Legal trends for the games industry in 2022 | Opinion

This will revive a lot of legal questions that were first discussed when virtual worlds were a hot topic: rights in virtual property, personality rights of avatars, interchangeability of virtual objects, and who is responsible if they lose their value (for whatever reason). So far, games companies tend to take the position that virtual objects have no “real world” value. This will become increasingly difficult if and when the Metaverse is a place designed for commercial activities.

And it’s going to be a ride. Companies hellbent on proving loot boxes hold no real value and have no relation to gambling, want to sell you digital items with real world value.

This might be the moment when we have to re-examine why many online games companies were opposed to real money trading of virtual objects: legal problems when changing the game’s balance for example, or randomized games mechanics becoming more problematic under gambling laws and sanctionable as unfair commercial practices.

I bet it’s because current systems are centralised and that brings liability. With the decentralised nature of the blockchain (such as it is in any given system proposed), companies most probably assume they can avoid the shitstorm even if everything goes south.

  1. Free-to-play and paying with data

So far, free-to-play games could take it easy when it came to consumer law — or at least easier. The EU Regulations we just mentioned are bound to change this as well. Paying with data will, to a large extent, be treated the same way as paying with money.

For example, players will have a right of withdrawal. This in turn means that, as a general rule, content provided by the user must no longer be used by the games publisher once the player exercised his or her right of withdrawal.

Our bet is there will be many discussions on when a user pays with data. The EU regulation says that this is pretty much always the case if the company processes more data than strictly required.

At least we’re at the point that “paying with data” is now taken seriously at the legislator level.

Tracing the past, present, and future of game cinematics

The potential for cinematics in video games seems limitless. As graphics improve, so does the ability not only to customise a role-playing character but to portray it in cinematics. In long-form narrative games, we have already started seeing real-time cutscenes that include customised character assets — such as hairstyles or items. But this could soon extend to trailers themselves. The surge in on-demand gaming services could lead to more regular instalments of games, resembling seasons of a TV show, in which case cinematics would act as an ongoing factor. This may allow for doors opening up such as seeing your personalized character within a game trailer, making such cinematics even more valuable and potent to drawing in audiences.

Personalised characters in promotional material is quite an easy sell, I think. Not easy to implement as trailers would have to be rendered per user in some capacity. Only problem is part of player customization is going gung-ho on the blockchain and I’m not sure I want all of this combined.

European court overturns 12-year-old €1.06 billion fine against Intel

In its initial appeal, Intel argued that the massive fine violated its human rights. The EU’s General Court was unimpressed by that line of reasoning, rejecting the appeal in 2014. The CPU maker then changed tack, arguing that the underlying economic analysis was faulty, resulting in today’s verdict.

Intel is brought to court based on business tactics, Intel chooses to first posit not that said tactics are sound and legal but that being chastised for applying them to the market is a human rights violation. The world we live in.

Amazon ends widely mocked scheme that turned workers into Twitter “ambassadors”

Amazon is accused for overworking and underpaying fulfilment centre staff, decides to spend money to deal with it. Somehow, instead of raising wages or easing on the workload by other means, decides to pay same underpaid workers to go all The LEGO Movie and “Everything is awesome!” on us. Sometimes it’s like people avoid the most efficient solution to a problem on principle.

Amazon’s tactics weren’t too different on its official @amazonnews Twitter account. The account denied that workers urinate in bottles in March 2021, writing in a reply to US Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), “If that were true, nobody would work for us.” Amazon later admitted that the “tweet was incorrect.”

How could they have known at the time though, right?

AG Ferguson investigation shuts down Amazon price-fixing program nationwide

The “Sold by Amazon” program allowed the online retailer to agree on price with third-party sellers, rather than compete with them. Ferguson’s lawsuit asserted that the program violated antitrust laws. Amazon unreasonably restrained competition in order to maximize its own profits off third-party sales. This conduct constituted unlawful price-fixing.

Gasp

Google Workspace to strip privacy control from admins, re-enable tracking

I struggle to give Google the benefit of the doubt here since the end result of all these changes just happens to be “more user tracking.” The organization-wide control for Web & App Activity is leaving the admin panel, and the switch for that control will now be up to each individual user. Google would probably argue the switch for Web & App Activity doesn’t belong in the admin panel since it no longer affects specifically “Workspace” products. But we’re still talking about a Workspace account, and leaving the setting up to less tech-savvy users will result in fewer of them finding and understanding the setting.

