UK Game Publishers Get Medieval on File-Sharers

August 20, 2008 -

Yesterday, GamePolitics reported that an unemployed immigrant mother of two was ordered by a British court to pay £16,086 (roughly $30,000) to Topware Interactive for uploading its pinball game to a file-sharing network.

Things are about to get much worse.

Today's Times Online reports that Topware's case against Isabella Barwinska may only have been the tip of the iceberg. According to the Times, a quintet of U.K. publishers are targeting those who share PC games. Calling the action an "unprecedented assault on illegal downloads," the Times names Topware, Atari, Reality Pump, Techland and Codemasters as the firms involved. The report says the companies plan to notify 25,000 U.K. consumers that they must pay £300 to settle file-sharing accusations. Otherwise, they risk a ruinous court judgment of the type lodged against Barwinska.

From the Times:

It is estimated that as many as six million people in Britain share games illegally over the internet. The aggressive action marks a dramatic change in the approach to copyright on the internet. The British music industry, hit hard by illegal file-sharing, has taken action against just 150 people in ten years...

 

The move has provoked strong criticism within the games industry. A source close to the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association said that most publishers would be reluctant to bring legal actions against their “core market” and would be likely to look for other ways to minimise losses due to piracy.

A lawyer for the five publishers commented:

Our clients were incensed by the level of illegal downloading. In the first 14 days since Topware Interactive released Dream Pinball 3D it sold 800 legitimate copies but was illegally downloaded 12,000 times. Hopefully people will think twice if they risk being taken to court.

Via: Edge Online

79 comments

Despite ELSPA Denials, British Govt. Gives Ratings Nod to BBFC

July 31, 2008 -

Some rather curious developments out of the U.K. yesterday... 

Early on, James Kirkup, political correspondent for The Guardian, wrote a story to the effect that the British government would recommend that the BBFC, which rather famously banned Manhunt 2 last year, should rate games for the UK market. Kirkup predicted the official word would come today.

Later yesterday, ELSPA, which represents UK game publishers, called Kirkup's report "speculation" and "scaremongering."

Yet Kirkup has proved prescient. As Edge reports this morning:

A report from the UK House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media, and Sport has revealed that body’s preference in BBFC ratings over the industry self-regulating PEGI system...

 

the committee maintains that BBFC ratings are more “thorough and rigorous" than the PEGI system, and that the BBFC symbols “command greater confidence”... 

Meanwhile, the CMS committee's report itself concludes:

There is a distinct issue about labelling of video games to indicate the nature of their content. Two systems currently exist side by side: the industry awards its own ratings, and the British Board of Film Classification awards classifications to a small number of games which feature content unsuitable for children. The dual system is confusing, and Dr [Tanya] Byron recommended that there should instead be a single hybrid system. We believe that Dr Byron's solution may not command confidence in the games industry and would not provide significantly greater clarity for consumers.

 

While either of the systems operated by the BBFC and by the industry would be workable in principle, we believe that the widespread recognition of the BBFC's classification categories and their statutory backing offer significant advantages which the industry's system lacks. We therefore agree that the BBFC should have responsibility for rating games with content appropriate for adults or teenagers, as proposed by Dr Byron, and that these ratings should appear prominently. Distributors would of course be free to continue to use industry ratings in addition.

Gizmodo terms the CMS recommendation "decisive," adding:

The decision will come as a real blow to the pan-European games rating system, PEGI, backed by games software developer organisation, ELSPA as well as big guns like Microsoft, Nintendo and Ubisoft.
 

 

93 comments

U.K Game Publishers Dispute News Report that Govt. Has Chosen BBFC over PEGI

July 30, 2008 -

As GamePolitics reported this morning, a story in British newspaper The Telegraph claims that the U.K. government has already chosen the BBFC over industry favorite PEGI as the nation's future rating system.

MCVUK is now reporting that ELSPA, which represents U.K. game publishers, has disputed The Telegraph's story. An ELSPA rep told MCV:

The reports in parts of Fleet Street are, we would suggest, purely speculation. It is scaremongering and should be treated as such. The Government is now entering into a consulation period in which in which we are assured all the issues are being considered.

No decision has been made, and ELSPA will be fully engaged in this process in the months ahead.

GP: We can't help but note that ELSPA - not the British government - is denying the story about what the British government plans to do.


 

52 comments

U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

July 30, 2008 -

In the ongoing debate over which content rating scheme to use, British government officials appear to be coming down on the side of the BBFC rather than the PEGI system favored by the video game industry.

As reported by the Telegraph, on Thursday government ministers will issue proposals to tighten rules concerning ratings and expand the role of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) in rating games:

All computer games will have to carry cinema-style age classifications under new Government plans to protect children from scenes of explicit sex and disturbing violence.

 

Online computer games where players interact with strangers via the internet also face new classification rules for the first time.

The official action is being taken in response to recommendations made by Dr. Tanya Byron (left). The TV psychologist undertook a government-funded study in 2007 to examine the effects of video games and the Internet on children.

