Thursday, November 08, 2007
Termination of Service and refunds
I've decided to make the subject of all my posts today the "Termination of Service" rules of MMORPGs, because they are so rarely discussed. No, I have never gotten kicked out of any game, it was only reading the Termination of Service rules from WoW that awoke my interest in the theme. The specific subject of this second post is about refunds.
Imagine little Johnny gets a wad of cash from his grandma for his birthday, and buys himself a MMORPG. He opens an account, prepays for a lifetime subscription, and starts playing. Not knowing much about what is allowed or not, and not reading the lengthy EULA and TOS, he follows the bad advice from a buddy from school and on his first day in the game buys some gold and/or installs a bot program. On his second day little Johnny gets banned from the game. (Not likely, I know, but theoretically possible given the rules). Does he get any money back?
When you pay $50 for a single-player game without internet activation, you receive something of value. You can play the game whenever and as long as you want, and you could even resell it. When you buy a MMORPG for the same money, you already can't resell it if you used it just once. And if the server shuts down or for some reason you broke a rule and the game company decides to terminate their services to you, you can't use the game you bought at all. One recent bad scenario was people paying for a pre-order box of Gods & Heroes, and then the game was cancelled before it was even released. In that case people got refunds, which was pretty messy. But what about refunds in the event of a termination of service? Several games offer lifetime subscriptions now, and even in World of Warcraft you can pay your subscription for 6 months in advance. But the game company has the right to terminate their service to you for any reason they see fit. For somebody not very well versed in the ways of MMORPGs it is hard to see why some mods are perfectly legal, while installing other mods is a bannable offence.
Game companies should have the right to refuse service to customers that they deem harmful to the game. But they should also refund that customer for any subscription that he has prepaid and will not receive due to the termination of service. But as far as I know these companies don't have any refund policies right now. Refunds probably weren't deemed necessary when somebody got banned half-way through the month and was paying a monthly fee. But with the possibility to pay for a lifetime subscription or 6 months of subscription in advance, that policy isn't tenable any more.