Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and even later, people would have to import a game from America or Japan to play it locally. There were regional releases and even regional versions of some games. Sometimes different hardware was needed to play these games also. This day and age is not quite as restrictive with most console developers allow cross-regional play (such as Nintendo Switch) and you would believe that digital games would have also lessened the regional locking mechanisms in place.
However Bandai Namco, Bethesda, Capcom, Deep Silver and Focus have all recently been fined for geo-blocking. This is a mechanism that blocks users from activating a game in a different country to the one they purchased it in. The European Union take a dim view of this and have punished appropriately.
The issue comes down to European competition laws which appear to have been breached by these publishers. The EU Commision has fined all publishers appropriately with Focus Home Interactive receiving a £3 million fine themselves. Publishers received 10% – 15% reductions in their fines for cooperating but Valve did not as it refused to cooperate.
“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”Margrethe Vestager, EU commissioner
Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner also stated how the practices of these publishers are what deprives European consumers from the benefits of the EU Digital Single Market. It also limits their rights to shop around for the most suitable offer in the EU.