Steam faces European investigation for region-locked game keys

European Union antitrust authorities are concerned that some video game publishers aren’t playing by the rules of the EU’s single market, charging customers in different countries different prices for access to what is essentially the same game.origin steam

The European Commission opened investigations into five companies distributing their games online through the Steam network operated by Valve.

The companies—Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media, and ZeniMax—are suspected of placing geographical restrictions on the use of Steam activation keys so that they can’t be used by buyers in some parts of the EU to play their video games. This could allow them to sell activation keys at a higher price in some countries, and prevent players in those countries from activating the game with cheaper keys purchased elsewhere in the EU.

This may breach competition rules by restricting so-called ‘parallel trade’ within the EU, preventing consumers from buying cheaper games that may be available in other member states, the Commission said Thursday.

“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,” said EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Bandai Namco games on Steam include Pac-man 256, Project Cars and Dark Souls, while Capcom’s include Resident Evil and Devil May Cry. Titles from the other publishers targeted by the investigation include The Elder Scrolls Online, Cities XXL, and Railroad X.

The Commission began the investigation on its own initiative, it said, meaning that the companies’ activities had not been the subject of complaints.

It opened two other investigations on Thursday, into online sales of hi-fi equipment and domestic appliances, and online hotel bookings.

The Commission has similar concern about hotel bookings as it does about video games: it suspects tour operators including Kuoni, REWE, Thomas Cook and TUI of working with hoteliers such as Meliá Hotels to show different prices or room availability to customers depending on their nationality or country of residence.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association welcomed the investigations, and said it hoped the Commission would go on to investigate manufacturers that prevented sales of their products through online marketplaces altogether. “These restrictions are equally harmful in that they prevent greater consumer choice and price transparency in day-to-day, mass-market products,” said the CCIA’s European director, Jakob Kucharczyk.

This week in games: Overwatch gets a server browser, Project Cars 2 targets 12K and more

More Kickstarter news this week. Can you believe it? Last week I joked about a renaissance but now I’m pretty sure it’s actually happening.Project Cars 2

That, plus Overwatch gets a server browser, South Park delays a second time, a bevy of launch trailers and announcement trailers and trailer trailers, and Project Cars 2 talks about supporting 12K resolutions. Mmmm, that’s a lot of pixels.

This is gaming news for February 6 through 10.

Another chance for me to talk about Stasis? Excellent. If you don’t know, Stasis is the best horror game you (probably) didn’t play in 2015. An isometric horror game in the vein of the classic Sanitarium, Stasis is some excellent derelict space ship sci-fi.

And now the developers are working on a follow-up, titled Beautiful Desolation. Like PC Gamer, I apparently missed word on this in January, but there’s a Kickstarter campaign and everything. I’m not a huge fan of the name, but I am a huge fan of the art on display so far, and fervently hope it reaches its funding goal.

Let’s keep on the crowdfunding theme for a second and talk about inXile. The studio released details on both the upcomingTorment: Tides of Numenera and the slightly-less-upcoming Bard’s Tale IV this week, with a look at Torment’s story and Bard’s Tale’s combat. Here’s Torment:

And Bard’s Tale:

Halo Wars 2 launches next week, at least for Ultimate Edition buyers. Will it be good? No idea, but it sure does have some beautiful cinematics.

It’s not the sexiest update, but Overwatch is getting a server browser to complement its bevy of matchmaking systems. Want to play a custom game with friends? You can finally—nine months after release—do so.

I’d sort-of forgotten that Slightly Mad Studios has been working on Project Cars 2. Hard to forget, given the stink people made when the sequel was originally announced, coming as it did mere months after the release of the original. But regardless, I’d forgotten.

There’s video now though—gorgeous video. Also, support for 12K resolutions (12K!) and more. Time to upgrade your graphics card, sim racers.

Speaking of racing games…well, actually no. The big news this week is that Playground Games, developer of the beloved Forza Horizon series, is working on a new game—and it’s not a racing game. According to GamesIndustry.biz , Playground is opening a second studio and branching out into a new genre, in addition to (presumably) the 2018 Forza Horizon game.

If this mythical second project ends up even half as good as Forza Horizon, we’re in for a treat.

Bad news, South Park fans: Latest game The Fractured But Whole has been delayed yet again, this time to a rather ambiguous “sometime this year.” That’s the second delay for the superhero-themed sequel, which was originally supposed to arrive in December and then was pushed to early 2017. Now? Well, we’ll see.

Cue the Miyamoto quote about a bad game being bad forever, and et cetera.

Ubisoft’s doing just okay with-or-without South Park though, I imagine. Case in point: Rainbow Six Siege is still humming along, still 2015’s best shooter, and just about to start its second season of DLC characters and maps. You’ll get four minutes of that below, with a look at the new “Velvet Shell” operators and Coastline map.

Oh, and Ubisoft also brought back the Rainbow Six Siege Starter Edition. For $15 you get the game and access to four operators, with a whole lot of grinding if you want to unlock the rest—or you try it, enjoy it, and buy the full game (maybe when it goes on sale?) to continue as normal. Your call.

Okay, more Ubisoft news. Ghost Recon: Wildlands is set to release in March. Ubisoft’s continued its tradition of “Silly Live-Action Trailers” for this one—except this time they’ve made a whole live-action movie. There’s a teaser below. Go microwave some popcorn. I’ll wait.