The Telegraph predicts a "fierce backlash" from UK game publishers:

Many games makers have strongly opposed moves to expand the BBFC's role in classifying games. The [game industry] group will today host a meeting in London of software chief executives to discuss how best to resist the expansion of the BBFC's role in rating games.

 

Games makers are mounting a lobbying campaign to discredit the BBFC, arguing that it lacks the expertise for the task. Games makers argue that parental education about games is more important than new classification rules.

While the industry may think the BBFC too restrictive, at the other end of the spectrum, Conservative Parliamentarian Julian Brazier believes the organization isn't tough enough:

The guidelines are too weak on the part of the BBFC. I don't believe it is an adequate guarantor of standards. Only the [video game] industry can appeal the BBFC's decisions, so in practice, classifications can only be reduced. We should have a system like that in Australia, where any member of the general public can ask for an age classification to be reviewed.

The BBFC is best known in the gaming community for its controversial 2007 decision to ban Manhunt 2. That ruling was later overturned on appeal.

The Telegraph is also running an FAQ on the government plan which mentions the government timetable:

Ministers will on Thursday open a four-month consultation on their proposals, trying to win agreement from the games industry for tighter classification. The final rules will be drawn up after that and are likely to be implemented next year.

 
71 comments

Did ESA Boss Endorse PEGI Over BBFC at E3?

July 24, 2008 -

MCVUK writes that Entertainment Software Association CEO Michael Gallagher (left) endorsed the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) rating system over that of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) during last week's state-of-the-industry speech at E3 in Los Angeles.

From the MCVUK report:

As part of his keynote speech, Gallagher was critical of the Byron Report’s highly controversial backing of the BBFC system – and made it clear that the Entertainment Software Association believes it was the wrong way to go.

MCVUK is referring to this section of the Gallagher speech:

Friends and allies across the globe are facing their own challenges. Our success as a business and entertainment medium has caught the attention and the interest of foreign regulators and governments. Earlier this year we saw the release of the Byron Report, which praised the ESRB's work with retailers to help enforce sales restrictions to minors. We are now seeing a robust debate between the BBFC and PEGI. And while this is a European question requiring a European solution, our American experience proves that industry self-regulation is the best way to provide parents the information they need to make appropriate purchasing decisions.

Frankly, we're not reading Gallagher's remarks as expressing criticism of the Byron Review, although the ESA head's preference for self-regulation is clear. On the other hand, it would be natural for the ESA to back PEGI, as its UK game industry counterparts, including publishers' group ELSPA, have expressed a clear distaste for handing game rating responsibilities over to the BBFC.

We've got a request in to the ESA for clarification on Gallagher's view. In the meantime, you can read the full text of Gallagher's E3 speech here.

15 comments

Game-induced Epilepsy Debated in Parliament

July 3, 2008 -

The House of Commons yesterday debated the merits of requiring game developers to ensure that their software won't cause players to experience epileptic seizures, reports Spong.

The issue was raised by Conservative John Penrose after a constituent's son experienced what is known as photosensitive epilepsy (PSE) while playing Ubisoft's Rayman Raving Rabbids. Penrose argued:

A couple of games-makers, notably Ubisoft, with which I have been in contact, have decided voluntarily and admirably to apply the sort of screening that I am suggesting to their games... and I hope that many other games manufacturers will follow their example. 

The point is that some games manufacturers may decide to do that, but there is a huge number of games-makers and manufacturers throughout the world. Some are large and responsible, such as Ubisoft, but as in any industry, there is a large number of manufacturers who are relatively tiny, and although some may be responsible, we cannot be sure.

Minister for Culture, Media and Sport Margaret Hodge, however, seemed to favor pursuing a voluntary compliance approach rather than a statutory one:

If I am unsuccessful in extending voluntary agreement for a voluntary code of conduct or if we find that it is insufficient, we can always return to the matter at a later stage.

I would like to take the issue away from today's debate and meet with ELSPA ... to see what progress can be made on a voluntary code of conduct.

28 comments

Rebellion Exec: Byron Report was Good for Video Game Biz

June 23, 2008 -

The Tanya Byron review may have been controversial in some quarters, but Chris Kingsley (left), Chief Technology Officer of UK developer Rebellion is fine with it, reports gameindustry.biz.

In fact, Kingsley believes the TV psychiatrist's probe into the effects of video games on children was a net plus for the industry:

It helped to raise the profile in a way, and helped to answer a lot of questions. But games is just one section of it, and I think a lot of the challenges are faced by the other sectors are potentially things that we'll be facing in the future. So that will be interesting to watch.

And while ELSPA is currently lobbying for PEGI to become the one-stop content rating shop for UK games, Kingsley told gi.biz he's okay with Dr. Byron's recommendation that game rating duties be turned over to the BBFC:

As long as the BBFC can cope, and I can see some issues with how they rate games - because rating games is a more difficult prospect than movies, which you can just sit down for a couple of hours and you're going to know what's in there. With games there's a lot more content and a lot more potential for missing things, or if you don't quite play the game in the right way, you're not going to see the right things happen.

 

What we don't want to see is regulation getting in the way of the games industry too much, but we'll have to see how that works out in the next few weeks and months, as to what actually happens.

