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.




User Comments: 21

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onearmedscissor said:
This is funny, because I was just reading another article about how MS and the Linux Foundation are not pleased with the wording of a potential software warranty in the US, and I don't think it's really any good, either.But this is becoming a necessity. I've been waiting over a year for a Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance patch that is nothing but incorporating fixes that people who don't even work for the company had to come up with. The original was fine, but the expansion runs horribly because of things like memory leaks, and they never fixed it. I didn't think twice about buying it, because why should it be any worse than what I had already established was working fine?Unfortunately, things like that are becoming fairly common place, and it erodes consumer trust to the point where I'm hesitant to buy games anymore.
TBolt said:
This is actually a breath of fresh air and IMHO a very necessary direction as it essentially puts some responsibility and accountability back on developers. It seems like it's been an acceptable trend to release an unfinished product *cough GoW PC, FFoW, WinMe cough* (and many many more) and expect the end users to 'beta test' to identify what patches/fixes are needed all in an effort to turn a quicker buck. Throw on top of that slow patch release or hot fixes and you have an unacceptable situation: as a consumer paying top dollar for a product that does not fully work as intended and/or advertised. Very few consumer products are accepted if they don't do what is advertised or expected, why should software be any different. And the whole licensing bit with the excuse that you don't actually own the software you bought...pff...what a cop out and lazy, no-accountability point of view. If I lease or rent a car, the damn thing better run or I return it for one that does (or get my money back).If I'm interpreting Justin correctly, he has issue with the whole 2 year guarantee being too long...I couldn't agree more. That time frame just opens the door for customer abuse not to mention giving devs too long of a window to make their product 'right'. So the question is, what is a reasonable timeframe to expect released software to be working near 100%? I'd say you can't blanket all digital media with the same timeline...games need to be shorter (like 6 months to a year max) and productivity software no more than 18 months. Too strict? Not strict enough?
TomSEA said:
I agree that some consumer protection is needed. I don't agree about the "if a game is bad" part though. There has to be some onus on the customer to do their research to see if a game is bad or not. There are certainly enough game review sites and magazines to determine whether a game is worth your pesos or not. Just like buying a bad movie - you can't take back Britney Spears latest dance DVD because you found it in the bargain bin and it turns out to be a dog.Also agree that the 2-year part is totally unreasonable. Most items have 90 day warranties.Will be interesting to see how this pans out...
tekkaraiden said:
Wow the EU have been on a bit of a rampage lately.
Relic said:
I'd have to agree like all of you that a two-year period is simply too long and can be abused. But nevertheless something like this would be nice and help consumers. And as pointed out it forces developers to come back to reality that the product they sell is something that WE the consumers own and not rent at full price nonsense.
darkshadoe said:
"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"WOW...expecting something to work correctly right out of the box..now there is a idea!How many of you would buy a brand new car with the windshield, 3 tires, and the steering wheel missing or not working properly and pay full price...You wouldn't. So why do software companies expect us to pay full price for buggy software? I'm all for this. I'd rather wait 2 or 3 yrs on something that works correctly and as intended. Software companies can make all these goofy licensing rules on how you are allowed to use their product and charge outrageous prices for it, then they should be held accountable for that software to be coded correctly going out the door. Its about time someone starts looking out for the consumer.
Darth Shiv said:
Interesting idea... maybe 2 years from release? But darkshadoe has a point. The quality in some games is abhorrent. They rush to market with a piece of crap and now are whining when standards are expected? Consumers have protection in many other markets. It is only logical that we should have protection in software purchases too. The question is how much or little?
Steve73 said:
The main thing that I don't like about this whole thing is the EU Commission telling the private sector (assumption of a private sector in Europe?) what to do with their business. Government intervention in the economy never ends well. Would I like to have a two year warranty on a game? No, because I don't keep games that long. There are far too many games out there to dedicate my time to one game for a year. However, if there are enough people that demand this, I bet the companies would comply without the intervention of government in the economy. Does anyone believe in a Free Market system anymore?
