues that eliminating regional blocks encourages arbitrage, the phenomenon where parties buy cheap game keys in one market and resell them in a market where the prices are higher. This would have the effect of increasing prices in markets where purchasing power is lower.

So if it’s up to Valve, the European Commission should look at the publishers it mentioned earlier: Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and Zenimax. The Commission noted on Friday that geo-blocking, introduced by all of the above companies and carried out through third-party web shops, is contrary to the European single, digital market.

The Commission’s investigation into the practices is still ongoing. The accused companies now have the opportunity to respond, after which the European Commission will give a final judgment and action may be taken. The Commission may fine the parties up to 10% of their worldwide annual turnover.