 

17 comments

Survey Says: Brits Favor PEGI Ratings

June 19, 2008 -

A survey conducted on behalf of the UK video game industry holds that two-thirds of British adults favor a single European game rating system.

MCV UK reports that ELSPA, which has been lobbying for the PEGI rating system over the BBFC, certainly found the results to its liking. The BBFC, of course, is best known to gamers for its 2007 banning of Manhunt 2, which was was later overturned by a British High Court.

Of the survey results, ELSPA Director General Paul Jackson (left) commented:

The Byron Review conclusions put much emphasis on the need for a clear age ratings system in the UK. This YouGov research shows us that, like all of ELSPA’s members, the majority of British adults and parents wish to see as the system that is standardised across Europe. We believe this demonstrates that in order to protect children it is essential that whichever classification body is chosen following the Government’s promised public consultation of the Byron Review, the decision is based on its ability as a games classifier both on and off line. It is also important that it is recognised across Europe.
 

Michael Cashman, a senior member of the European Parliament’s Justice, Home Affairs and Civil Liberties Committee, weighed in as well:

I am not surprised that most Brits believe it is vital that we are signed-up to a pan-European rating system. Many buy their games when they are away, and others download content from European games companies. These are trends which will inevitably continue. PEGI and PEGI Online offer security when UK residents buy games from the continent– and when visiting Europeans buy games from us during their visits. PEGI rates the suitability of games for all ages, which is very important. The PEGI system was even partly devised by representatives of the British video games industry, and today it offers comprehensive protection for children both at home and overseas. I welcome the latest YouGov findings.

 

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Should 'Hatred' have been removed from Steam Greenlight?:

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MaskedPixelantehttp://uplay.ubi.com/#!/en-US/events/uplay-15-days You can win FREE GAMES FOR A YEAR! Unfortunately, they're Ubisoft games.12/18/2014 - 6:29pm
Papa MidnightAh, so it was downtime. I've been seeing post appear in my RSS feed, but I was unable to access GamePolitics today across several ISPs.12/18/2014 - 6:06pm
james_fudgeSorry for the downtime today, folks.12/18/2014 - 5:54pm
PHX Corphttp://www.craveonline.com/gaming/articles/801575-sony-refuses-offer-refund-playstation-game-fraudulently-purchased-hacker Sony Refuses to Offer Refund for PlayStation Game Fraudulently Purchased by Hacker12/18/2014 - 1:43pm
NeenekoMakes sense to me, and sounds kinda cool. One cool thing about Minecraft is the meta game, you can implement other game types within its mechanics. There are servers out there with plots, an episodic single player one sound kinda cool12/18/2014 - 11:07am
MaskedPixelantehttps://mojang.com/announcing-minecraft-story-mode/ Umm... what?12/18/2014 - 10:24am
NeenekoThat would make sense. Theaters probably can not afford the liability worry or a drop in ticket sales from worried people. Sony on the other hand can take a massive writeoff, and might even be able to bypass distribution contracts for greater profit.12/18/2014 - 10:03am
ConsterNeeneko: I thought they cancelled it because the major cinema franchises were too scared of terrorist attacks to show the film?12/18/2014 - 9:55am
Neeneko@Wonderkarp - there is still a lot of debate regarding if the movie was a motive or not. Unnamed officials say yes, the timeline says no.12/18/2014 - 9:10am
NeenekoSomething does not smell right though, Sony is no stranger to being hacked, so why cancel this film? For that matter, they are still not giving in to hacker's original demands as far as I know.12/18/2014 - 9:06am
PHX Corp@prh99 Not to mention the Dangerous Precedent that sony's hacking scandal just set http://mashable.com/2014/12/17/sony-hackers-precedent/12/18/2014 - 8:25am
Matthew WilsonI hope its released to netflix or amazon12/18/2014 - 12:11am
prh99Basically they've given every tin pot dictator and repressive regime a blue print how to conduct censorship abroad. The hecklers veto wins again. At least when it comes to Sony and the four major theater chains.12/17/2014 - 11:55pm
MaskedPixelante"It's not OUR fault that our game doesn't work, it's YOUR fault for having so many friends."12/17/2014 - 9:48pm
Matthew Wilsonapparently tetris did not work because he has a full friends list12/17/2014 - 9:21pm
WonderkarpSo Sony cancelled the release of the Interview. was it ever confirmed that the Sony hacking was done because of that specific movie?12/17/2014 - 8:54pm
MaskedPixelanteWow, Ubisoft went four for four, I didn't think it was actually possible.12/17/2014 - 8:37pm
MechaTama31Oh, ok, I was mixing up "on Greenlight" and "Greenlit".12/17/2014 - 8:23pm
Matthew Wilson@phx you beat me to it. how do you screw up tetris?! my ubisoft this is just stupid. no one should ever preorder a ubisoft game again! ps people should never preorder any game regardles of dev.12/17/2014 - 6:28pm
PHX Corphttp://www.ign.com/videos/2014/12/17/what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-tetris-ps4 I give up on ubisoft12/17/2014 - 6:01pm
 

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