The Higher Regional Court of Munich ruled that vague release dates like “coming soon” aren’t offering enough information to consumers, after a consumer protection group raised a complaint over the pre-ordering of the Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphone. The courts decided that this ruling would apply to other products as well, including video games.
In order to offer a pre-order option, the game must have the latest date by which consumers can receive the item listed upfront.
Wolfgang Schuldzinski, CEO of Düsseldorf Consumer, commented on the decision.
“When consumers order goods on the internet, providers must specify by when the goods are delivered,” said Schuldzinski.
With highly-anticipated titles like “Death Stranding” and “The Last of Us Part II” going literal years without release dates, some consumers may be unwilling to pre-order without even a rough estimate of how long it could be until they will get to play. But those that are willing to pre-order with no idea when they will receive the item provide a benefit to publishers looking to gauge interest in their upcoming title, with arguably little benefit to themselves— other than first dibs on any pre-order exclusives.
However, it is unclear if publishers will be able to get around this ruling in Germany by simply giving a very delayed placeholder date (for example, just putting “01/01/2050” or something to that effect) or can put a date that can be changed as needed.
Plus, there is some risk that consumers could lose their money if the retailer offering a pre-order for a game with no clear delivery date goes out of business, like what some angry customers experienced after UK retailer Gameseek went out of business and liquidated its assets earlier this year. Fun side note: Gameseek apparently offered pre-orders on “Half Life 3” with a release date of June 7, 2019, according to a screenshot found via Reddit, which seems nothing short of predatory considering the status of “Half Life 3” (Still unconfirmed, sorry).