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欧盟颁布的《数字内容指令》对游戏公司造成的潜在影响

发布时间:2021-04-12 08:53:45 Tags:,

从业人士谈欧盟颁布的《数字内容指令》对游戏公司造成的潜在影响

原作者:Sebastian Schwiddessen 译者:Willow Wu

除了游戏行业,你很难在其它地方看到这样一群义愤填膺的粉丝。

近几年来,游戏玩家和新闻媒体“谴责”电子游戏公司所谓的“失信”或“虚假营销”行为似乎已成为一种流行趋势。在各种消费平台上,你总是能看到有游戏被大量恶意差评轰炸,有些开发者甚至还受到了人身攻击,甚至是威胁。

尽管这种趋势可能会让人们觉得游戏行业确实有不少问题存在,但其实真正违反法律或做虚假营销的游戏并不多。大多数情况下,游戏公司会在某个时候自愿做出让步,给消费者退款。

然而,随着欧盟新《数字内容指令》(Digital Content Directive)的出台,游戏公司所面临的监管环境变得愈发严峻了。

很多游戏圈内的惯例做法都会因这份指令受到影响,特别是在游戏供应以及相关广告方面。在很多法律顾问看来,《数字内容指令》是近年来中对电子游戏&软件行业影响最大的法规之一。

本文将会概述10个因《数字内容指令》出台而变得更有风险的惯例做法。

1.游戏尚未完成就上架,后期再继续修补

游戏公司的开发日程和发行计划总是非常赶。为了减轻时间压力,并尽可能地充分利用截止日期前的时间,发行Day-1补丁已经成为一种常见的策略。这样开发者们就可以继续按原计划制作内容,等后期再以补丁形式发行。

然而,一个未完成的产品需要做什么样的修补,这是很难预测的。有时候甚至Day-1补丁发行后游戏还是没办法正常运行。

无论风险在哪,消费者在将来都会有更多的权利。

Wolfenstein 3D(from gamasutra.com)

Wolfenstein 3D(from gamasutra.com)

《指令》要求数字内容或数字服务的供应商应当符合某些客观要求。这些客观要求包括:数字内容或数字服务应具备与同类型的数字内容或数字服务常规水准的质量和性能特征——包括功能、兼容性、可访问性、连续性和安全性。换句话说,一个没办法按照玩家预期运行的游戏,是不符合要求的。

在不符合规定的情况下,消费者有权要求数字内容或数字服务进行整改、获得价格补偿或终止服务协议。如果消费者有权终止服务协议,游戏公司必须偿还消费者所有已支付的相关款项。

2.交付内容不符合广告/公开宣传内容

在以后,任何由游戏公司,或者代表游戏公司(游戏邦注比如在社交媒体上)做出的公开描述都会被认定为是应符合的客观要求,玩家理应期待游戏公司会给出相应水准的内容。这尤其适用于(但不仅限于)广告或标签中的描述。不符合的后果就同上一条一样。

风险可能增加的公开宣传或广告有:

· 重点展示特定画面、场景、特色的游戏预告,表现出的感觉跟最后游戏成品的不同,或者运行效果有差别
· 宣传说游戏会在某个指定平台上架,但是又因为平台独占协议问题撤销了(这时预售已开启)
· 成品无法实现4K效果,或者其它技术方面的内容没有实现

3.Demo没有准确表现出成品效果

在第2点阐述条款也同样适用于demo,demo表现的感觉可能跟最后成品的不一样。该指令明确规定,数字内容或数字服务必须跟协议签订前(即游戏购买前)提供的试用版本或预览版本保持一致。违规的后果参见上述第1点。

4.没有达到消费者对典藏版物品的期望

该指令明确规定,需要满足的客观要求(参见上述1、2点)还包括了消费者合理期望能在游戏中获得的东西。

因此,由游戏公司,或者代表游戏公司做的公开宣传可能会导致消费者合理认为游戏应具备某种物品,如果没有该物品,或者是质量没有达到公开宣传的水准则可视为开发团队交付内容不符合要求。

