donaldjlamont / Member

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donaldjlamont Blog

Gaming Guarantees

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If you haven't already read Laura Parker's feature entitled "Why Always-Online Isn't Consumer-Friendly" I would urge you to do so now: Needless to say the possibility of games, as well as consoles, requiring a constant internet connection are extremely worrying. While I do understand the need for developers to protect themselves against piracy, implementing these kind of controls are essentially restricting our rights as consumers. I'm from South Africa, and our country has recently just passed a very interesting piece of legislation called the "The Consumer Protection Act of South Africa". In short, this act has been designed to protect consumers against unfair, unreasonable, unjust or improper trade practices. Laura's argument against an always-on internet connection is that not every single gamer will always have a reliable, always-on internet connection. While I support her view on the situation, I think that this is a rather weak argument. Consider this... You want to buy a car. The purchase agreement requires that you only buy fuel from a single supplier, and that you have to keep the car for life and may not resell it at any point. But it is a very good car, you like it, you really want it, and the reviewers are all raving about it, so you buy it. Two days down the line you discover that fuel supplier is sporadically running out of fuel, which results in you not always being able to drive your fancy new car. To make matters worse, you can't sell it to offset some of your losses because the purchase agreement doesn't legally allow you to. Surely everyone would agree that this is an extremely unfair, unreasonable, unjust and improper trade practice, and that the dealership should be made to refund the purchase price. Now let's look at this from a gaming perspective. You buy a game, a very recently AAA release comes to mind, and it requires a constant internet connection. Two days into the game the servers go down and continue to go down for the next couple of weeks. Needless to say you now hate the game because you can't play it when you want to play it. But what can you do? The game developer will never give you your money back, and you can't sell the game because the authentication key is linked to your on-line account. How is this scenario any less worse that the car scenario? So what can be done about this? In South Africa, thanks to our new Consumer Protection Act, all products, including service level agreements, are now required to come with a six month warranty over and above the standard manufactures warranty. Under this warranty if a product, or service, proves to be defective the consumer is entitled to pick between either being given a full refund, a replacement, or a repair. Unfortunately this does not extent to intellectual property registered in foreign countries, so games fall outside of the scope of this act. The point I am trying to make here is that if game developers want to protect themselves from piracy by limiting some of our rights as a consumer, we should then be given additional rights which protects us against poor quality and service. An always-on internet connection as well as initiatives preventing the sale of second hand games is not necessarily a bad thing. However they need to be backed up by warranties ensuring good quality and services, and if the quality levels and services cannot be maintained we should be compensated accordingly.