EU considers mandatory 2-year warranty on games

By Justin Mann on May 19, 2009, 3:14 PM
The European Commission is considering a proposal that would implement new guarantees on game software. Essentially, they are looking at taking existing laws governing products in the EU and expanding them to cover games as well. What it would offer gamers is a two-year return window for games that failed to deliver, with retailers obliged to provide a full refund on any bug-ridden game. Unsurprisingly, this has developers concerned, with claims that forcing them to produce “near-perfect” code would stifle innovation and set the market back, as opposed to making it better.

The issue has arisen from the increase in games that have serious flaws that make them unplayable or simply not fun. Most game developers are aware of this and do craft post-release patches, which all gamers are accustomed to installing. This new proposal would see more emphasis on eradicating bugs before release.

As much as I am a staunch supporter of consumer rights, there’s a glaring issue here that the EU may be ignoring. While certainly not true for all games, many don't get more than two years of play. Aside from a handful of “classics,” most gamers probably have an ample stash of titles going back years that they rarely or never play anymore. If they can get a full refund directly from the retailer, what's to stop them from abusing the two-year guarantee by returning the game with a complaint about a bug or glitch that doesn't actually exist? Maybe that's a cynical view, but nevertheless one to be considered.

Sadly, the EU's proposal is also being used by some in the gaming industry to further the idea that gamers don't own their games. A spokesperson for the BSA pointed out that games, like all digital content, are licensed – not sold – and shouldn't carry the same sort of warranty that hardware can. That's the unfortunate stance many game developers take, which is probably why the EU is considering this decision in the first place.

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