This browser is not actively supported anymore. For the best passle experience, we strongly recommend you upgrade your browser.
| 2 minutes read

Stop Killing Games: UK Government responds to video game preservation petition

The Stop Killing Games ("SKG") campaign materialised after video game publisher Ubisoft notified users that it would be delisting The Crew - a ten year old online-only racing video game with a player base of around 12 million people at the time of delisting - from all online stores due to "server infrastructure and licensing constraints". As of 31 March 2024, the game servers were shut down, rendering the game inaccessible for players that had purchased the game on any platform.

Spearheaded by YouTuber Ross Scott, SKG organised a petition on the UK government's website to "require videogame publishers to keep games that they have sold in a working state". The petition explains that many modern videogames rely on servers that, once shut down in the same way as Ubisoft has done with The Crew, leave videogames unplayable. The petition expressly states that publishers should be required to ensure that such videogames remain in a reasonably working state "as a statutory consumer right".

As of writing this article, the petition has over 27,000 signatories, surpassing the 10,000 signatories threshold that triggers a required response from the government. In its response of 2 May 2024, the Department of Culture, Media & Sport ("DCMS") made clear that "there is no requirement in UK law compelling software companies and providers to support older versions of their operating systems, software or connected products". In doing so, DCMS emphasised the need for videogame publishers to comply with existing consumer law, including the Consumer Rights Act 2015 ("CRA") and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 ("CPRs").

Briefly, the CRA provides statutory rights and remedies in respect of consumer contracts for goods, services and digital content (which could include videogames). The CRA requires digital content to be: (i) of satisfactory quality; (ii) fit for a particular purpose; and (iii) as described by the seller. In addition, the CPRs require information presented to consumers to be clear and correct, and prohibit commercial practices which mislead consumers.

DCMS emphasised that, if consumers are led to believe that a particular game will remain playable in perpetuity despite the removal of physical support by the publisher, the CPRs may require that the game remains "technically feasible (for example, available offline) to play under those circumstances".

An interesting point not addressed in the DCMS response is the terms of the Ubisoft End User Licence Agreement ("EULA"). The EULA granted users a personal licence to install and / or use The Crew until either the user or Ubisoft terminated the EULA "at any time, for any reason". Termination by Ubisoft is also stipulated to be effective upon notice to the user, or at the time that Ubisoft decides to discontinue offering and / or supporting the relevant product. Although the EULA grants Ubisoft and users broad termination rights, this may become a point of contention.

The petition was set to continue until 16 October 2024 but SKG's hopes of triggering Parliament's  consideration of the petition for debate (if it accrued 100,000 signatures) have been interrupted by the announcement of a UK general election on 4 July. Similar petitions have been started on the Australian and Canadian Parliamentary websites, each amassing several thousand signatures as at the time of writing. SKG is also exploring a potential class action lawsuit in Brazil, as well as encouraging on-side gamers in other countries around the world to: (i) file complaints with Ubisoft directly; (ii) sign the European Citizens' Initiative; (iii) spread the word on social media; and (iv) initiate relevant petitions where possible.

Considering that the global revenue generated by the gaming industry is greater than that of the music and movies industry combined, and that gamers are amongst some of the most passionate and protective fans of their best-loved videogames, this issue will certainly not be going away any time soon. We look forward to seeing how this develops over the coming months.

Those selling games must comply with UK consumer law. They must provide clear information and allow continued access to games if sold on the understanding that they will remain playable indefinitely.


consumer protection, video games, ubisoft, skg, interactive entertainment, technology, article