European Union Wants a Two-Year Guarantee on Game Software

Consumers would be guaranteed that their games would work for two years under a proposal being considered by the European Union Commission.

The BBC reports that Commissioners Viviane Reding and Meglena Kuneva want to expand current consumer protection regulations to include licensed software. Such a move would encompass games as well as virtually every other type of software. Of the proposal, an EU spokeswoman said:

The current status quo, where licensed products are exempt from EU law, is unsatisfactory… On the one hand there is the risk of abuse [by consumers], but on the other it’s not a good enough reason to say basic consumer protection should not apply.

While anyone who has struggled to get a PC game to run will appreciate the intent of the proposal, the video game industry has not reacted with enthusiasm. Is anyone surprised? Dr. Richard Wilson, who heads game developers’ lobbying group Tiga, told the BBC that the new regulations could stifle innovation:

Consumers need good quality products – that is only reasonable – but if the legislation is too heavy-handed it could make publishers and developers very cautious… Games takes years to develop and software teams often have to predict what new technology will be in place when the game is actually finished.

If there is an onus on developers to have software that is ‘near perfect’ then it could stifle new ideas as people could end up just playing it safe.

Meanwhile, Francisco Mingorance of the Business Software Alliance had the best line of the day (even if he is spinning the issue of behalf of Microsoft, Apple and other big corporations):

Digital content is not a tangible good and should not be subject to the same liability rules as toasters.

GP: We still have fond memories of those flying toasters from the After Dark screen saver.

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  1. squigs says:

    Software should not need to be repaired.  It should work correctly in the first place.

    No, this probably isn;t going to cover trivial little annoyances like being able to save at a guarenteed failure point.  But even if it does, how many people are going to have this problem?  Dozens?  Hundreds?  A developer thaat sells thousands of copies can afford to refund the handful of people who have problems. 

  2. gatornation1254 says:


    I will have to say that I agree with Wilson.  If games do need to be perfect than all that will be made is the same old stuff over and over.  No company wants to take so much time to make a game that we lose all interest in the game.

  3. Tony says:

    They can already do this.  Games are covered by the same laws as other retail items.

    The stores are smarter than this of course.. games don’t ‘break’ (unless they’re using SecureROM) and it’s easy to find out if a CD is readable on a return.


  4. Wolvenmoon says:

    Maybe this could be used to ding DRM and crappy discs. For console games, yeah, this is fine. If they can’t even get it to work on standardized, slow, old hardware the devs need to be sued.

    For PC, not so much. The number of PC builds is at least in the billions now, aside from physical defects and defective by design features, you can’t really hold them liable.

    I will not buy securom games. and

  5. CyberSkull says:

    I’d really like to see this, especially for console games. I don’t care about trivial glitches, but when I pay $60+ for software, I’d like some minimum guarantees about it’s performance on required hardware. 

  6. Alyric says:

    Two years? I have a few computer games from fifteen years ago that I still play. Granted, it’s becoming more of a hassle to get some of them working on modern systems, but it can be done. And this was before the time of post-release patches.

    As opposed to most new games I’ve bought in the last few years that are damn near broken out of the box.

  7. Felgard says:

    i have to say that this could be a good thing since now developers might be getting more time before they start being pressured to release. 

    Also this might enforce companies to give support for their software up to two years. Then we might get rid of the fighter pilot companies. (fire and forget)

    Of course anyone expecting a software to be 100% foolproof at launch is an idiot but give us some leverage when we demand a patch so that we don’t need to grovel at the developers feet and treat them as gods just because they find time to make one

    Antisthenes – Observe your enemies, for they first find out your faults.


  8. Adrian Lopez says:

    Even if the claim that games are licensed and not sold had merit, I don’t recall ever agreeing to an EULA before playing a console game — only PC games. Game retailers these days carry more console games than PC games, so where does that leave the claim that games, in general, should be treated as licensed products?

  9. DeusPayne says:

    Software is not a physical product. If it is defective, it can be fixed with a patch that is freely available online. I’ve played plenty of games that were not up to par at launch, but after the first patch, became a standard of my gaming experience.

