Loading Screen: How You Can Force Companies To Stop Killing Games

Loading Screen: How You Can Force Companies To Stop Killing Games

A consumer movement has begun gathering momentum, and it's pointed squarely at Ubisoft following the closure of The Crew. One youtuber has taken as much as they can from companies shuttering servers, effectively deleting games from existence - and now he's fighting back.

Conor Caulfield

A consumer movement has begun gathering momentum, and it's pointed squarely at Ubisoft following the closure of The Crew. One Youtuber has taken as much as he can stomach from companies shuttering servers, effectively deleting games from existence - and now he's fighting back.

Sometimes, even if the goal seems impossible, it's better to tilt at windmills than to give up.

It's Up To You to Stop Killing Games

We've been talking about the problems of preservation for a long time - between PlayStation's kill switch on consoles, Nintendo targeting emulators, the mis-reporting around Ubisoft's position on games ownership and last year's bombshell reporting on the fact that 87% of video games from the medium's history are simply unavailable in any form.

Pair that with the report from Newzoo that more than 60% of gamers are playing the same games they were six years ago, with the vast majority of those being pay to play live service titles - and it's a looming disaster.
When the servers switch off for those games, that's a full purchase you can no longer access, never mind any digital currency or items you've bought during the lifespan of the title.
Right now, it's almost always happening with games that haven't found their feet commercially - but as we've seen with Apex Legends, the second the line stops going up at the expected rate, management will start chopping and changing to eke out more profit.
What happens when the line doesn't go up?
What happens to those games, those servers and everything that dedicated players have done?

The expectation is that they'll eventually go - with the justification of a lack of players versus server costs used as a "sensible" reason for everything to be deleted.
We saw the good version of this from the indie team at Velan Studios this year, as after their sports title Knockout City hit a wall of sustainable development - they made sure to close the game down and hand it over to players to play privately.

‘Make a private hosted version of your game’: Knockout City dev’s top tip for studios shutting down a live service game is to give players the keys
“Ultimately, it keeps the game that everybody at the studio worked so hard on alive forever.”

But for bigger companies, they simply don't need to care about that.
Which is why companies like EA and Ubisoft have a rolling list of games they expect to sunset going forward, because the grind of game releases mean that the majority simply lose interest.

Youtuber Ross Scott, the man behind Accursed Farms (and the voice behind the Freeman's Mind) wants your help to have these companies held accountable for their actions.

For many years now, he's been on the consumer advocacy train - calling out instances where companies were delisting games, behaving unfairly and more.
It's been a long time project of his via his Dead Game News series, tracking issues of ownership, the framing that "Games as a Service is a Fraud" and in particularly with online games that shut down with no recourse for their players.
With Ubisoft's announcement of the closure of 2014's The Crew's servers back in December, rendering the game unplayable for all purchasers, he's had enough.

It's been a few months of discussions and inquiries into a class action lawsuit in the US, but now that The Club has lost support for it's servers as of April 1st, the ball can start rolling.
For now his ambitions are much more grass roots than a personal lawsuit - The Stop Killing Games Movement.

Stop Killing Games

This is a global effort, appealing to anyone who's ever purchased The Crew in the first instance (which per a Ubisoft blog post had 12 million platers before being turned off) and then to everyone else who wants to be part of a movement to define and protect consumer rights in games.

An increasing number of videogames are sold as goods, but designed to be completely unplayable for everyone as soon as support ends. The legality of this practice is untested worldwide, and many governments do not have clear laws regarding these actions. It is our goal to have authorities examine this behavior and hopefully end it, as it is an assault on both consumer rights and preservation of media.

This will then take two forms -

Firstly: Explicitly using the consumer complaints process for France's Directorate General for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) and flagging that your consumer rights have been impacted by the planned obsolescence of French Company Ubisoft.
Banking on the hope that strong (especially in comparison to the US) French consumer rights protections will get the results needed.

Secondly: Putting pressure on governments to ensure companies are required by law to maintain functionality for the products they sell you or to allow users to do so after official support ends for those games.

The site has a step by step process for the above based on different regions.
All designed to guide audiences through the process of raising their complaints - The aim is to get as much pressure and movement as possible, depending on your region, and how many The Crew owners the site can reach.
Here's the UK's for instance, where a petition which receives 100,000 signatures (from UK residents) will have to be debated in parliament:

This is a very idealistic move, something Scott acknowledges due to the "large legal grey area" around the licensing of games rather than them being a specific thing you own - something that in the US in particular is codified law.
Some have pointed out that this could lead to situations where Publishers and Corporate owners simply shutter a Developer and write off their assets to get around any obligations around ongoing support - which obviously is a worst case theoretical situation.

Ultimately the aim is not to have games supported forever and bankrupt studios - instead the aim is to have legal codification on consumer rights and in the best case scenario, to have a theoretical French protection end up being something implemented worldwide.

So, if destroying a game you paid for became illegal in France, companies that patched the game would likely apply the same patch to the games worldwide. An analogy to this process is how the ACCC in Australia forced Valve to offer refunds on Steam, so Valve ended up offering them to people worldwide as a result.

This isn't going to be a fast process under any approach, and in the worst case scenario may just lead to Governments siding with these corporations under current laws.
But in that case, at least it gives clarity - and a target for change.
Which is kind of the point - as Scott states in the video.

... if we pass the petitions, governments have to respond and own that answer. If consumer agencies get enough complaints they probably will too. We won't have any more of this 'no clear regulation' crap I can promise you that much, plus if we win can you imagine how good it will feel in the future knowing all your games are safe and you only have to think about whether you like the game or not?