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French court rules in favour of second hand digital games

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Kit Guru

Matthew Wilson


4 days ago

Valve has faced issues with consumer laws in various parts of the world over the last few years. The company was forced to implement a refund policy for Steam games a few years ago and was also hit with a $3 million fine in Australia. Now this week, Steam is being called into question again, with a French court reportedly ruling that Valve can’t prohibit users from re-selling their digital games.

French outlets NextInpact and Numerama are reporting that France’s consumer rights association, UFC-Que Choisir, has managed to get a judge to rule that consumers be allowed to re-sell ‘dematerialised’ goods- in other words, digital content, like software. The current Steam Store policy states that the resale of accounts or games is strictly prohibited- a policy that isn’t allowed under EU laws.

What is odd about this is that the focus is currently being placed on Steam, but every single digital store has a similar policy. You can’t re-sell your digital Xbox One, PS4 or Switch games, nor can you re-sell your owned digital copies of PC titles on any store front. Beyond that, you can’t re-sell any movies, songs or books you’ve purchased on the Google Play Store, iTunes, Amazon or other services and under this ruling, those digital entertainment mediums would be affected too.

Right now, the court ruling states that Valve will need to remove the clause that prohibits re-selling games or accounts and place a notice of the court judgement on Steam for three months. The alternative is a fine of 3,000 Euros per day for up to six months and the potential for future legal action.

At this point, Valve hasn’t made a statement regarding this ruling and we don’t know if similar cases will be brought against other digital platforms.

KitGuru Says: This is a tricky situation as there are benefits to the consumer here. Enabling a pre-owned market for digital games would be more in line with owning a physical copy, which you are free to give away or sell at your own discretion. However, if there is no revenue cut for developers, then we could see indie studios struggle to stay afloat, while major publishers would likely invest more in microtransactions, subscription models and online ‘service’ style games due to losing revenue on initial and post-launch sales.


 

Note that this ruling only requires Valve to change the rules around selling games/accounts from "not allowed" to "allowed". It doesn't require any code changes to make selling individual games possible. 

 

So, assuming this survives all the inevitable appeals, what effect do you think this ruling will have ?

Because I can't see many people willing to sell their entire Steam account. Nor many people wanting to buy them, as that would mean splitting the games they want to play over multiple Steam accounts.

Though live service accounts that are only tied to a single game are a different story.

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3 hours ago, Bilateralrope said:

Note that this ruling only requires Valve to change the rules around selling games/accounts from "not allowed" to "allowed". It doesn't require any code changes to make selling individual games possible. 

 

So, assuming this survives all the inevitable appeals, what effect do you think this ruling will have ?

Because I can't see many people willing to sell their entire Steam account. Nor many people wanting to buy them, as that would mean splitting the games they want to play over multiple Steam accounts.

Though live service accounts that are only tied to a single game are a different story.

Online only games would actually have to work in the future, if you'd be able to re-sell them.

 

I immagine that the French court, likely brought up the fact that Steam isn't a subscription service, so it doesn't make any sense not to allow games to be resold. I think this could be a very good thing for games as a whole. Once you buy the game, you technically own it.

 

They can't just take it away from you, I immagine that was likely one of the arguments they used against Valve.

 

I'm not denying that this won't have a large impact on the overall profit. I wish we could replace the resell law, with something which doesn't allow games to be flat out broken.

I think that would be the better approach.

 

I have mixed feelings about the law itself, but on one hand, it could do something really good, and it would force live service games to have some kind of end of life plan, seeing as, you shouldn't be able to resell a game, which is flat out broken.

Edited by RaTcHeT302 (see edit history)

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I don't have time to watch that video right now. Though I have seen some people who are afraid about what will happen to short single player games if they can be sold. The predictions I've seen all rely on the assumption that you'll be able to sell individual games after you've played them. Which is why I pointed out that this ruling only forces a TOS change, not a code change.

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5 hours ago, RogerRoger said:

So here's a counterpoint to this ruling. I don't know if this is an actual issue to be worried about or if this is just fearmongering. 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2do_86d1zs8

This is in fact a very real issue... As much as this may be "good" for the consumer in the now, it could very well kill any possibility of actually owning any games ever again in the long term. (since subscription services and free to play will not be affected by this)

bi ti ʤi ˈbulzaɪ

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21 hours ago, BTGBullseye said:

This is in fact a very real issue... As much as this may be "good" for the consumer in the now, it could very well kill any possibility of actually owning any games ever again in the long term. (since subscription services and free to play will not be affected by this)

Another tactic developers have used in the past to discourage second hand sales is to make a single player game excessively long by adding lots of filler content. Then, while people don't finish it, they still plan to finish it eventually. So they don't want to sell.

 

Still, I haven't seen any article showing Valve being forced to make any code changes to Steam. So those fears seem overblown.

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4 minutes ago, Bilateralrope said:

Another tactic developers have used in the past to discourage second hand sales is to make a single player game excessively long by adding lots of filler content. Then, while people don't finish it, they still plan to finish it eventually. So they don't want to sell.

 

Still, I haven't seen any article showing Valve being forced to make any code changes to Steam. So those fears seem overblown.

