Early this year, the European Commission launched an investigation into six game companies—Valve, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home Interactive, Koch Media, and ZeniMax—over "suspected anti-competitive practices." In April it released a preliminary finding that the practice of geo-blocking games, which restricts the ability of people to buy games based on their home location, violates EU competition rules.
Simplistically put, geo-blocking prevents people in wealthy countries from taking advantage of lower prices in other regions. But the EC's preliminary finding "is that these business practices partitioned markets according to national borders and restricted passive sales to consumers. These business practices ultimately denied European consumers the benefits of the EU's Digital Single Market to shop around for the most attractive offer."
"In a true Digital Single Market, European consumers should have the right to buy and play video games of their choice regardless of where they live in the EU," commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. "Consumers should not be prevented from shopping around between Member States to find the best available deal. Valve and the five PC video game publishers now have the chance to respond to our concerns."
Since then, according to a Reuters report, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home Interactive, Koch Media, and ZeniMax have all agreed to settle the case. The terms of the settlement aren't known, but Reuters said that under EU antitrust rules, companies are given a ten percent reduction in their fines for admitting to wrongdoing. Valve has decided to fight the charges, however, and is now expected to seek a hearing with European Commission competition regulators and "national watchdogs" to argue its case.
If, after Valve presents its defense, the Commission determines that there is still sufficient evidence of an infraction, it can issue an order to halt the offending practices and impose a fine of up to ten percent of the company's "annual worldwide turnover." I've reached out to Valve and the European Commission for comment and will update if I receive a reply.