举个例子:游戏公司公开一张图片,其中显示有个物品是由高价的材料做成的(比如金属),但最后你玩游戏时发现它的材质实际上是非常廉价的(比如用塑料做成的)。

5.修改服务类游戏,与之前的公开宣传和广告相矛盾

可以长期运营的服务类游戏是最成功的游戏产品类型之一。这些游戏时不时会有新内容加入进来,还会持续调整升级优化等等。然而,并不是每次改变都是受玩家欢迎的。

除了上述第1、2点中已经概述的,《指令》明确规定,如果服务协议表明游戏公司会在一段时间内持续提供数字内容或数字服务,则数字内容或数字服务应在该期间内保持一致。

换句话说,在没有公开说明更改的情况下,在服务类游戏的整个生命周期内,游戏公司必须按照其公开描述、广告宣传和合理预期来运营游戏。

风险可能增加的公开宣传或广告的例子包括(视具体情况而定):

· 没有按照公开的路线图运营服务型游戏(比如因为开发团队因修复漏洞而耽误了,可参见第1点的风险)
· 先前在社交媒体上表示只有装饰类物品才有微交易,后来又把能影响游戏玩法的物品纳入了微交易范畴

违反规定的后果与第1点所述相同,但关键的不同之处是,消费者的索赔只能针对违反规定的这段时间,也就是问题内容上线的这段时间。

尽管索赔方面的风险有所降低,但与此类游戏更相关的风险在于消费者有权要求你对数字内容或数字服务进行整改,根据他们的意愿来调整游戏。

玩家是可以提出这样的要求的,除非你无法恢复游戏的原始状态,或者这样做需要花费很大一笔钱,非常不合理。具体需要考虑的因素包括:

1. 一致性变化对数字内容或数字服务所提供的价值的影响
2. 舍弃一致性的意义

这就建立了一个灵活的标准,一方面为游戏公司提供了一定的依据来反驳玩家的要求,但另一方面也要受制于当地法院对标准的解读。

6.对服务类游戏进行大改

在生命周期中,live service游戏可能会经历多次重大修改,随着时间的推移越来越不像最初的样子。比如出现了新的角色、地图和模式,同时又剔除了一些老旧的东西。并不是每次修改都能受到玩家的认同。电子游戏公司通常会借助服务条款保留修改游戏的权利。

然而,如果游戏修改过多,以至于数字内容或数字服务无法跟之前保持一致,依照《数字内容指令》的规定,游戏公司还必须满足一些额外要求(满足所有要求才能进行大改):

1. 服务协议中提供了充分合理的修改理由
2. 消费者不需要为修改后的内容付出额外成本
3. 消费者有被明确告知,并理解修改方式
4. 如果修改会对消费者访问或使用数字内容/数字服务产生负面影响,应提前通过可长期使用的媒介(如电子邮件)告知修改的要点、时间,以及终止服务协议的权利,或在不做修改的情况下维持游戏服务的可能性(如果可行的话)。

但请注意,如果修改对玩家的负面影响很小,则终止服务协议选项和相应的告知要求并不适用。

7.停止为(失败的)游戏/赛季通行证提供支持

不是每个游戏都能成功的,这是一个无法否定的事实。当一个原本计划运营很长时间的游戏失败了,游戏公司通常会在游戏无法继续支撑下去(或者支撑下去也没有意义了)的情况下选择停止运营,将资源转移到其它项目上去。

一般来说,游戏公司会借助服务条款来保留自己停止提供服务支持的权利。如果一款游戏无法达到预期的商业目标,可能游戏发行不久后就停服了。

然而,《数字内容指令》明确指出基于数字内容或数字服务的类型和目的,并考虑协议的情况和性质,游戏公司必须在消费者合理期望的运营期间向消费者提供(并告知)更新(包括安全方面的升级),这些更新是保持数字内容或数字服务一致性所必需的。无论是单次更新还是一系列更新都适用。因此,基于不同的情况,过早停止对游戏的支持确实会提高违反《数字内容指令》的风险。如果是在赛季通行证期间停止服务,那就更为适用了。

