Publishers face spiralling cost of botched game launches

Digital publishers and retailers should be worried by the new Consumer Rights Act, top legal experts have warned.

The Act will put pressure on publishers to stop releasing broken games. The new laws mean that the rights of digital buyers now align with physical buyers – both can now get their money back on games that are not of ‘satisfactory quality’. And as an industry, we’re not short on recent examples.

Big triple-A releases such as Batman Arkham Knight, Driveclub, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Assassin’s Creed: Unity and, most recently, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 have all hit the market crippled by technical difficulties.

Physical buyers still have the 30-day right to an immediate refund. For digital sales, publishers have a small window of opportunity – described as a ‘reasonable time’ – to fix the game via patches before having to do the same.

Both publishers and digital retailers will be worried,” Sheridans lawyer Alex Tutty told MCV

He added: I would expect anyone making a buggy game available to really consider the implications of it. We may potentially see delays on release to fix any bugs that previously the title might have shipped with.”

There is also the question of how platform holders such as Sony and Microsoft intend to service their legal obligation for digital refunds. Neither company has yet been able to offer comment to MCV.

It will be up to digital retailers to ‘back up’ any remedies which consumers may seek from them for faulty games in their arrangements with manufacturers,” Harbottle & Lewis technology lawyer Donald Mee advised.

QA manager James Cubitt at testing company Universally Speaking hopes that publishers become more willing to ship titles according to quality milestones instead of financial ones.

Everyone can agree that having a buggy game on release is not just hurting their title, but the industry as a whole,” he said. There’s budget implications and other factors to consider, but not at the cost of the enjoyment of players.”

There may also be a longer-term impact for developers.

[Publishers and platform holders] will pass the chargeback obligations onto developers,” Tutty added. Developers should also be aware that if they release a buggy game they might have to reimburse the platform holder.”

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