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Valve and five game publishers fined millions for geo-blocking Steam games in EU

Valve and five PC video game publishers have been fined a total of €7.8 million (around $9.5 million) by the European Commission for restricting cross-border game sales in the European Economic Area. The Commission said that the companies geo-blocked around 100 PC video games, preventing them from being activated and played outside certain EU countries. This broke the EU’s Digital Single Market rules which prohibit those types of barriers.

The European Commission says the geo-blocking was to prevent games being activated outside Czechia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Geo-blocking prevents gamers living in EU countries with higher average incomes from being able to save money buying them in EU states where they’re cheaper and then activating them on Steam. Activation keys were geo-blocked between 2010 and 2015, the European Commission said.

“Today’s sanctions against the ‘geo-blocking’ practices of Valve and five PC video game publishers serve as a reminder that under EU competition law, companies are prohibited from contractually restricting cross-border sales,” the European Commission’s head of competition policy said. “Such practices deprive European consumers of the benefits of the EU Digital Single Market and of the opportunity to shop around for the most suitable offer in the EU.”

Five publishers were fined in total. Focus Home was fined almost €2.9 million (around $ 3.5 million), ZeniMax over €1.6 million (around $2 million), Koch Media almost €1 million (around $1.2 million), Capcom €396,000 (around $480,000), and Bandai Namco €340,000 (around $410,000). Because each of these companies cooperated with the investigation, their fines were reduced by between 10 and 15 percent. Valve, however, chose not to cooperate, and was fined over €1.6 million (around $1.9 million).

The European Commission opened its formal investigation into the practice of geo-blocking back in 2017, and formally asked Valve to stop the practice back in 2019. Valve has previously argued that only a small number of games used region-locked activation keys, and argued it shouldn’t be liable for region locks requested by publishers. It said it ended the practice in 2015, with limited exceptions.

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We Spent a Lot of 2020 Playing Video Games, Steam Data Shows


Steam Year in Review for 2020 shows 21.4 percent more games were purchased compared to 2019 and the total amount of playtime doubled in 2020. With the coronavirus pandemic having forced people to stay inside their homes for most of last year, more and more people gravitated towards video games, be it on their smartphones,l consoles, or PCs. Valve’s Year in Review for Steam shows just that, along with some interesting statistics showing significant increase in engagement on the platform.

The 2020 Year in Review for Steam shows there were 120 million active players on the platform per month in the year. With these many players dedicatedly playing video games, the overall hours invested increased by 50.7 percent compared to 2019. 21.4 percent more games were purchased during 2020 from Steam and there were 2.6 million first time purchases monthly.

Steam saw 62.6 million daily active players in 2020 across the globe with the highest concurrent player count reaching 24.8 million.

There were the usual multiple seasonal sales organised by Steam last year and the major ones – Summer, Autumn, and Winter were “record breaking in terms of revenue generated for developers and publishers,” according to the official blog post. Compared to Winter Sale of 2019, 2020 saw a 36 percent increase in the number of games that grossed more than $100,000 (roughly Rs. 73 lakh). 

To provide opportunities for visibility to games in Steam’s catalogue, the platform organised Steam Game Festival: Spring Edition which saw 559,000 demo activations for a few dozen demos. Then, Steam Game Festival: Summer Edition saw 4 million customers sign up for over 900 demos. Finally, Steam Game Festival: Autumn Edition saw 5.1 million demo activations.

Last year, Steam also launched the Steam Points programme that rewards users for buying games and engaging with the community. Till now, 99 million items including animated backgrounds, avatars, frames, and more have been redeemed by 15.5 million users.

Coming to SteamVR, the platform saw 71 percent more revenue and a 30 percent increase in playtime for VR games. There were 104 million SteamVR sessions with 1.7 million users experiencing SteamVR for the first time.

Valve recently released its list of ‘Best Games of 2020′ on Steam and the top 12 selling games of 2020 in the platinum category include Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, Among Us, Cyberpunk 2077, Doom Eternal, Monster Hunter World, and Red Dead Redemption 2, among others.


What will be the most exciting tech launch of 2021? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

 

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The Best Steam Black Friday Deals on PC Games


Steam Black Friday sale — officially known as Steam Autumn Sale — is now live. The biggest storefront for PC games includes big discounts on some of the biggest recent games, including FIFA 21, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Marvel’s Avengers, Death Stranding, and Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. Alongside, beloved older games such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Red Dead Redemption 2, XCOM 2, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey are (again) available at their lowest prices. And as is tradition, Steam is also running The Steam Awards where you can vote for your favourite games and win badges. Steam Autumn Sale ends December 1 at 11:30pm IST (10am PT).

