A reader explains why you need to stand up for your consumer rights and how ordinary people can force major publishers to change their ways.
Anyone who has Mortal Kombat X (and isn’t wrapped up with Mortal Kombat 11, I guess) might want to know that a number of previously premium DLC skins are now free to download. They are the Kosplay Pack, Blue Steel Sub-Zero, Krimson Ermac, and Gold Scorpion (which was previously exclusive to the XL Collector’s Edition). I wanted to let everyone know this as there doesn’t appear to have been much fuss about it (I’m not sure NetherRealm even mentioned it) but also because I wanted to take credit for it.
You see, I got Mortal Kombat XL back in January and was rather miffed to find that even though it says all over the place that it includes every skin, the game was trying to charge extra for the skins I’ve listed (and you couldn’t even get the Scorpion one). I raised this issue with the publisher, Warner Bros., who basically brushed me off. So I made a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority about it, as it’s entirely misleading.
The ASA found in my favour and informally resolved the issue with WB, who claimed that the skins weren’t included ‘due to an error during development’ (directly contradicting what they’d previously told me) and that no-one had brought it up before, a statement that even the ASA rep found hard to believe. With that ruling in my pocket, I went back to WB and asked for the skins they’d ‘forgotten’ to include with my supposedly complete game. They, again, brushed me off.
On the ASA’s suggestion, I went to Citizen’s Advice, who said I should try and contact the trade organisation WB belong to for an alternative dispute resolution process. It turns out that there isn’t a trade association for games developers/publishers in the UK, or at least not one that deals with consumer complaints.
The closest is UKIE, which is a lobbying organisation, who at least said they’d have a word with WB on my behalf when I contacted them. But how much that did I don’t know, as there’s no enforceable code of conduct for membership there. With that a dead end I took Citizen’s Advice’s other suggestion, which was to basically threaten WB with legal action in a small claims court, by sending a letter before action.
And that actually worked! Finally (it had been about three months by this point) WB relented and sent me codes for all the skins. I had also asked that they make the skins free for everyone and provide refunds for all customers they’d sold the ‘erroneously’ premium skins to, but they didn’t mention that point in their response to me and I figured I wouldn’t push it, having got what I wanted.
But it looks like they’ve done that too (except for the refunds, that was a bit pie in the sky). I don’t really know how much of that is down to my complaint, how much was UKIE having a word, and how much is just that Mortal Kombat 11 is out and they’re feeling ‘generous’ (I don’t think they’ve ever made DLC for earlier games free upon the release of sequels, though I could be wrong). Either way, it feels like a victory.
That might all sound like a lot of time and effort for some skins and well, yeah, it was. But it was also for principle. People complain about the shady practices of some developers and publishers, but it’s not going to stop unless they’re pressured about it. Consumer rights are only worth something if you fight for them and people shouldn’t be afraid to use the tools and services available. OK, I was never going to actually go to court, but the threat of legal action (which I’m confident they would have lost, if I had had the need and any ability to pursue it fully) puts things in sharp perspective for businesses.
The other takeaway though is that the games industry really needs a trade association that has a consumer facing side that can help deal with these kinds of issues. The ASA are great, but I had to really walk them through the issue in basic terms because they’re just not au fait with the concepts of DLC, etc. And it’s only made more complex and impenetrable to the layman by digital store platforms and in-game shopfronts.
By reader Martin Smith
The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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