8.《指令》同样适用于F2P游戏

如果消费者无须先花钱才能玩游戏,但是须向交易商提供或承诺提供个人资料,《数字内容指令》同样也适用。这针对的是那些消费者用个人数据而不是金钱来“支付”的商业模式。

尤其是将消费者提供的数据用于广告目的(例如为了有针对性地投放游戏内广告),这是F2P游戏常用的商业模式之一。但如果用户个人数据仅仅适用于提供服务或遵从法律规定,那么这项指令则不适用。

9.在海外并不意味着能够摆脱《指令》的监管

一旦写入成员国的法律,《数字内容指令》也适用于外国公司。消费者与电子游戏公司之间的协议受用户经常居住地的法律管辖,只要游戏公司在该国从事商业或专业活动,或以任何方式将这些活动扩散到包括该国家在内的多个国家。

典型例子是用当地语言和/或货币提供服务,并基于当地市场量身定做广告。

10.无法利用游戏服务条款将《指令》排除在外

《指令》是具有强制性的。损害消费者利益的合同条款、跟《指令》相冲突的条款或影响、改变其作用的条款对消费者均不具约束力。

未来会如何?

欧盟成员国必须在2021年7月1日前将该《指令》写入本国法律。一般来说,各国法律在执行严格程度和地方法院的解读上可能有所不同。因此,《数字内容指令》给行业带来的影响最终可能要取决于欧盟成员国具体的实施情况。

游戏公司至少要跟踪这两方的执行情况:1. 欧盟主要市场 2. 对违反消费者法零容忍的欧盟市场(如德国、意大利和法国)。德国已经在2020年11月3日公开了拟定的执行初稿。

游戏公司还应尽早做好迎合法规的准备,例如在宣传更新内容时多加注意,加强培训市场营销人员、开发团队和其他相关人员,让他们了解公开宣传的新法规。

此外,还应该重新评估未来或计划中的营销活动,以免违反规定。

最后,在业务方面,为了在赶上某个发行日期、为了达到某个盈利目标或股东期望,在尚未完成的状态下发行游戏会带来什么样的额外风险,这是非常需要考虑的。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

There is hardly any other industry with such a vigilante customer base such as the video games industry.

Over recent years it seems to have become a popular trend amongst gamers and some news outlets to ‘call out’ video games companies for so-called ‘broken promises’ or alleged ‘false marketing’. Video games are getting review-bombed and downvoted on all kinds of consumer-faced platforms, with some developers even getting insulted or threatened personally.

Despite the general impression one could get from this sentiment, there have only been very few cases where laws were actually broken or the borders of ‘false marketing’ crossed. In most cases, video games companies simply gave in voluntarily at some point and refunded consumers for their purchase.

However, with the new EU Digital Content Directive the legislative landscape is changing and becomes more challenging.

The Directive will likely affect a large number of established business practices with regard to the provision of video games to consumers and the corresponding advertisement. According to many legal advisors, the Digital Content Directive is considered as one of the most impactful regulations for the video games and software industry in the last few years.

This is a short run-down of the main risks associated with the Digital Content Directive:

1. Publishing incomplete game versions and patching them after release

It is a reality that game development is subject to tight deadlines and publishing schedules. To mitigate the time pressure and to make use of as much time as possible until the release date, it has become a common practice to immediately update a game with a Day-1 patch. This allows the game developer to work on the final product until the very day of publication.

However, the work that an unfinished title might still need for completion until release can be difficult to predict. This sometimes results in even the Day-1 patch not being able to bring a game in a fully functional state. Wherever this risk materializes, consumers will have additional rights in future.

The Directive requires suppliers of digital content or digital services to comply with certain objective requirements for conformity. Such objective requirements include that the digital content or digital service shall possess the qualities and performance features, including in relation to functionality, compatibility, accessibility, continuity and security, normal for digital content or digital services of the same type. In other words, a game that does not function as it can be expected by the consumer does not meet the requirement.