Steam Black Friday deals

Most played
Among Us at Rs. 159 — 20 percent off (LOWEST WAS Rs. 49)

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) at Rs. 499 — 50 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5) at Rs. 1,049 — 50 percent off (LOWEST WAS Rs. 969)

Payday 2 at Rs. 174 — 50 percent off (LOWEST WAS Rs. 34)

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege at Rs. 494 — 67 percent off (LOWEST WAS Rs. 20)

ARK: Survival Evolved at Rs. 219 — 80 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Rust at Rs. 602 — 33 percent off (LOWEST WAS Rs. 189)

Past year
FIFA 21 at Rs. 2,319 — 42 percent off (FIRST DISCOUNT)

eFootball PES 2021 at Rs. 536 — 33 percent off (FIRST DISCOUNT)

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order at Rs. 1,399 — 60 percent off (NEW LOW)

Marvel’s Avengers at Rs. 1,499 — 50 percent off (NEW LOW)

Death Stranding at Rs. 1,999 — 50 percent off (NEW LOW)

Star Wars: Squadrons at Rs. 1,499 — 40 percent off (FIRST DISCOUNT)

Halo: The Master Chief Collection at Rs. 584 — 35 percent off (NEW LOW)

Ride 4 at Rs. 769 — 30 percent off (FIRST DISCOUNT)

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout at Rs. 423 — 20 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Ori and the Will of the Wisps at Rs. 349 — 50 percent off (NEW LOW)

Borderlands 3 at Rs. 986 — 67 percent off (NEW LOW)

Control Ultimate Edition at Rs. 1,499 — 50 percent off (NEW LOW)

Desperados III at Rs. 1,043 — 40 percent off (FIRST DISCOUNT)

Crusader Kings III at Rs. 879 — 20 percent off (FIRST DISCOUNT)

Torchlight III at Rs. 864 — 40 percent off (NEW LOW)

Resident Evil 3 at Rs. 1,154 — 67 percent off (NEW LOW)

Doom Eternal at Rs. 1,319 — 67 percent off (NEW LOW)

Observation at Rs. 227 — 60 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Tell Me Why at Rs. 468 — 33 percent off (FIRST DISCOUNT)

PGA Tour 2K21 at Rs. 1,499 — 50 percent off (NEW LOW)

AO Tennis 2 at Rs. 584 — 55 percent off (NEW LOW)

2 years old
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at Rs. 899 — 70 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Metro Exodus at Rs. 399 — 60 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Red Dead Redemption 2 at Rs. 2,143 — 33 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Batman: Arkham Collection at Rs. 269 — 80 percent off

3 years old
Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition at Rs. 395 — 60 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

4 years old
Civilization VI at Rs. 624 — 75 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

5 years old
XCOM 2 at Rs. 749 — 75 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

Don’t Starve Together at Rs. 156 — 66 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)

6 years old
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt at Rs. 240 — 70 percent off (PREVIOUS BEST)




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Steam Gets PS5 DualSense Controller Support With LED, Gyro, More Features


Steam has received support for PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller and features like LED, trackpad, rumble, and gyro are currently working in the public beta Steam desktop client. The controller will be recognised and will work with all games currently using the Steam Input API. An official post on Steam community forum states that the LED, trackpad, rumble, and gyro features will work with several games, but it does not mention any support for the controller’s signature adaptive triggers. The post also states that platform-wide support will be added for DualSense controller after further testing.

A few weeks ago, Valve added initial input support to Steam for the PS5 DualSense controller and at the time, rumble, trackpad, and gyro features were not implemented. After adding these features to the client, Valve has now announced that games using the Steam Input API will recognise the controller. The games that will support LED, trackpad, rumble, and gyro features include Death Stranding, No Man’s Sky, Horizon Zero Dawn, and more. For now, this support is available in the public beta Steam desktop client and to test it out, users will have to opt in for the beta.

Valve has also shared that developers will not have to update their games or release patches. The stable release for these features will be added platform-wide after further testing. As of now, there is no exact release date.

For developers who are already using Steam Input API in their games, they won’t have to do anything further to enable support for these features. The developers who are not using Steam Input API will have to enable Steam Gamepad Emulation for PlayStation controllers by default.

