Ross Scott, the creator of Accursed Farms, Freeman’s Mind and Ross’s Game Dungeon, spent ages making a video saying that Games as a Service is Fraud. The gist is that because a game can be completely shut off, remove servers, force online only and otherwise deny the consumer the right to use something they purchase. You may think that your game that you bought will last forever but your game can disappear and be taken away from you at the drop of a hat, with no way of your purchase being salvageable. So really, do you own a game at all? According to Ross, no, game developers and publishers don’t want you to own the games you buy in any way.
A lot of the argument is whether a game is actually a service or not and whether you actually own a game. Games are often sold as perpetual licenses, so you are basically renting a game forever. The outliers are subscription games, which you rent for a certain amount of time. Subscription games are run as services but non-subscription games are often sold and described as goods, which means that some ownership is involved. The biggest issue is that game publishers can completely kill a game, meaning that it can no longer be played in any shape or form.
A lot of this continued to go unnoticed, despite Ross’s work, until a France court ruled that people should be able to resell games. Valve and Steam are trying to appeal, but for now, this sets a strange precedent. Ross created a 27 minute followup episode discussing what all of this means.
If this goes through, what happens? If France forces Valve to allow game resales, what happens? Ross sees this as a very mixed bag, with no real winners apart from middlemen and game flippers, with developers losing money from resales if they have to allow digital game resales and consumers losing rights and nothing changing if Valve successfully appeal. There might be a middle game, with Valve using Steam and allowing people to resell games as long as they get a cut, but Valve might create a market in which reselling a game is too expensive or too much of a hassle to deal with.
Frankly, the whole thing is a really confusing mess. Theoretically, nothing might happen because this court case was only against Valve, and other game publishers and sellers might be ignored or not even bothered by the court’s ruling. On the flip side, game publishers and developers may be forced to deal with a growing problem, if the French ruling spreads out into European Union laws or even goes worldwide. More importantly though, this French court’s order is potentially a good thing, because, as Ross stated in his “Games as a Service is Fraud” video, this proves that games are definitely goods, not services, and specifically imply that games as a service are distinct from games with subscription fees – the difference between buying a car and renting a car – thus should have different consumer laws.
I’m going to be honest though, it’s hard to find a place to stand in all of this. Games as a service does mean we can get more games because they can more efficiently be made and profit from, but should those games go away, us consumers are left with nothing at all, a product we bought and can’t use. My own opinion is that games as a service should be allowed to exist but they should also be protected from being killed or otherwise made unplayable, and preserved for future use, the same way we preserve books and movies. But I have no idea if I have any legal footing or anything.
Either way, I believe that you should all go and watch both of Ross’s videos, “Games as a Service is Fraud” AND Dead Game News, because both these videos bring up some incredibly important points when it comes to our rights as gamers and consumers. And maybe go and watch some more of Ross’s videos, because Ross has a pretty unique insight and dedication to games that I haven’t really found anywhere else.