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News video games 07 June 2024, 04:43

author: Jacob Blazewicz

Campaign Against Killing Games Continues. We Asked Its Organizer About Future and Lawyers' Opinions About The Crew

The fight against killing games isn't going out. The organizer of the Stop Killing Games initiative answered our questions about the follow-up and the arguments undermining the sense of the action.

Source: The Crew / Ubisoft.

The campaign against "killing" games gained considerable publicity since April. Ross Scott, the organizer of the Stop Killing Games initiative, responded to a few questions from our editorial team regarding the current and planned activities within this action.

Let's recall: the storm started after Ubisoft announced the end of support for The Crew. The mere shutdown of the servers irritated the players, but the publisher also revoked the buyers' game license.

British response to the review process?

Youtuber Ross Scott addressed, among other things, the petition that was submitted to the British Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in mid-April. A government response has already appeared, and the petition itself was closed on May 30th.

However, firstly, its closure is temporary. Elections to the Parliament are currently taking place in the United Kingdom, leading to a several-week hiatus in its operation. Later, the organizers want to submit this petition again.

Secondly, the UK's Petitions Committee found the government's response from May 2nd to be inadequate. The issues raised in the document weren't addressed.

Thirdly, Ross Scott indicates that even this "insufficient" government communication includes a significant statement:

The regulations prohibit commercial practices which omit or hide information which the average consumer needs to make an informed choice.

Therefore, Scott claims that it is likely a violation of the UK's 2008 Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. He also suggests that if publishers were required to somehow provide an "expiry date," they would be more willing to have a "end-of-life plan" for their games than to pay a fine for not disclosing information.

While the petition is now closed, the Petitions Committee said that the original answer was inadequate since it didn't really address the issue and were going to ask government for a revised response.

That said, we did not end up getting a revised response since there was a new election of Parliament, so all petitions have since been closed. However, I believe this means we may re-submit our petition after elections to get a more comprehensive answer. That said, it does seem unlikely that there will be legal provisions against game destruction directly, but even the original response of the petition said the following: "The regulations prohibit commercial practices which omit or hide information which the average consumer needs to make an informed choice."

With that in mind, I would estimate 99% of online-only games published do not tell the buyer when the game will be shut down at the time or purchase. In the case of The Crew, they only say it can be shut down at any time. Clearly a customer needs to know how long the game will work in order to make an informed purchase decision. Thus, this very likely is a violation of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. If publishers are forced to put an expiration date on non-perpetual games, they may decide it's more economical to have an end of life plan rather than risk fines for not disclosing this information.

Thus, our next steps in the UK will be to report these violations to the right authorities (probably the Competition & Markets Authority).

Legal discussions

Scott also commented on the opinion of a German lawyer who, in an interview for Gamestar, stated that Ubisoft (and other publishers) have the right to remove the game from purchasers' accounts. The main argument was to consider games-as-a-service as any other subscription, rather than a product. The buyer doesn't buy the game, but the right to access it, just like - for instance - the right to enter the gym after purchasing a gym membership card.

Another lawyer from Germany responded to these arguments, but Scott himself also pointed out mistakes in the reasoning of the first attorney.

The YouTuber indicates the need to differentiate between games like The Crew and subscription-based titles such as World of Warcraft. This is because the latter specifies at the time of purchase exactly how long the user gains access to the game.

The same applies to comparisons with "services" like a gym. According to Scott, there is no other industry where a user wouldn't know at the time of purchase how long they will be able to use the paid service. "That would be like buying a gym membership where you're not told if it will expire in a week or in 20 years," claims the American.

On commentary from the attorney from the Gamestar article:

First off, this is just the opinion of one lawyer, this hardly makes it settled law. Another German lawyer on the Youtube channel WBS Legal (one of the biggest in Germany) said the opposite and that Ubisoft could likely be sued over their actions:

I found the first lawyer's opinion inadequate for a few reasons.

First, it is not clear if games like The Crew are considered to be goods or services, as they're sold as a one-time purchase with no expiration date. It would be much easier to argue a game like World of Warcraft is a service, as customers are informed exactly for how long their access to the game lasts (like 30 days). That is not how games like The Crew are structured financially.

Second, if they are considered services, they are like no other service I am aware of, in that the buyer is given no information on the duration at the time of purchase. The lawyer in these articles compared it to buying a gym membership. That would be like buying a gym membership where you're not told if it will expire in a week or in 20 years.

This lack of clarity would be illegal in most other industries. In my opinion, this is far from being concluded as we still have not heard the rulings of various consumer protection agencies and the EU Commission, but hopefully we'll know more in the near future.

What's next with Stop Killing Games?

Scott hopes that the matter will be clarified over time and in the future it will be dealt with by the governments of given countries. The organizers of the Stop Killing Games initiative also cooperate with members of the European Parliament: Niklas Nienaß from the Green Party and Patrick Breyer from the Pirate Party.

A petition has also been launched in Canada, and plans are to notify the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and take action under the European Citizen's Initiative program as soon as it opens after the European Parliament elections.

The YouTuber also made sure to point out that while it's hard to discuss the impact of his campaign without the final decisions of officials, he is satisfied with how the Stop Killin Games initiative is gradually gaining the attention of regulatory authorities and consumer protection offices.

I think it's still premature to decide how much of an impact my campaign has had, since we haven't heard final decisions on this matter from any government as of yet, but I am very pleased with how it seems to be slowly getting the attention of various lawmaking bodies and consumer protection agencies.

What will come of this - time will tell.

Jacob Blazewicz

Jacob Blazewicz

Graduated with a master's degree in Polish Studies from the University of Warsaw with a thesis dedicated to this very subject. Started his adventure with in 2015, writing in the Newsroom and later also in the film and technology sections (also contributed to the Encyclopedia). Interested in video games (and not only video games) for years. He began with platform games and, to this day, remains a big fan of them (including Metroidvania). Also shows interest in card games (including paper), fighting games, soulslikes, and basically everything about games as such. Marvels at pixelated characters from games dating back to the time of the Game Boy (if not older).