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UK government responds to Stop Killing Games campaign

There is "no requirement in UK law" preventing publishers from rendering older games unplayable

A public campaign to prevent publishers from pulling online support from video games in a way that makes them unplayable has prompted a response from the UK government.

The Stop Killing Games campaign organised a petition on the government's website, which passed the 10,000 signatories needed to secure a response. The statement added below the petition was attributed to the Department of Culture, Media & Sport.

In its statement, the Department said: "Consumers should be aware that there is no requirement in UK law compelling software companies and providers to support older versions of their operating systems, software or connected products. There may be occasions where companies make commercial decisions based on the high running costs of maintaining older servers for video games that have declining user bases."

But the Department emphasised that all video game companies are beholden to existing consumer laws and regulations, adding:

"If consumers are led to believe that a game will remain playable indefinitely for certain systems, despite the end of physical support, the [Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008] may require that the game remains technically feasible (for example, available offline) to play under those circumstances."

The petition will continue to run until October 16, 2024 and if it passes 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in Parliament. At the time of writing, 22,890 people have signed.

The Stop Killing Games campaign began after Ubisoft announced it was shutting down online support for 2014 racing game The Crew due to constraints related to server infrastructure and licensing. The game's online connectivity means that it is now unplayable, even in single-player mode.

The campaign organisers are using this instance as an example of how publishers destroy games that have been sold to customers as goods, and are pushing to question the legality of this practice in various markets around the world.

A representative of Stop Killing Games told GamesIndustry.biz that the group will be contacting a lawyer to investigate potential legal action as a next step.

A similar petition has been started on the Australian government's website, and has passed 8,000 signatures, the Canadian petition is at over 4,600, and the group is exploring a potential class action lawsuit in Brazil.

GamesIndustry.biz managing editor Brendan Sinclair shared his thoughts on this issue, using both The Crew and Sony's Gran Turismo Sport as examples, in an edition of This Week In Business earlier this year.

"Ideally, we would see the industry design games with graceful degradation in mind to preserve whatever scraps of functionality possible when the servers go dark," he wrote.

"But failing that, I think the bare minimum publishers should do is to be upfront with consumers about how long they can expect to enjoy their "purchases" before someone else decides it's time to make them obsolete."

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James Batchelor avatar
James Batchelor: James is Editor-in-Chief at GamesIndustry.biz, and has been a B2B journalist since 2006. He is author of The Best Non-Violent Video Games
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