Petition urges Canadian government to mandate end-of-life protections for video games

Petition urges Canadian government to mandate end-of-life protections for video games

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In a nutshell: A new petition filed with the Canadian government is demanding legislation to protect consumers’ access to games they’ve purchased, even after publishers end support. With over 3,000 signatures in just a few days, it calls for companies to leave games in a fully functional state and remove any mandatory online requirements once a game reaches its end of life.

The issue has been brewing for years, but it likely reached a tipping point last month after Ubisoft discontinued support for the online racer The Crew. Not only did this shutdown render the game unplayable, but Ubisoft also took it a step further by revoking owners’ rights to even launch the game through its Ubisoft Connect platform. Gamers who had purchased The Crew were essentially left with no way to access the title they paid for.

The Canadian petition argues that this type of behavior “deprives consumers of basic ownership rights while precluding restoration and preservation efforts.” It asserts that companies are engaging in “planned obsolescence by withholding vital components and thus preventing consumers from repairing their copies of games.”

Petitioners are calling on the government to pass legislation requiring publishers not only to keep games functional indefinitely after ending support but also to remove any dependencies on the publisher’s servers. This would prevent situations where an always-online game becomes unplayable after shutdown.

The petition also advocates for this proposed law to override any End User License Agreements (EULAs), ensuring that customers do not forfeit ownership rights simply by playing a game.

A similar petition was recently filed in the UK, gathering over 20,000 signatures. In response, the UK government stated that game sellers must adhere to consumer protection laws by providing clear information if a game is intended to remain playable indefinitely. However, it did not mandate perpetual online functionality.

If a game is advertised as remaining playable even after server shutdowns, the UK government asserts that game companies may need to ensure that an offline mode remains viable under consumer protection regulations. However, there is no explicit requirement for eternal online operability.

This issue touches on the longstanding debate surrounding digital ownership rights for media such as games, movies, and music. With games increasingly adopting an online-centric service model, there is concern that consumers are essentially renting access to entertainment that they believe they own.

It is likely that the Canadian petition will prompt a response similar to that of the UK government, if any response is given at all. However, if by some chance the petition succeeds, it could establish an important precedent for digital ownership protections.

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