    And what defines game breaking? Especially after 2 year period. Has anyone played a game that hasn’t had a game breaking bug somewhere? Almost any game with a manual save system allows you to save after you’ve gotten to a point of guarenteed failure. Or how about in 3d games, where it’s usually possible to find a way to get ‘out’ of the map. These are both examples of ‘game breaking’ that is not the fault of the developer, nor can they ‘prepare’ for that. You allow gamers freedom, and SOMEONE will find a way to break it. A detail like this would be devastating to the confidence any publisher would have in it’s development studios. Why would they be willing to risk the investment when an simple bug, could result in their entire investment being lost? It’s already hard enough for novel and innovative ideas to find publishers, an added obstacle is only going to make it worse.

  10. E. Zachary Knight says:

    Not really. They are implying that because you agree to the EULA, if you have any problems with the game, you have to follow the terms of the EULA. You cannot bypass that and just get a refund.

    Its stupid, I know. Unfortunately that is the state of things.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  11. Michael Chandra says:

    The line just before "Digital content is not a tangible good and should not be subject to the same liability rules as toasters." was much more interesting. The defense used was that you don’t buy games but license them. That’s right, because you technically don’t OWN the game, you’re not allowed to demand any quality and fairness.

  12. Asahi says:

    There should be *at least*a *TWENTY* year guarantee on digital downloads, if not longer.

    And it should be enforced with strict, ludicriously heavy fines, to ensure consumer protection.

  13. Conster says:

    Doesn’t every EULA have a "if we want to, we can take the right to play the game away from you" clause?

  14. shady8x says:

    Here is a good clue. If the customer took the time to walk or drive all the way to a store and stand in a line to purchase a game instead of downloading a torrent… then it didn’t work on their computer…

    I once bought a game from best buy and when I got home the package was missing a game disk and since I bought it right before closing time, I had to go back the next day, which I did.

    The store employees gave me the same bullshit, "how do I know you didn’t just steal the game disk?", this is why I never buy anything in best buy anymore…

    I think this law will help stores cause it will keep them from driving away customers forever…

  15. Alyric says:

    One of the many problems I can see with this is that there’s no way for a retailer to verify whether the software actually worked on the consumer’s computer, or whether they’re just trying to get their money back after finishing the game.

  16. Stealthguy says:

    How so, if they are in fact idiots then they’ll just be smacked down after trying to get teh free monies. Every thing in this world is open to interpretation and manipulation, should that possibility stop us from demanding our moneys worth?

  17. SeanB says:

    Have you ever worked in a retail game store, or the electronics department of a big box store?

    if a law like this is passed, every idiot consumer who cant understand the difference between megs of ram and hard drive space, is going to be shouting about this law, and retailers are going to be the ones who suffer.

  18. vellocet says:

    That is code that is dependent on libraries and platform. In fact, the line of code you just wrote would only work with python, lua and ruby.  Those are all dependent on interpreters which CAN and in many ways can be considered broken.  For a compiled language, (that would be standalone) you’d have to use a compiler (which might have it’s own problems. Other things could cause a simple "Hello World!" program to crash would include memory addressing (how do you know it’s the app and not corrupted hardware?) and god knows what else.

    Point is, there are so many parts to even the simplest program that could break it.  The reason why bugs are called that is because originally a lot were caused by moths that got themselves stuck in a computer.

    This law obviously was not drafted by anyone who knows anything about development.  It reminds me of that time when Indiana tried to change the mathematical value of pi to exactly 3.  Please… learn about something before you try to legislate it.

  19. SeanB says:

    You compiled it for win32, and forgot to mark "PC" in at least 14 places on the product display box. I own a mac, and bought it not noticing it was for PC’s only.

    Now i sue you for being in violation of this horribly worded and easy to misinterpret law.

  20. Wormdundee says:

     Hmm no, there does need to be some sort of guarantee on games. From what I understand, right now a company could produce and sell a game that is impossible to beat (say some necessary item never appears) and anybody who bought it before this information was known would be screwed.

    I think the main problem with this would be the effective implementation of it. It would be fairly difficult to draw the line on what bugs this guarantee would apply to. Not impossible of course. Still, I’d say it’s a good thing.

  21. Alex says:

    "you show me some software and there IS a way to break it."

    print "Hello, world!"

    Break that!

    (Because I’m bored, nitpicky, and far too literal. )

    I’m not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

  22. NovaBlack says:

    tbh its a FACT that ALL software has bugs. Always. 100% of the time. you show me some software and there IS a way to break it.