Relic said:
[b]Originally posted by Steve73:[/b][quote]The main thing that I don't like about this whole thing is the EU Commission telling the private sector (assumption of a private sector in Europe?) what to do with their business. Government intervention in the economy never ends well. Would I like to have a two year warranty on a game? No, because I don't keep games that long. There are far too many games out there to dedicate my time to one game for a year. However, if there are enough people that demand this, I bet the companies would comply without the intervention of government in the economy. Does anyone believe in a Free Market system anymore?[/quote]Look at it from a different perspective, they are laying out rules that if you want to sell this software you must follow these rules so the consumer is protected. They are not forcing them to sell to the EU countries. Of course the EU is a huge market and they are greedy companies so I would imagine most would adapt to this and make it a standard if implemented. And no, companies would not comply. Some maybe, most probably not, there are already laws in place that companies do not follow and straight up mislead consumers. I am all for free markets, but there are SO many companies abusing it its time to say no more (especially now). They will eventually get the message and good companies will survive and bad ones will bite the dust.
howzz1854 said:
Finally somebody is doing something about it. This has gotten worse and worse every year. I remember when games first appear on consumer PC market, they simply worked, didnt matter if they rocked or sucked, 99% of them all worked. Now the publishers and developers have gotten so outta wack that they started abusing the patching process. Patch originally was suppose to be the las resort, the dirty laundry of all business. Now they rely on patching to complete the game while they expect the consumer to advance them the financing by paying for barely playable half completed games. This is what has become, we're paying and gambling our money on half finished games. And they wonder why people stopped paying for games. If all games were to be mandated to have demos for the consumer, half of the games probably wont even sell. I dont care how longn of statue of limitation it needs to be, but it's time somebody does something about it.
darkshadoe said:
"However, if there are enough people that demand this, I bet the companies would comply without the intervention of government in the economy. Does anyone believe in a Free Market system anymore?"The "free market" means that you as a customer are "free" to get screwed over by a company. In a perfect world, companies would sell products at a fair and competitive price and people would consume much more creating a demand for more products. We all know this isn't a perfect world. Nearly anyone that owns a business will do what they can to screw their customers out of every penny they can. Without some type of watchdog, these game companies would charge you an arm and a leg for a poorly coded game of Minesweeper. Its all about greed and making the fastest buck they can with the least amount of work.
xenor said:
This has no point. If the do this to games than they should do the same on the OS. Microsoft lied us with Vista (one of the most retarded OS on the planet). I think this is more suitable for the OS not for games. WHY WARRANTY???!?! I am not forcing you to buy my game.
Badfinger said:
M$ fighting a warranty? That's a major shocker!! haha/sarcasm/Probably at least 50% of the games I have bought I didn't play much due to many reasons.When it's because the game is poo... this is a good idea.So many games are ruined by poor controls for instance or interface, how the hell is that still happening?
TorturedChaos said:
[b]Originally posted by howzz1854:[/b][quote]Finally somebody is doing something about it. This has gotten worse and worse every year. I remember when games first appear on consumer PC market, they simply worked, didnt matter if they rocked or sucked, 99% of them all worked. Now the publishers and developers have gotten so outta wack that they started abusing the patching process. Patch originally was suppose to be the las resort, the dirty laundry of all business. Now they rely on patching to complete the game while they expect the consumer to advance them the financing by paying for barely playable half completed games. This is what has become, we're paying and gambling our money on half finished games. And they wonder why people stopped paying for games. If all games were to be mandated to have demos for the consumer, half of the games probably wont even sell. I dont care how longn of statue of limitation it needs to be, but it's time somebody does something about it. [/quote]I agree, developers have gotten lazy. Releasing half finished attempts at games, then releasing 20 patches for it. That is one of the reasons I have been more found of console games. Hard to patch a ps2 game :P. You get 1 try to get it right.
Badfinger said:
Some releases can't be saved without redoing the whole thing, developers with no clue on gameplay, how can that be, still...Example:If they release another awful poker game......Don't ever buy a card game without looking at a review, EVER.
