The devil’s in the details — and so was a federal judge’s recent decision, rejecting a claim by some impatient gamers, infuriated that they had to wait, gosh, two whole doggone weeks, before they could play with their new toy online. This case focuses on Grand Theft Auto V, the hot new game by Take Two and Rockstar Games that debuted recently. Well, besides hitting buttons and starting at screens, there’s a possible take-away from this matter for the tech crowd: reading’s good, especially the whole of materials and not just selections of prose.
The litigious gamers, it seems, got bent out of shape, accusing the makers of “fraudulent, unlawful, and unfair business practices,” because the latest version of Grand Theft, with an online multiplayer component, began selling on Sept. 17, 2013, though the players couldn’t get to the net features until Oct. 1, 2013. As evidence they were promised otherwise, the players’ suit cited the game packaging for the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 4 versions of the game, as well as a dozen or so instances of media coverage of the game’s impending release.
Legally speaking, the unhappy consumers had to: (1) establish a loss or deprivation of money or property sufficient to qualify as injury in fact and (2) show that the economic injury was the result of unfair business practice or false advertising. They had to show they “would not have bought the product but for the misrepresentation,” and it was especially key to them was the timing for availability of the game’s online play. U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips in Riverside found that the gamers had standing for their suit because they had paid a premium price of $59.99 for the product, which, overall, grossed a whopping $815 billion in its first 24 hours on sale. But were purchasers deceived? They argued, for example, that the packaging prominently stated “Featuring Grand Theft Auto Online,” but did they overlook the sentence that stated “access to special features [defined to include online play] may require internet connection, may not be available to all users, and may, upon 30 days notice, be terminated, modified, or offered under different terms?”
Oops. The judge found it unconvincing to cherry-pick the text. Further, the court was underwhelmed and unconvinced in the litigation — which had to have run up its own nice legal bills — that the two-week delay had caused the gamers economic harm or suffering. Alas, they seem willing to dig deeper into their pockets to prove their point, because they’ve filed notice of appeal.
Since this fuss isn’t going away, here’s a glimpse of the latest with Grand Theft, perhaps indicating why it’s proving such a hit: