Stardock Announces "The Gamer's Bill of Rights"

We hold these save games to be self-evident...

By on August 29, 2008 3:23:07 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums External Link

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Stardock announced today the Gamer’s Bill of Rights: a statement of principles that it hopes will encourage the PC game industry to adopt standards that are more supportive of PC gamers. The document contains 10 specific “rights” that video game enthusiasts can expect from Stardock as an independent developer and publisher that it hopes that other publishers will embrace. The Bill of Rights is featured on Stardock’s website (www.stardock.com) and is on prominent display in Stardock’s booth (1142) at the Penny Arcade Expo.

“As an industry, we need to begin setting some basic, common sense standards that reward PC gamers for purchasing our games,” stated Brad Wardell, president and CEO of Stardock Corporation. “The console market effectively already has something like this in that its games have to go through the platform maker such as Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony. But on the PC, publishers can release games that are scarcely completed, poorly supported, and full of intrusive copy protection and then be stuck on it.”

Chris Taylor, CEO and founder of Gas Powered Games stated, “This is an awesome framework for the industry to aspire to, and ultimately so that we can provide our customers with the gaming experience that they have wanted for years, and really deserve.”

As an example of The Gamer’s Bill of Rights in action, Stardock instituted a policy of allowing users to return copies of The Political Machine purchased at retail to Stardock for a full refund if they found that their PC wasn’t sufficient to run the game adequately.

“The PC market loses out on a lot of sales because a significant percentage of our market has PCs that may or may not be adequate to run our games. Without the ability to return games to the publisher for a refund, many potential buyers simply pass on games they might otherwise have bought due to the risk of not being certain a game will work on their PC. The average consumer doesn’t know what ‘pixel shader 2.0 support’ means, for instance,” said Wardell.

According to Stardock, the objective of the Gamer’s Bill of Rights is to increase the confidence of consumers of the quality of PC games which in turn will lead to more sales and a better gaming experience.

The Gamer’s Bill of Rights:

  1. Gamers shall have the right to return games that don’t work with their computers for a full refund.
  2. Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.
  3. Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game’s release.
  4. Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.
  5. Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will play adequately on that computer.
  6. Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won’t install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their consent.
  7. Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own at any time.
  8. Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.
  9. Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.
  10. Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall not require a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play.
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September 15, 2008 7:22:44 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Not all games need (or even should have) updates. Adventure games, like The Longest Journey for example, don't need updates. Even shooters, just your standard fare like half-life, or crysis, or whate have you. Expansions yes, updates - not if the game was complete when it was released, which is of course another item on the list.

There are always at least bug fixes to be made. In addition, look at what Valve is doing to Team Fortress 2: They are adding new stuff like more achievements. Completely unnecesarry stuff, as the game could easily do without, but stuff that veteran playser could appreciate. In addition, there are new maps added, as TF2 was rather short on maps.

Having said that you know that a lot of people will take advantage of something like this - go to the store and buy galciv2, rip the CD (no copy protection, right), jot down the serial number.

Agreed. Valve had that trouble with their games, and it became worse because the serial number wasn't just a number needed to play the game: It is the number used to create a new online account or add a game to an existing account. Players found themselves being locked out because somebody else had already used it.

With a digital distribution system, I suppose the online store can offer a refund and release the number, but with a physical serial number, there's not much in place to tell the game company that the game has been returned.

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September 18, 2008 2:21:00 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Gamers shall have the right to return games that don’t work with their computers for a full refund.

Consoles maybe, but PCs?  That's just not going to be fair to publishers.  Far too many games don't play right not because of any fault in the game, but because the PC owner isn't maintaining the PC.  You can't expect a game to run right on a PC with a big pile of malware and a 90% fragmented hard drive.  Plus a lot of games are getting very short.  Buy it on friday, play it over the weekend, return it on monday for a full refund.

HOWEVER, I think buyers do have a right to know the requirements for a game.  Putting the requirements in microscopic type on the back of the box isn't cutting it - particularly since the vast majority of potential buyers have no clue how much RAM they have.  Vista provided a nice, easy Windows Experience index they can memorize.  There are some problems with the index (last I heard) but it's still FAR better than expecting the buyer to know how much memory is in their video card or how fast their CPU runs.  I have yet to see a single game have this number on the box, though. The only time I see them used is in the Vista Games folder but you can't see that rating until after you've already bought and installed the game!

Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.

Got the manual done for Twilight yet, now that it has been out for a few months?

Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game’s release.

I see meaningful updates (like the upcoming version 2 of GC2) as gifts.  They encourage me to buy software from that publisher/designer in the future.  Sometimes they encourage me to buy a game I had planned on skipping.  However, I just don't feel like I have a right to such updates.

Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.

