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Are video game publishers taking gamers for a ride?

Modern video games have brought many developments, some have been a boon for gamers, and others a bitter pill. Now, a French consumer group has called for an official investigation into buggy and restrictive games.

Following a public consultation, the French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir has sounded the alarm for the unacceptable business practices of video game publishers.

So, what’s the problem? The modern fashion of releasing buggy, often unplayable, games that rely on post-release software updates; the requirement for internet-access for some single-player games; and unfair copyright protection.

These developments all stem from three things. Internet-access, allowing publishers to rely on sending out patches to fix games originally full of bugs. A perceived threat of piracy and, finally, a thriving second-hand video game market, which have both seen the introduction of restrictive digital rights management.

Buggy and broken video games

Buggy video games are incredibly frustrating. I’m happy to put up with a few missing objects or even difficult aiming, such as in the recently released and patched Uncharted 3. But if there’s a bug stopping me from progressing in a product that I’ve just spent £30 or so on, well I’m not going to be happy.

UFC-Que Choisir references the huge performance issues of Batman Arkham City, where the game was ultimately broken on many PCs. The developers admitted to the problem and a patch was soon put out to fix it. But what if there was no such thing as the internet?

Did we all just languish with broken games before software updates, or did publishers allow developers to spend more time testing their games, rather than forcing them to meet strict release dates?

Requiring internet-access

The second problem relates to the obligation for players to have an internet connection. No, not to play the game’s online multiplayer, but for the single-player portion.

Thankfully, not many games have taken such frustrating action to make sure a game’s legitimate owner is playing a game (and not a pirated copy). Assassin’s Creed 2 required PC gamers to be logged into the publisher’s servers, booting you out of the game if you lost connection. Thankfully, Ubisoft has removed this restriction for series sequels.

Nonetheless, UFC-Que Choisir points out that if internet is a prerequisite, then publishers need to invest accordingly in their online services and ensure there are no connection failures.

Tackling the second-hand games market

Thirdly, restrictive digital rights management (DRM) is listed as a complaint, which aims to kill piracy and the second-hand video games market. Many games include an activation key which you’ll have to enter to play the game, or at least to unlock some much-wanted feature.

This means the code will be invalid if you were to buy the game second-hand, leaving you to buy a new code from the publisher (at often inflated prices). Recent games include Uncharted 3, which requires an activation key to access the game’s multiplayer, and our old friend Batman Arkham City, where the key let’s you play as Catwoman.

I won’t go into the pros and cons of the second-hand video games market, but do publishers really need to inconvenience gamers? And more importantly, as pointed out by UFC-Que Choisir, the requirement for activation keys is rarely clearly indicated on the box.

UFC-Que Choisir has filed complaints against video game publishers and French distributors, and has further asked the DGCCRF (in charge of consumer protection in France) to determine the extent of these problems. Would you like to see the same done in the UK as well?

Comments
Guest

I bought the much hyped Dead Space 2 which although it loaded on my 2 yr old pc would not allow me access to the tutorials and some of the controls.

I contacted Electronic Arts with all the info about my system and they advised me to load Windows Vista Service Pack 2…….I told them my system had automatically loaded that many months previously……..I never heard from them again.

Another game Operation Flashpoint – Dragon Rising by Codemasters loaded and played once then subsequently decided it couldn’t read the disk. When I went to their website I found dozens of complaints about the same problem. Once again e-mail contact with the company went unanswered.

Guest

Buggy games appear to be more and more common. Just look at Skyrim… winning multiple Game of Year awards, but it was probably the buggiest game of the year on consoles. It seems we’re happy for this to happen…

Guest
Alexander Hanff says:
3 January 2012

I am surprised there haven’t been more comments on this one. I was looking at Skyrim over Christmas and the quality of the release is the worst I have ever come across, the bugs are so bad that many people can’t even complete the main storyline, the quest engine they have used is terrible and their QA/Testing Team is very small for a non-linear/open world type game.

EU Consumer Protection Directives (transposed into various national laws) should protect consumers from this type of behaviour but I have yet to see any type of action against these companies as many people believe that the EULA removes their statutory rights. It is about time regulators started to deal with these issues, software companies should not be exempt from consumer protection laws and a EULA should not be a license to rip off consumers with products not fit for purpose.

Guest

I’m certainly with you on this Alex, it just seems like people are resigned to this fate with video games. People appear to be happy to wait for a patch, but if you’re not a hardcore gamer who knows about these things – aren’t you going to feel short changed when a product you spent £40 doesn’t work?

Guest
Chris says:
30 January 2012

Personally I stumbled on this site while looking for my consumer rights because of bethseda’s skyrim not only becouse they released a unfinished glitch-afied quest unfinishable both main story & side quests bugged game, but also for not offering patches or fixes for us offline gamers that paid for a defective game for legal action. Plus that skyrim isn’t produced for those of us that don’t have hd tv’s. We as consumers have rights. I’ve found laws & acts that may help but still looking to build a solid case. So my comment is basically we do have the right to have bethseda make it right. I’m trying to do this for all gamers not just me.

Guest
Gyro666 says:
5 April 2012

Are video game publishers taking gamers for a ride?…….YES
And the bug fixes are becoming larger than the released v 1
Premium $$ should = premium quality, not 1/2 cooked barely functioning beta crap…whatever happened to pre release testing and pride in workmanship???

Guest
jon says:
29 June 2012

Why is there not an Obudsman for the game software industry.
One of the biggest financial industries in existance and no structured complaint authoruties?
If I bought a car and it did not work, I can find a place to complain.
If I buy a game and it does not work I am to accept it?

Does anyone know of an official game software complaint site?

Guest
Lawrence says:
17 October 2012

I stumbled across this site while trying to find information which might allow me to return my game. I brought fifa 13 recently. The game is in an appalling state with an increasing number of issues the more you play. System crashes are the worst and the game is virtually unplayable. This is on a games console so I know my hardware is up to specification. Daily I have been checking the official EA fifa 13 forum and there are thousands of people complainig that they cannot play at all or that they are having to to and work around major issues.

This game like many others has clearly been release without sufficent testing. I cannot return this to the retailler as the game disc isn’t faulty, and EA’s customer service is even less responsive than their appalling game. This game was released over 20 days ago and yet no suitable fixes have arrived. I really feel that I have been cheated out of my money.

It is crazy that products in this state do not get covered under the ‘fit for purpose’ section of our consumer rights. I’ve paid money to have what is effectively a dvd shelf ornament until such a time that a suitable software fix arrives. But even if one never does we are left unprotected against these faulty software items?

I’ve often endured game bugs and issues and reading these articles I realise how many shoddy releases I have actually put up with over the years. Usually if it is at least playable I put up with it until the patches arrive. Why do we do this? I think its time to stop accepting such sub standard products and our consumer rights need to change to offer us some protection against these firms that know once we’ve opened it we are stuck with it!

Guest

Hi Lawrence, your story sounds frustrating and unfortunately, this is an area of consumer rights where the waters are very murky. The good news is, the issue of digital software has definitely been noticed and this will be reviewed in the 2013 Consumer Rights Bill.

In the meantime, we suggest that you try and take your game back to the retailer you bought it from. Tell them that the game is not fit for purpose, or that it was not created with reasonable care and skill. You should mention that it’s your right as a consumer to bring the product back. Hopefully, they will be able to give you a refund.

Guest

What can people do if they play a free game but spend money on extras like game items, and their accounts are then banned for no good reason?

Guest

Hello, help?

game companies in USA and Canada.