In case of non-compliance, consumers can be entitled to have the digital content or digital service brought into conformity, to receive a proportionate reduction in the price, or to terminate the contract. In the event the consumer is entitled to terminate the contract, the video games company has to reimburse the consumer for all sums paid under the contract.

2. Not delivering on advertised and publicly communicated qualities and features

In future, any public statement made by or on behalf of the video games company (e.g. on social media) can be considered an objective requirement for conformity that the consumer may reasonably expect and on which the game company has to deliver. This applies in particular (but not exclusively) to statements made in advertising or labelling. The consequences of non-compliance are same as previously outlined under No.1.

Examples for public communication or advertisement that is subject to an increased risk include:

· a game trailer which emphasizes/shows certain graphics, cutscenes and features that altogether provide a different impression on how the final game might look like or function
· announcing that a game will be available on a certain platform but withdrawing it later (after pre-orders have started) due to an exclusivity deal with another platform
· 4k resolution and other technical features which are not included in the final service

3. Demo versions providing an inaccurate impression

The same as outlined under No.2 applies to demo version that might provide a different impression on how the final game might look like or function. The Directive specifically sets out that the digital content or digital service has to comply with any trial version or preview of the digital content or digital service, made available before the conclusion of the contract. For consequences, please see No.1.

4. Not meeting consumer expectations on collector’s edition items

The Directive explicitly sets out that the objective requirements for conformity (see No.1 and 2) also include any accessories and instructions which the consumer may reasonably expect to receive.

Thus, any public statement made by or on behalf of the video games company which might result in consumers reasonably believing that a certain quality item comes with the game can result in non-compliance if the item is not included or (more importantly) the quality of the item does not meet the communicated standards.

An example would be publishing a picture of a collector’s edition which shows a goodie that is made of a high-quality material (e.g. metal) while the actual item is manufactured with lower quality material (e.g. plastic).

5. Modifying service games in contradiction to earlier public communication and advertisements

Long life service games belong among the most successful video games products. These games are subject to constant change, additions, upgrades, and so on. However, not all modifications are popular among the player base.

In addition to the aspects already outlined under No.1 and 2, the Directive explicitly states that where the contract provides for a continuous supply of digital content or digital service over a period of time, the digital content or digital service shall be in conformity throughout the duration of that period.

In other words, provided no public correction was made to a statement, video games companies are bound to their public statements, advertisements and reasonable expectable product standards throughout the lifespan of the service game.

Examples for public communication or advertisement that is subject to an increased risk can (depending on the exact circumstances) include:

· not implementing the content of a publicly communicated road map for a service game (e.g. because the development team is still working on bug fixing, see risk No.1)
· announcing on social media that microtransactions will be cosmetic only with later changing them to include gameplay-affecting items

The consequences of non-compliance are the same as outlined under No.1 with the (important) difference that the consumer can only demand reimbursement for the time period of non-conformity (i.e. since the unpopular update was implemented).

However, while this reduces the risk in terms of reimbursements, the more relevant risk actually lies with the consumer potentially being entitled to have the digital content or digital service brought into conformity. Such a claim would require the game company to remove unpopular modifications again.

Players can demand this unless re-establishing the original state of the game would be impossible or would impose costs on the game company that would be disproportionate, taking into account all the circumstances of the case including:

1. the value the digital content or digital service would have if there were no lack of conformity
2. the significance of the lack of conformity

Both these requirements establish a flexible standard that on the one hand provides game companies with a solid ground to defend against a conformity claim but on the other hand is subject to uncertainty and interpretation by local courts.

6. Modifying service games in general

During its lifespan, a live service game can be subject to significant modifications and — over time — move more and more away from the initial product. New characters, maps and modes are added and old ones removed. Not all modifications are popular within the existing playerbase. Video games companies typically reserve the right to modify a game by means of its terms of service.