Steve73 said:
"Look at it from a different perspective, they are laying out rules that if you want to sell this software you must follow these rules so the consumer is protected. They are not forcing them to sell to the EU countries. Of course the EU is a huge market and they are greedy companies so I would imagine most would adapt to this and make it a standard if implemented." Why do you need rules/laws to begin with if people are not forced to buy their product? If you don't like the way they do business, take your money to a company that does. If, trying to make a dollar is being greedy, than we are all guilty. "And no, companies would not comply. Some maybe, most probably not, there are already laws in place that companies do not follow and straight up mislead consumers. I am all for free markets, but there are SO many companies abusing it its time to say no more (especially now). They will eventually get the message and good companies will survive and bad ones will bite the dust." You contradict yourself from the start of your argument by admitting some companies will comply and some will not. Sue or bring a class-action lawsuit against the company, if you feel that you have been wronged or lied to. One way for them to get the message is to spend your money elsewhere. The best place to hit a capitalist is in the pocket book. If they don’t listen to their customers than they will not likely stay in business. [Edited by Steve73 on 2009-05-20 21:41:17]
Steve73 said:
"The "free market" means that you as a customer are "free" to get screwed over by a company. In a perfect world, companies would sell products at a fair and competitive price and people would consume much more creating a demand for more products. We all know this isn't a perfect world. Nearly anyone that owns a business will do what they can to screw their customers out of every penny they can. Without some type of watchdog, these game companies would charge you an arm and a leg for a poorly coded game of Minesweeper. Its all about greed and making the fastest buck they can with the least amount of work."[/quote] No, a free market means your able to choose which company to meet your needs. Will you occasionally get screwed, sure, as you would in a controlled market. However, at least in a free market, you can choose to take your business elsewhere. Like you said, there is not perfect world. But having the ability to choose a company is far more valuable to me than not having a choice at all or one made by your government. I prefer freedom rather than control.
darkshadoe said:
[b]Originally posted by Steve73:[/b][quote]"The "free market" means that you as a customer are "free" to get screwed over by a company. In a perfect world, companies would sell products at a fair and competitive price and people would consume much more creating a demand for more products. We all know this isn't a perfect world. Nearly anyone that owns a business will do what they can to screw their customers out of every penny they can. Without some type of watchdog, these game companies would charge you an arm and a leg for a poorly coded game of Minesweeper. Its all about greed and making the fastest buck they can with the least amount of work."[/quote] No, a free market means your able to choose which company to meet your needs. Will you occasionally get screwed, sure, as you would in a controlled market. However, at least in a free market, you can choose to take your business elsewhere. Like you said, there is not perfect world. But having the ability to choose a company is far more valuable to me than not having a choice at all or one made by your government. I prefer freedom rather than control. [/quote]Yep you can take your business to which company will screw you less but in the end..your still screwed.
Badfinger said:
In summary:Games without a free downloadable trial or demo, buyer beware...Has nothing to do with being forced, it's about seeing the product before purchase....Imagine NOT being able to test drive a car before buying...
xenor said:
[quote]I agree, developers have gotten lazy. Releasing half finished attempts at games, then releasing 20 patches for it. That is one of the reasons I have been more found of console games. Hard to patch a ps2 game :P. You get 1 try to get it right.[/quote]LAZY!?!?! You don't know what are you talking about. For one computer game is needed 3-4 years to develop and you are saying that they lazy. Although 60% of PC games developers are console game developers too. You can't say lazy because making a game is very hard and complex "problem".
otester said:
[b]Originally posted by xenor:[/b][quote][quote]I agree, developers have gotten lazy. Releasing half finished attempts at games, then releasing 20 patches for it. That is one of the reasons I have been more found of console games. Hard to patch a ps2 game :P. You get 1 try to get it right.[/quote]LAZY!?!?! You don't know what are you talking about. For one computer game is needed 3-4 years to develop and you are saying that they lazy. Although 60% of PC games developers are console game developers too. You can't say lazy because making a game is very hard and complex "problem".[/quote]After personally being involved in modding I will say that releasing a buggy game is completely unacceptable, making 'the crowd' wait a bit longer for a stable release is far better.Regarding the 2yr warranty, if people will never take back classics, why isn't the gaming industry aiming to this high standard?.........profit? precisely...games like Deus Ex will never see the light of day again, they simply don't produce the profits that the typical crappy shoot-em-up does.
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