Yeah, I feel like the video is more fear-mongering than anything else because the solution seems so simple to me. Since we're on the damn INTERNET just make a portion of the re-sell go back to the dev/publisher. Allow us to re-sell but insure the dev is getting part of that sale.

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42 minutes ago, RogerRoger said:

Since we're on the damn INTERNET just make a portion of the re-sell go back to the dev/publisher. Allow us to re-sell but insure the dev is getting part of that sale.

About as easy to enforce as laws that restrict what sex acts you can do in your home, or laws regarding private sales of firearms.

bi ti ʤi ˈbulzaɪ

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5 minutes ago, BTGBullseye said:

About as easy to enforce as laws that restrict what sex acts you can do in your home, or laws regarding private sales of firearms.

As long as the re-sell happens within Steam.. Vale could set up the tracking system quite easily. I don't see how this could be too hard to implement but maybe I'm just dumb. 

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22 hours ago, RogerRoger said:

Yeah, I feel like the video is more fear-mongering than anything else because the solution seems so simple to me. Since we're on the damn INTERNET just make a portion of the re-sell go back to the dev/publisher. Allow us to re-sell but insure the dev is getting part of that sale.

Sure, Valve could do that.

Or they could leave Steams code unchanged and selling individual games will remain impossible.

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10 hours ago, Bilateralrope said:

Sure, Valve could do that.

Or they could leave Steams code unchanged and selling individual games will remain impossible.

I'm just pointing out a hypothetical solution as to why the video is overblown because this solution is simple IF valve is in the future required to allow the reselling of games. Yall are some cynical basters damn.

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Another thought comes to mind. If you've played any MMO's, you've probably seen the gold sellers spamming up chat while farming gold with legions of bots. Maybe hacking if the game trusted the clients computer too much. You've probably heard of people having their accounts hacked and all their gear removed.

 

If this ruling means that it's no longer legal to punish people for buying or selling gold, that's going to increase the demand for gold sellers. They are going to get a lot worse. That's the kind of thing that drives away players.

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6 hours ago, Bilateralrope said:

Another thought comes to mind. If you've played any MMO's, you've probably seen the gold sellers spamming up chat while farming gold with legions of bots. Maybe hacking if the game trusted the clients computer too much. You've probably heard of people having their accounts hacked and all their gear removed.

 

If this ruling means that it's no longer legal to punish people for buying or selling gold, that's going to increase the demand for gold sellers. They are going to get a lot worse. That's the kind of thing that drives away players.

What? I don't understand how this is related, this is about being able to sell the game as a whole.

 

Anyway, you can still sell your own house, but breaking into someone else's house is still pretty damn illegal. But none of those arguments really make much sense to me, why would the client by any different, than it is now?

 

I just want some kind of guarantee, that the game I bought, is playable in the future, that's it. This law would force them to do something about it.

Edited by RaTcHeT302 (see edit history)

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15 hours ago, RaTcHeT302 said:

I just want some kind of guarantee, that the game I bought, is playable in the future, that's it. This law would force them to do something about it.

I think Ross hits the nail on the head though that this ruling swings too far to the opposite end. Yes, I want to keep my games but I also want MORE games. And let's be honest a lot of issues have to do with publishers, not devs so anything that empowers them should also be a goal here.

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Well I can't change the law now, I can only adapt to it. I would've done things differently otherwise.

 

I don't agree with the law itself, but I'm trying to work around it.

Edited by RaTcHeT302 (see edit history)

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8 hours ago, RogerRoger said:

I think Ross hits the nail on the head though that this ruling swings too far to the opposite end. Yes, I want to keep my games but I also want MORE games. And let's be honest a lot of issues have to do with publishers, not devs so anything that empowers them should also be a goal here.

That's pretty much my views as well. I'll gladly give up the resell to have it digitally distributed, and once the game is left by the wayside by the devs, still playable.

bi ti ʤi ˈbulzaɪ

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On 9/28/2019 at 10:27 PM, RaTcHeT302 said:

What? I don't understand how this is related, this is about being able to sell the game as a whole.

 

Anyway, you can still sell your own house, but breaking into someone else's house is still pretty damn illegal. But none of those arguments really make much sense to me, why would the client by any different, than it is now?

 

I just want some kind of guarantee, that the game I bought, is playable in the future, that's it. This law would force them to do something about it.

 

If you can sell something, then you're also able to sell parts of it if you can seperate parts and find a buyer. The in-game currency of MMOs is one such separable part.

As for the other things the gold sellers getting up to being illegal, sure it's illegal. But that hasn't stopped them. Being able to go after the people involved in the trading of the in-game currency for cash discourages buyers, which restricts the entire operation.

 

This ruling, if it survives the appeals, should give you the guarantee you want. Even without requiring a code change.

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On 9/29/2019 at 3:06 PM, RogerRoger said:

I think Ross hits the nail on the head though that this ruling swings too far to the opposite end. Yes, I want to keep my games but I also want MORE games. And let's be honest a lot of issues have to do with publishers, not devs so anything that empowers them should also be a goal here.

Ross is assuming a code change to make selling individual games possible. I've not seen any source for the court ordering that. Only for a TOS change to make selling games/accounts allowed.

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