Europe calls for glitch-free game guarantees

Proposed European guidelines could mean an end to the misery of bug-filled video games. But manufacturers say the rules would be unworkable and could even limit how many games are developed.

The European Commission, the administrative arm of the European Union, says games should lose their current exemption from quality guarantee laws. As things stand, there’s no legal comeback for buyers, even if a game has a bug that makes it impossible to finish.

If the proposals came into force, manufacturers would have to offer a minimum two-year guarantee that games would work properly. Officials say there is a risk some customers would abuse this by returning games for spurious reasons after they were done playing with them, but that this doesn’t outweigh the right of honest players to be protected from faulty products.

However, Tiga, the trade association of video games producers in Europe, says the rules would deter manufacturers from producing innovative games for fear that a bug could prove costly. Its spokesman Richard Wilson (pictured right) told the BBC that problems often occur because games take so long to develop that it’s not always possible to predict exactly what hardware will be in use when the game is eventually released.

The Business Software Alliance claims it is wrong in principle to apply general consumer laws to video games because software is licensed rather than sold, meaning any problems must be dealt with through the civil court system.

The Commission is also aiming to bring more consistency to national laws dealing with piracy, and to stop firms offering software licenses which are restricted to particular European countries. If it goes ahead with the plans, European governments would be required to introduce the changes to their domestic laws.