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#StopKillingGames: EU Commission comments on the killing of video games

Europaparlament Freiheit, Demokratie und Transparenz Press releases

At the request of the Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer, EU Commissioner Vera Jourová has commented for the first time on the gamers’ protest against the rendering of popular computer games unusable by their manufacturers.[1] Jourová explains that EU legislation “does not set specific requirements as to the duration of the supply of products”. Only if a contract is terminated before the end of an agreed period of provision do consumers have rights such as a pro-rata refund of the purchase price. In the event of a dispute, courts and authorities decide.

Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer sees a need for action: “In their terms and conditions, computer game manufacturers regularly reserve the right to arbitrarily terminate video games at any time, even if they have just been purchased. In my opinion, this is an unfair and ineffective contractual clause under the EU unfair terms directive, but legal clarification will take a long time. Compensation does not help the community anyway. To protect video games as cultural assets, as well as the gaming communities, we need new EU legislation that allows the community to take over and continue orphan games. The EU Commission must take action here, instead of putting the industry’s profit interests above everything else.”

At yesterday’s webinar “Stop the death of computer games” on the “Stop Killing Games” initiative, representatives from politics and civil society spoke out in favor of better protection for the gaming community. [2] There has been criticism of the decision by computer game publisher Ubisoft to shut down the racing game “The Crew” at short notice at the end of March 2024, even though it was still being sold until December 2023.

Lawyer Renate Schmid and MEP Dr. Patrick Breyer – himself a lawyer and former judge – raised doubts about the legality of this approach under consumer protection law. The first question was directed directly at Renate Schmid, a lawyer at Kanzler WBS.LEGAL, namely whether Ubisoft was allowed to shut down the computer game at such short notice. She explained: “Ubisoft says, ‘I’m allowed to do that because of my terms and conditions’ but I have a serious question mark over whether the terms and conditions are even effective. According to my current research, they are not.”

Patrick Breyer, Member of the European Parliament for the Pirate Party, complained that the European legal situation is unclear and that improvements need to be made to protect gamers: “That leads us to the general directive, which is ancient, on unfair contractual terms. But of course, it doesn’t say which terms and conditions are unfair. In my view, there needs to be clarification and specificity. This is also a good idea because the directive is to be revised anyway.”

The Pirate Party hat organised the webinar. Digital expert and Pirate Party Spitzenkandidat for the European elections Anja Hirschel moderated the event and brought many questions from the live audience into the discussion. The frustration of many gamers became clear. Their demand: after the commercial end of the game, game manufacturers should at least allow private use offline or hand the game over to the community. With servers operated by fans, even online games could continue to operate. 

Daniel Ondruska, from the Stop Killing Games initiative, explained the problem that players are faced with here: “Ultimately, you sell something and then simply take it away. You can imagine it like this: you buy a car and after 5 years a new model is brought onto the market and then your car turns off.” In addition to the legal assessment, the protection of computer games as modern cultural assets was also discussed. The idea of ​​bringing members of the next European Parliament into direct contact with the topic of gaming also emerged during the discussion, so that politicians take the interests of players into account better than before. If she is elected as an MEP, Anja Hirschel – the German Pirate Party’s top candidate – wants to invite people to a LAN party in Parliament: “I think it’s important because it shows what gaming can do, which communities exist, and I imagine that many MEPs might lose their reservations.”

[1] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2024-001023-ASW_EN.pdf
[2] Recording (in Geman): https://www.piratentube.de/w/f633vXiMfc9hKdV2VoeY5p