The new Search History setting also isn’t in the administrator panel. Google is leaving this up to users and taking the incredible step of turning on data retention even for users who have previously opted out of the tracking this covers. Again: more tracking. Every individual user who already said they don’t want this will have to hunt the setting down again. Admins who don’t want this will have to hound each individual user to shut it off.

There is already widespread confusion in the Hacker News thread and other places about all this, and Google’s communication in the email and support page is nowhere near as clear as it should be. To quote one of the Googlers cited in Arizona’s location-history lawsuit, Google’s settings and communication feel like they are “designed to make things possible, yet difficult enough that people won’t figure it out.”

This is just another definition for insanity. Just in product form.

Google says Android tablets are the future, starts staffing up new division

If Google would like people to take Android tablets seriously, it will require several years of sustained, quality development from Google. At this point, Android tablets mostly get brought up as the butt of jokes. Google will need to work very hard to prove it is serious about tablets and won’t abandon them again when Android 12L isn’t an overnight success. Does Google still have the stomach—and leadership—to make a longterm commitment to a project, even if the first few public releases aren’t successful?

We saw this pattern with Google’s first swing at Android tablets, where Android 3.0 Honeycomb was a big release, and when that was not instantly successful, Android 4.0 was a smaller tablet release. A release or two later, the tablet improvements stopped and the platform was effectively abandoned. We also saw this with smartwatches: Android Wear was not an overnight success after its first launch, and resources were quickly pulled from the project, leading to stagnation for years. Just like tablets, lately, Google has decided that abandoning a core smart device platform wasn’t such a great idea and is now trying to resurrect Android smartwatches.

For both of these projects, it’s not clear if Google is in it for the long haul or if this is just another temporary burst of interest. Meanwhile, Apple is actually in tablets (and smartwatches) for the long haul, and today’s iPads and iPadOS are the result of 12 years of continual iteration and a significant dedication of resources. If Google wants to catch up, it has a long road ahead of it.

This is more or less the problem with any and all Google’s product-related proclamations with regards to initial committment, later reengagement and highfalutin pivots that are not directly tied to its ad business. That was the case before the Stadia debacle and it’s even more so now. It still amazes me how Google just says things assuming it’s OK, given its record, to not immediately back it up with something more concrete.

Ubisoft responds to angry NFT Digits and Quartz reaction – Interview

Do you guys see a future where players own the games themselves? That the games are an NFT?

NP: That’s part of the use case we can explore, but it’s not the focus today.

Ubisoft caught a lot of flak about his NFT endeavour, to the surprise of approximately zero people. Caught even more for this interview that insists gamers always know better, are always right but they just don’t understand what Ubisoft is trying to achieve in this space, here and in the future, yet completely failing to provide a straight answer on what that looks like. Still Ubisoft has been more cautious than other with its NFT experiments, something people find difficult to care for in the climate every NFT discussion is being made at this point in time.

But this part made me laugh outright. Amazingly, video game publishers found a way to sell you anything even before making their case on why you should care either as a consumer or as a player but they sure as hell can’t be bothered to let you own your digital copy of their game through the exact same systems they’re trying to shove down your throat.

Things will only get uglier from here on out, regardless of whether we’re meant to luck out and see them get better later on.

Shopify Denies Allegations in Textbook Pirating Lawsuit

Their suit claims the e-commerce company is liable for the unauthorized school textbooks, test packs and solutions manuals sold by websites using Shopify’s services.

Shopify sells technology that enables people to put up websites, accept online payments, and ship and track orders to customers.

The e-commerce company said Friday in its rejoinder to the lawsuit that it complies with existing copyright laws passed by Congress, which generally shield internet infrastructure companies from being sued for copyright violations committed by users.

The publishers may not like the laws, Shopify said, but the court is the wrong venue to compel changes to existing rules.

“This lawsuit is an attempt to do through this Court what Plaintiffs could not achieve in the legislative sphere,” said Shopify in its response, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

A surprisingly clear comeback to the accusations by Shopify, essentially based on the fact that it’s a platform and certain laws already apply, no matter someone else likes them or not. But such are the plays allowed in common law land so that one can still hope on a virtuoso level verdict that sets new precedent, essentially forcing a different reading of existing law.

Legal systems aside though, the publishers’ claim that whatever random seller starts selling a product illegally means the platform is automatically liable (a common political pirouette for offloading government oversight to private companies). Let me ask you this though, dear reader.

If a peddler that lacks a permit starts selling illegal goods —namely something stolen from you— on the curb, do you go after the city? No? But why? And there’s your answer.