$5 million Square Enix class action suit detailed

Amended complaint reveals FFXI gamer is suing Japanese publisher for millions in "suffered damages" after her characters were deleted during two-year hiatus from MMORPG.

On June 22, a class action lawsuit was filed against Square Enix accusing the publisher of unfair business practices, false advertisements, and undisclosed fees related to its massively multiplayer online role-playing game Final Fantasy XI. The lead plaintiff, Esther Leong of San Francisco, filed the complaint on behalf of over 100,000 fellow MMORPG subscribers and demanded a payment in "excess of $5 million" from the game publisher. Now, in an amended complaint filed Monday, the plaintiff revealed the specifics behind the generalized accusations outlined in the June 22 document.

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In the updated filing, Leong alleges that Square Enix failed to disclose all the fees associated with the MMORPG at the time of its purchase. Specifically, the complaint states that the publisher fails to disclose that players must continuously pay a monthly subscription in order to retain their in-game characters. The document alleges that the label on the retail box, which forewarns "additional online fees required," is too vague to qualify as a full disclosure of the game's supplemental costs. Currently, Final Fantasy XI costs $12.95 a month to play.

The plaintiff also asserts that the publisher failed to disclose other subscription information at the time of purchase. Namely, Square Enix did not reveal to its subscribers that if they did not pay every month, then their characters and game key would be permanently unusable after 90 days without payment. Moreover, in order to save the account before that 90-day mark, players had to pay a reactivation fee and subscription fees for each unpaid month.

However, PlayOnline's current member agreement--which all subscribers must agree to--states that all players must pay the game's recurring subscription fee due at the beginning of each month. If users fail to foot the bill at that time, their accounts are deactivated and can only be brought back by paying "all delinquent subscription fees" and applicable reactivation fees. Additionally, the agreement asserts that Square Enix is not liable for any damages resulting from an inability to access PlayOnline, including the loss of data.

According to the same document, Leong began playing Final Fantasy XI in 2005 and was a subscriber until August 2007, when she took a break from the game. When she returned to the game in 2009, she found that her account was invalidated because she hadn't paid the monthly fees. She now considers in-game characters she lost "suffered damages" and is suing for multimillion-dollar compensation.

Final Fantasy XI was released in October 2003 in North America, reaching 500,000 users worldwide by January 2004 through its PlayOnline service. Currently available on the PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, and PC, the game received its most recent expansion pack, A Moogle Kupo d'Etat, last month.

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