I don’t throw around words like ‘Nanny State’ often or lightly, but when it comes to epically stupid “think of the children” laws effecting video games I take notice. This one is a whopper though. When I think Nanny State… there are a few countries and companies I think of, Germany and Nintendo nearly topping both of those lists ( well.. and Australia… they’ve mastered the art of stupid law making in the name of protecting children ). When Germany and Nintendo combine, the results are some epic stupidity.
As of right now you can’t buy games online in Europe that have a PEGI 18 rating, unless it’s after 11PM and before 3AM. So, if you want to buy Assassin’s Creed or ZombieU online and aren’t a night owl, you can’t.
Here is a quote from Nintendo in response to Eurogamer:
“At Nintendo we always aim to provide a safe gaming experience for fans of all ages and ensure that we comply with applicable legal age restriction requirements across Europe,” a Nintendo spokesperson told Eurogamer.
“Legal age restriction requirements vary across a number of European countries. Since Nintendo of Europe is based in Germany, Nintendo eShop is complying with German youth protection regulation which therefore applies to all our European markets. Under German law, content rated 18+ must be made available only at night.
“Therefore the accessibility of 18+ content in Nintendo eShop is limited to [USK: 22:00 UTC until 4:00 UTC] [PEGI: 23:00 UTC until 3:00 UTC].”
So, Germany has a downright stupid child protection law on the books, and Nintendo Europe’s offices are based out of Germany, so they are applying the law TO ALL OF EUROPE.
So, Germany get’s the stupid prize for enacting a law that makes not a lick of sense. It’s modeled in the mode of television restrictions where adult content can’t be played until a certain time window, which itself is completely ignorant of 10 years of progress in digital distribution rendering the entire concept archaic and mostly pointless. Not to mention the fact… what are the demographic that are up between 11 and 3? Outside the university crowd… that’s basically insomniacs, people working nights and…. well, students under the age of 18! Buying *ANY* content on the app store already requires users submit their age, making the entire scheme redundant anyways. All you are doing is annoying your users.
Nintendo obviously takes their share of the blame here. They have a history of stupidity when it comes to online, "protecting” users behind those god awful friend codes being the most glaring example. This just seems to be another example of them being pretty out of touch with online reality. Now it may be a legal requirement due to their office location, but this doesn’t absolve them of responsibility. First off, basing your European operations out of the most legally anti-video game country in Europe is a downright stupid decision to start with. The fact they can’t seem to work their way around a problem that EVERY other online retailer solved years ago… well, that’s 100% on Nintendo. It would take their lawyers about 20 minutes to spin the eStore European division off as a subsidiary and open an unmanned office in a more legally friendly country. Instead they took the lazy and downright stupid approach of applying this bad restriction to all of their customers.
I imagine in time common sense will prevail… at least, I certainly hope it does.
This post isn’t as off topic as it might seem. These kind of legal hassles, especially as it applies to digital distribution, should be of concern to all indie game developers. When or if you register your company, you should be exceptionally mindful of your host countries laws and how they can impact your legal rights and liabilities.