However, the Digital Content Directive sets out additional requirements that must be met in case a game is modified beyond what is necessary to maintain the digital content or digital service in conformity.

Under the Directive, general modifications are only allowed if all of the following requirements are met:

1. the contract allows, and provides a valid reason for the modification
2. the modification is made without additional cost to the consumer
3. the consumer is informed in a clear and comprehensible manner of the modification
4. where the modification negatively impacts the consumer’s access to or use of the digital content or digital service, the consumer is informed reasonably in advance on a durable medium (e.g. email) of the features and time of the modification and of the right to terminate the contract, or (if applicable) of the possibility to maintain the digital content or digital service without the modification.

Note, however, that the option to terminate the contract and the corresponding information requirement does not apply in case the modification’s negative impact for the player is only minor.

7. Ceasing support of a (failed) game or season passes

It is an inevitable fact that not every game can be successful. Where a game fails that was designed for being supported over a long time, video games companies are often in the need to cut the support once it is not feasible or reasonable anymore and to dedicate the resources to other projects.

Typically, video games companies reserve the right to cease a game’s support by means of the terms of service. Where it is abundantly clear that a game will not meet the commercial expectations, ceasing the support of a game can sometimes happen fast or even immediately after launch.

However, the Digital Content Directive explicitly sets out that the consumer has to be supplied with (and informed of) updates, including security updates, that are necessary to keep the digital content or digital service in conformity, for the period of time that the consumer may reasonably expect, given the type and purpose of the digital content or digital service and taking into account the circumstances and nature of the contract.

This applies where the contract provides for a single act of supply or a series of individual acts of supply. Thus, depending on the circumstances, ceasing support of a game too early is subject to an increased risk under the Digital Content Directive. This applies all the more where the support is terminated during the time period of a season pass.

8. The Directive also applies to F2P games

The directive also applies where the consumer is not required to pay a purchase price for the game but instead provides or undertakes to provide personal data to the trader. With this requirement, the Directive targets business models where the consumer “pays” with personal data instead of money.

This applies in particular where the data provided by the consumer is used for advertisement purposes, a business model that is often used for F2P games (e.g. for targeted in-game advertisements). The requirement does not apply, where the personal data is only used for the purpose of supplying the video games or to comply with legal requirements.

9. Being located abroad will not help escaping the regulation

Once implemented into national Member State law, the regulations of the Digital Content Directive apply to foreign companies as well. Contracts concluded by a consumer with a video games company are governed by the law of the country where the consumer has his/her habitual residence, provided that the game company either pursues its commercial or professional activities in that country or by any means directs such activities to that country or to several countries including that country.

A typical example for directing professional activities to a certain country is offering the service in the local language and/or currency and running advertisements tailored to the market.

10. The Directive cannot be excluded through the game’s terms of service

The Directive has mandatory nature. Any contractual term which, to the detriment of the consumer, excludes the application of the Directive’s regulations or derogates from them or varies their effects is not be binding on the consumer.

What’s next?

EU Member States are required to implement the Directive into national law until 1 July 2021. Typically, national law implementations can vary in terms of strictness and interpretation by local courts. Thus, the risk from a consumer law perspective based on the implementation of the Digital Content Directive might ultimately vary depending on the EU Member State.

Video games companies should track the implementation efforts at least in key EU markets and EU markets that are notorious for a particular strict stance on consumer law violations (e.g. Germany, Italy and France). Germany, for instance, has published a first draft to implement the Digital Content Directive on 3 November, 2020.

Games companies should also prepare and start early enough with the implementation of compliance structures such as the communication of updates and training of marketing personnel, development teams and others with regard to the new rules on public communication.

Furthermore, future or planned marketing campaigns should be re-evaluated keeping in mind the stricter rules on public statements.

Lastly, on business level it will be important to factor in the additional risk that comes with publishing a game in an incomplete state in order to meet certain publication deadlines, financial targets and shareholder expectations.

(source:games industry)


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