Valve says the number of daily average users playing a Steam game with a controller has more than doubled in the past two years. “The growth in controller usage has been even higher among players using PlayStation controllers, which has grown in the past two years from 10.9 percent of controller play sessions to 21.6 percent of all controller sessions across Steam,” Valve adds.


iPhone 12 Pro Series Is Amazing, but Why Is It So Expensive in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

 



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Valve’s Gabe Newell is sending a gnome to space


Gabe Newell, president of Valve, the video game company behind the Half-Life series and game marketplace Steam, is thanking the country of New Zealand for its hospitality by launching a gnome into space with aerospace company Rocket Lab in mid-November. Newell decided to stay in New Zealand at the start of the pandemic and is donating a dollar to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Starship Children’s Hospital for every viewer who watches the satellite launch livestream or the online recording within 24 hours of launch.

This soon-to-be astronaut gnome is actually a 150mm tall model of “Garden Gnome” or “Gnome Chompski,” an item that first appeared in Half-Life 2: Episode Two but achieved meme status following the speedruns and travelogues (like this charmingly detailed one written by former games journalist Tom Francis) that popped up around it. The gnome was likely a reference to an older prank involving photographing stolen garden gnomes “traveling” around the world, which gained further popularity when it was seemingly referenced in Amélie and when it served as the basis for Travelocity’s “Where is my gnome” viral ad campaign.

Chompski’s gone on to appear in Valve’s own Left 4 Dead 2, DLC for Dying Light and more recently Half-Life: Alyx, but this upcoming real-life rocket launch is a fitting homage to the “Little Rocket Man’’ achievement associated with the gnome from Episode Two. The achievement can only be unlocked if a player carries the gnome from the opening chapter of the game and places it in a rocket ship near the end — a task that’s difficult because the player has to set the gnome down to complete Half-Life’s environmental puzzles and combat scenarios.

The gnome inside Rocket Lab’s rocket
Image: Valve

This launch-ready version of the gnome is co-designed by special effects and prop house Weta Workshop and made from titanium. Rocket Lab hopes to use it “to test and qualify a novel 3D printing technique that could be employed for future spacecraft components”.

The gnome will be attached to the inside of Rocket Lab’s Kick Stage, the final stage of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket that allows more accurate placement of satellites in orbit. Once all of the rocket’s payload is dropped, the Kick Stage is able to reignite its engine to initiate deorbit. This mission is not quite the sequel fans might have imagined for Chompski after setting him down in Episode Two, though; the gnome will burn up alongside Kick Stage as both reenter the Earth’s atmosphere. Rocket Lab explains Kick Stage in the video below:

Gnome Chompski will be accompanied by 29 other satellites at Rocket Lab’s November 16th launch from the southern tip of the Mahia Peninsula. The small satellites loaded on the Kick Stage of the company’s Electron rocket span a wide range of uses from satellites focused on communications and maritime surveillance to New Zealand’s first student-developed satellite, the Waka Āmiorangi Aotearoa APSS-1.

While sending a gnome to space comes off about as silly as the SpaceX launch of a Tesla Roadster, Newell’s addition of a charity element — even though he could just donate a sum of money rather than requiring people to watch — at least makes the stunt more meaningful than pure marketing. Interested fans should follow Rocket Lab’s socials for updates on specific launch timing heading into the 14-day launch window that starts on November 16th NZT (6AM ET/3AM PT on the 15th). The launch itself will be livestreamed on Rocket Lab’s site.





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Valve’s latest Steam festival lets you try hundreds of PC games for free


To help shine the spotlight on independent game developers, Valve’s Steam Game Festival is back with an autumn edition.

Now through October 13th at 1PM ET / 10AM PT, PC gamers will have the opportunity to access a slew of indie games coming out within the next six months, free of charge. Some notable titles included in the fall game festival are Alpaca Ball: Allstars, Cake Bash, Ghostrunner, Garden Story, and Smash Ball.

Valve held a Spring Game Festival earlier this year to fill the void left following the cancellation of the Game Developers Conference. It was a chance for indie developers who lost the opportunity to demo their titles to get a feature on Valve’s digital storefront.

In addition to hundreds of indie game demos, the Steam Game Festival: Autumn Edition also includes a week’s worth of live streams from content creators and developers, such as interviews and special gameplay and commentary throughout the duration of the event.



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