???  Tons of games had the updater built in to the game itself.  I really don't mind if a game automatically loads a download manager.  And, with online games, it's often very important to have everyone playing the same version so I can see why some games would force you to update.  What can get me really mad, though, are download managers that set themselves to run every time you start your PC.  That should not be the default option!

Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will play adequately on that computer.

"Adequately" is a pretty subjective term.  To me, minimum requirements means what it says - beyond this point you can not play the game at all.  However, if you do have a system that matches the min specs (and you've maintained the system), then you should be able to get through the whole game.  The recommended requirements are what you need to be able to get through the whole game and actually have fun.  But that's all pretty much irrelevant, IMHO, because so few people can read and understand what the requirements are anyway.

Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won’t install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their consent.

Amen.  Those CD/DVD drivers were just plain evil.

Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own at any time.

Huh?  I haven't owned a game in eons.  You license the right to install a game and play it, you never own it.

Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.

I wish I could agree with that.  Unfortunately, I think the majority of gamers ARE criminals.  The whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing doesn't work very well when most of your population is guilty.

Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.

Why?  I can see that as a problem for dial-up users but how many of those have we got left, and just how hard is it for them?  I guess I know why, though, don't I?  Because Stardock doesn't force it and you want to convince me that checking in with some server is causing me some kind of pain I shouldn't have to endure.

Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall not require a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play.

Again, why?  If they have the DVD in there so they can use some freaky DVD driver on it, then yeah, that's bad - but that was already covered above.  If they are checking the DVD to pull in some data they didn't want to put on my hard drive for some reason, that's fine by me.

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September 29, 2008 7:17:58 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Am I the only one who thinks it's more than a little bit hypocritical to talk about "Gamers' Rights" while trying to prevent that they make use of their rights given them by the law? Such as the right to resell their games bought in a shop without any restrictions printed on the outside?

Sorry, as far as I can see, this is just "Hm, 'The way we do it' doesn't sound great, let's name it 'Gamers' Bill of Rights', that's a much better marketing gag.".

So, as long as 11. isn't "Gamers have the right to resell their old games" I don't think this is meaningfull, sorry. Yes, I know, reselling games makes your profits lower, but that's life. What would you tell the car vendor who tried to force you into not reselling your old car? (And please don't try to argue with that stupid "Games are no property" trick, games were re-sold since they were invented, just the new possibiliies of the internet make it possible to try such a stupid stunt).

 

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September 29, 2008 8:45:01 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

The problem with reselling GalCiv II (for example) is that the updates are available only if you have registered the game to your account.  Therefore by reselling you're not actually passing that value for money on to the next person who plays the game.  They might pay more money to get it new, but at least they'll have the same rights to service as you did.

However it's still possible to install and play the game without updating.  In that way, the vanilla game works quite well as an extended demo.  There's also a downloadable demo for those who can't get their friends to part with their GalCiv II.

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September 29, 2008 5:04:45 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

See, that's where this argument goes wrong - if games are sold instead of licensed, the buyer of the used game has the same rights as the buyer of a new game. This would include aftermarket updates. It wouldn't be optional, they would be required to support second-hand games. Stardock's (or anyone else's) DRM would be illegal if the game was actually sold.

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September 30, 2008 7:35:50 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

However, games aren't sold the same way that for example, a painting is.  The ownership of the game isn't being transacted, the license to use that game is.  If you actually bought a game in the sense of owning it afterwards, you'd be paying considerably more.

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October 24, 2008 4:37:09 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Update: I'm suprised (in a good way) by the new version from the the Customer Report. It's better than this version, esp. the last point - even it it contains some limiting clauses.

I support the idea, that...

The user has the right to sell their physical copy of their game but the publisher is not automatically burdened with creating some sort of user-friendly system. For example, someone may want to sell their physical copy of an MMO but the MMO does not have to allow the user to transfer their MMO character necessarily or if they do support this, they are not required to invest in the creation of some user friendly transfer mechanism that is free to use.

That's ok, no problem with that. BUT, imho, this doesn't apply to the concept of delievering patches (and making the gam work). Especially, if you view the points 2, 3, it doesn't say there, that this is limited to people who bought the game new (and not used). So imho, IF the company who sells the games, forces some kind of online-registration system onto people to get patches, they should be required to implement some kind of user friendly transfer mechanism for the ownership of the game. And of course, an MMO company should be required to let the new owner make a new account (and deactive the old one).

But anyway, the change is a good step in the right direction, imho.

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October 24, 2010 6:27:02 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Good for Stardock!  I stopped buying computer games, because I'm tired of being ripped off.  Knowing that I can return a game, or that I'm not going to have to spend more money trying to play it is quite an incentive to try Stardock products.

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