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Valve: Pleading guilty to crime we did not commit is not what cooperation means

Published: 21:46, 20 January 2021
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Steam, GabeN's justice is neither blind nor slow!

In response to the European Commission's (EC) antitrust fine and their scathing report of Valve's conduct, the studio issued their own statement and outright denied some of the claims that had been made.

Speaking to PCGamesN, Valve's spokesperson clarified that the studio provides these activation keys to developers for free, which is why they often end up in a third-party store. 

The contested region locks apparently affected only 3 per cent of Steam games, none of which were actually Valve's creations. 

Additionally, the House of GabeN insists they've not been region locking games in the region since 2015, except where mandated by law. 

Nevertheless, the EC states that unlike the rest of the publishers, Valve have not been cooperative over the course of the investigation, which is why they punished them with an extra saucy fine and no damage reduction.  

Peculiarly enough, the EC defined cooperation as providing "evidence of added value to the investigation, and by expressly acknowledging the facts and the infringements of EU antitrust rules."

We're not exactly sure why the EC would conflate unquestioning compliance with cooperation, but it doesn't sound like a fair deal from where we're looking at. I mean, Valve's choice is to either admit to being criminals, or be fined like ones anyway. 

You can find Valve's full statement below. 

Valve Steam logo with grayscale library in background. Steam

During the seven year investigation, Valve cooperated extensively with the European Commission (“EC”), providing evidence and information as requested. However, Valve declined to admit that it broke the law, as the EC demanded. Valve disagrees with the EC findings and the fine levied against Valve.

The EC’s charges do not relate to the sale of PC games on Steam – Valve’s PC gaming service. Instead the EC alleges that Valve enabled geo-blocking by providing Steam activation keys and – upon the publishers’ request – locking those keys to particular territories (“region locks”) within the EEA. Such keys allow a customer to activate and play a game on Steam when the user has purchased it from a third-party reseller. Valve provides Steam activation keys free of charge and does not receive any share of the purchase price when a game is sold by third-party resellers (such as a retailer or other online store).

The region locks only applied to a small number of game titles. Approximately just 3% of all games using Steam (and none of Valve’s own games) at the time were subject to the contested region locks in the EEA. Valve believes that the EC’s extension of liability to a platform provider in these circumstances is not supported by applicable law. Nonetheless, because of the EC’s concerns, Valve actually turned off region locks within the EEA starting in 2015, unless those region locks were necessary for local legal requirements (such as German content laws) or geographic limits on where the Steam partner is licensed to distribute a game. 

The elimination of region locks may also cause publishers to raise prices in less affluent regions to avoid price arbitrage. There are no costs involved in sending activation keys from one country to another, and the activation key is all a user needs to activate and play a PC game.

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