    That said, i totally agree there should be some minimum standard.  There IS a line that can be drawn. Some bugs are minor / occur very inrequently, those i can live with. However the line of what is ‘acceptable’ has been for some time (especially over the last 3 years!) been moving further and further in the wrong direction.

    I buy games on every platform that exists, and i have to say that there have been too many times ive bought a game that is 100% broken and unfinished with NO AVENUE WHATSOEVER for me to get my money back. Its 100% entirely wrong. It wouldnt be accepted with a tangible good (e.g. said toaster) so why should it be acceptable here? And im NOT talking about minor bugs, those i can live with (hell completely forgive).

    However, for example games like Kane and Lynch i got completely screwed on (didnt work at all, advertised coop on the box, yet you had to pay for gold LIVE subscription for 2 Players, AND PLAY SPLIT SCREEN…. USING A 360 CONTROLLER ONLY). Nowhere on the box did it sya otherwise. THe game was totally buggy and unfinished.

    The other game i got that screwed me was COD:WAW on pc. To this day i STILL Cannot play coop online with my friends (the only reason i bought the game), and dear god the errors in that are immense (still infinite menu loops asking you to create a username, server connection errors constantly, non-starting videos etc). We tried to play coop over 6 systems and not ONE did it work on. The forums have lots and LOTS of pc users complaining about this, but, 6 months on.. still no fix whatsoever, for a feature advertsied on the fricking box, that had i known wouldnt work, i wouldnt have bought the game. And what could i do for a refund? NOTHING.

    Thats just plain not right.

    There needs to be a CAREFULLY CONSIDERED minimum standard. You CAN classify bugs. (Hell thats what QA is all about.. so dont tell me you cant classify bugs on a sliding scale.. you CAN). And there should be a minimum level acceptable.

  23. Wormdundee says:

     I suppose it might override caveat emptor if this happened. But I’m no law expert.

  24. Mr. Manguy says:

    Question:  Would this help consumers who buy games that their machines can’t handle be able to get their money back?

  25. Alevan says:

    While not much to say on the topic at hand…

    … I DO remember those flying toasters and loved them to death. They were the school computer’s screen saver. We’d turn it on JUST to see the flying toasters screen saver during 4th and 5th grade.

    Amy Levandoski

  26. SeanB says:

    I have to agree wholeheartedly with this last line

    "Digital content is not a tangible good and should not be subject to the same liability rules as toasters"

    I see no way to quantify, qualify, or enforce this ruling if passed as a law. What qualifies as "software not working"?

  27. SimonBob says:

    Hahaha, After Dark.  I remember fooling with that when I was a kid, thinking it was a legit program and not understanding the whole "screensaver" concept.  In my defense, a fair number of the savers had lengthy progressions of action that merited observation, and a few were full-on games.

    I forget what I came here to say now… oh, right.

    Forget being an apologist to the corporations — if this goes through, won’t it stop Gamestop and the like from offering their ridiculous extended warranties?  (Now I’ll probably get replies from people who have bought said warranties and used them to great effect, but I don’t care.  I save five bucks per game and I’ve never had one break on me.)

    The Mammon Philosophy

  28. DarkSaber says:

    They are right that it’s gonna be hard to enforce. But really, the counter-argument is only valid for PCs. Console developers can’t justifiably use the ‘planning for future tech’ excuse.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  29. GoodRobotUs says:

    In an ‘ideal’ world, where all computers are constructed the same, this would be great, but the problem is that, at least in the PC Market, this is not the case, how can you protect against every possible error when you are not only relying on your own code being solid, but also the device driver codes for any graphics/sound/physics hardware that may be attached to a computer.

    I think possibly a time limit would work a bit better, in other words, if a program is shown to be buggy from the programming side, not the interface, then a time limit should be introduced to bring that product up to a playable level, you cannot help things like dodgy drivers etc, but there ought to be some defence for players suffering from sheer bad programming, and players should not have to wait months for a repair purely because the developer has moved onto soething new and no longer has any interest in its last product.

    Also, this should only apply to ‘showstopper’ bugs, not niggling things like ‘Gun X is too powerful!’, that’s purely a point of view, not an error.


    Edit: Oh, and I’d really love it if this stretched to DRM systems that make the game unplayable, or even uninstallable on occasions.

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