Stop Killing Games Founder Believes UK Government’s Response To Petition May Have Exposed Ubisoft ‘The Crew’ Consumer Rights Breach

The Yosemite Park race doesn't end just because the road has in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft
The Yosemite Park race doesn't end just because the road has in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft

The founder of the Stop Killing Games campaign has addressed the UK Government’s response to their petition, believing it potentially reveals that Ubisoft may have violated consumer rights when shutting down The Crew.

Jurassic Raid sees players race through a dinosaur theme park in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft
Jurassic Raid sees players race through a dinosaur theme park in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft

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Last year Ubisoft announced servers for 2014’s The Crew would be going offline in April, with the France-based company due listing “upcoming server infrastructure and licensing constraints” as the reason — ultimately rendering the game unplayable. This inspired YouTuber and creator of the Freeman’s Mind series Ross Scott to start his Stop Killing Games campaign.

The campaign’s goal is to demand the French government (described by Scott as having “strong consumer protection laws”) forbid games from becoming unplayable; hoping to produce a ripple effect in other nations. The campaign encouraged contacting various government bodies, including a petition to the UK Government and Parliament.

Titled “Require videogame publishers to keep games they have sold in a working state,” the aforementioned petition insisted that when support ends for a game it should be in a “reasonably working state” as a consumer right. Despite only reaching 24,155 signatures at this time of writing (100,000 is needed for Parilimentary debate), a UK government department has responded.

Salt Lake City's Slip and Slide challenge combines different architecture and snow in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft
Salt Lake City’s Slip and Slide challenge combines different architecture and snow in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft

The Department Culture, Media & Sport summarized their statement. “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.”

While this sounds supportive of the petition, the full text of the statement admits there is currently no basis under UK law, noting, “The Government recognises recent concerns raised by video games users regarding the long-term operability of purchased products.”

“Consumers should be aware 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,” they clarified.

Players seek out crates full of loot in a Treasure Hunt in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft
Players seek out crates full of loot in a Treasure Hunt in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft

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The lengthy statement continues, and does offer a mixed bag of hope and dismissal. The Department explains that while publishers have the right to close servers due to costs or declining user bases, they cannot mislead or lie (due to consumer rights and protections).

“If consumers are led to believe that a game will remain playable indefinitely for certain systems, despite the end of physical support, the CPRs [Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008] may require that the game remains technically feasible (for example, available offline) to play under those circumstances.”

The department then recommends users affected in such a case contact Citizens Advice or Advice Direct Scotland — as they should for any consumer rights violation.

Salt flats promise even higher speeds in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft
Salt flats promise even higher speeds in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft

The statement then continues to re-iterate that providers should be clear when older software struggles to work on modern systems, and that users have the right to “repair,” replace, or refund digital content that fails to meet quality standards.

It concludes with how the statutory right for goods applies is only breached when they don’t meet the standard a “reasonable person” would consider to be satisfactory- giving the example of how a mobile phone may have support ended when a new model is released, but should remain usable even as app developers withdraw support.

In short, the department seems to insist that publishers are fine if they declare that a game will become inoperable in the future; something they don’t currently do, and not what the petition was hoping for. Indeed, even the Petitions Committee requested a revised response, as “They felt the response did not respond directly to the request of the petition.”

Cars race through Saint Louis in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft
Cars race through Saint Louis in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft

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Addressing the news in a video posted to his YouTube channel, Stop Killing Games’ founder Ross Scott discussed the Department’s response to the petition, alongside petitions starting in other countries. “It’s response… It’s like a puzzle box that I think even the people who wrote it don’t realize what they’ve done,” Scott dismays. Warning the majority of the statement is a “non-answer,” Scott highlights how the response fails to address, or dismisses, the issue.

To start, The Crew‘s EULA warns that Ubisoft may terminate the EULA at any time and for any reason. Scott argues whether it’s truly clear to users within the lengthy Terms of Service, and that no such warning is on the game’s box.

“Anything less than saying exactly when the game will cease functioning isn’t enough,” he insists. “The majority of customers won’t notice it otherwise.” Scott then admits the UK government could argue the “Requires Internet Connection” disclaimer on the box is sufficient (which isn’t even present on all versions), and the subjective nature puts the campaign at a disadvantage.

Scott was also aghast at the response missing the point, confusing there being no law to enforce constant support for older software with making the software functional after support ends. He even pointed out how the mobile phones analogy falls flat, as they typically do continue to work after support ends.

He explains that even the segment on consumer rights would mean, after filling out all the necessary paperwork, Ubisoft would only be obligated to give the user a free game of its choosing in compensation.

The race gets off-road and muddy in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft
The race gets off-road and muddy in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft

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Scott nonetheless has hope despite the “pretty terrible” response. This is purely the segment on CPRs and the need for “information which the average consumer needs to make an informed choice” to be transparent.

“You mean like when a game is going to shut down?” Scott quips. “Most games are sold on perpetual licenses, so this doesn’t apply to them. But games with an online dependency do shut down, and there are no standards at all in the industry.”

Scott notes extreme examples with The Culling II and Guild Wars, having lasted eight days and over 19 years, respectively. Further, while The Culling II did refund its players, Lawbreakers lasted one year and didn’t.

The cops don't take too kindly to street racers in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft
The cops don’t take too kindly to street racers in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft

Scott points out that Ubisoft admitted licences for music and car brands in The Crew expiring were factors driving the company’s decision to pull the plug.

“Well in that case, Ubisoft knew when those licenses expired, back in 2014 at the latest, but they didn’t inform the customer about that until nine years later,” Scott underlines. “So they were quite obviously withholding relevant information from the customer, that would have affected their purchase decision!”

Considering all this, Scott felt that not only did The Crew violate UK CPR law, but as “99.9% of all games that require an internet connection never tell you how long they’ll last when you buy them,” so would they.

Cars race under San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft
Cars race under San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge in The Crew (2014), Ubisoft

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“If a customer doesn’t know if their game is going to last one year or nineteen and counting, how can they be informed? That’s just gambling then!” As an aside, the UK Gambling Commission declared they didn’t find loot boxes to be gambling back in 2019.

“This is how we can do something in the UK! Now, granted, this is not as good as penalizing companies for destroying your games directly, but it may take us to the same place, because companies do not want to tell you when your games will expire. Because if the average customer knows their game is going to die, and exactly when, that will undoubtedly hurt sales,” Scott forewarns.

Scott admits the exact plan of attack based on this angle is fuzzy, due to needing someone familiar with UK law. Legal action can only be taken against CRA breaches within “six years,” and even the difference between six years from the date of purchase or date of shutdown both produce further questions to pin down.

Scott Ross discusses the challenges the Stop Killing Games campaign has in the UK in Dead Games News: Response from UK Government, Accursed Farms, YouTube
Dead Games News: Response from UK Government via Accursed Farms, YouTube

Even though Scott despairs at gamers needing to engage in “self checkout law enforcement” to protect their rights (and may still even fail or have caveats and weak punishments that undermine the law), he still glad the response has provided some “ammunition” to work with, and so could any future reactions — even if they seem to be a problem at first.

“I mean either way, let’s get more signatures, we still have time!”

The UK petition closes October 16th. You can find what you can do based on your country of residence on Stop Killing Games’ official website.

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