[UPDATED] New European Union Regulation Promises To Reshape Mobile Stores

Gives New Rights To Developers And Publishers

A new European Union regulation came into effect yesterday which promises to reshape the way developers and publishers work with mobile platforms (thanks, GamesIndustry.biz). The regulation aims to create new limitations for how game removal processes work and introduce more transparency from platform holders. The full regulation is replete with legalese, but you can check it out here if you wish.

What does this new European Union regulation change?

The new regulation offers better transparency over rankings, potential differentiated treatment, and data access rights to developers and publishers. According to the new rules, if platforms remove a game, they must provide a statement to the developers and publishers explaining why the decision has been taken at least 30 days prior. Said studio can then file a complaint or change the game so it meets the criteria before the removal happens.

 
 

In addition to this big change, a number of others will also come into effect. The new regulation will force platform holders to make differentiated treatment - treatment that differs between publishers - fully transparent. Platform holders must also become more transparent on access to data, as well as ranking systems in online stores. After this regulation comes into effect - which it did yesterday - platform holders must also make contract terms with developers and publishers easily understandable and intelligible, and any changes to said contract terms must be made with 15 days' notice.

Where does the new European Union regulation apply?

This new regulation primarily applies to mobile platforms such as Google Play or the Apple iOS App Store. Only platforms that facilitate direct transactions between customers and game developers or publishers apply. The PlayStation Store, for example, regards itself as a digital retail store that handles transactions with players and does not facilitate direct interaction between players and publishers or developers. The same would apply to the Nintendo Switch online store or the Xbox store. Furthermore, subscription services also don't count. This is because only terms and conditions that are unilaterally decided by platforms are subject to the new regulation. Subscription service terms are usually negotiated between developers or publishers and the service itself, so they're not covered.

It's not entirely clear whether this law applies to Steam or to other digital platforms like Itch.io. If it does, this could be pretty huge news for those platforms. Valve has come under fire in the past for arcane game removal practices, so these new regulations - if they apply to Steam - could be big.

UPDATE: We've updated this story with comments from European Game Developer Federation COO Jari-Pekka Kaleva, who spoke to us via email. 

European Game Developer Federation COO Jari-Pekka Kaleva told us that the federation has "not been able to reach anyone from Valve" to confirm whether or not Steam will fall under this definition.

Kaleva says that it will be "more difficult" for Valve to argue they don't fall under the new regulation because they're much less "involved in the daily business activities in their online stores" than console manufacturers are. When we asked what the biggest impact would be of this new regulation on developers, Kaleva said there would be "more predictability and certainty" when games are removed, as well as small indie devs getting replies to their complaints. Kaleva also says there will be "less self-censorship" as developers will know better how content affects their ranking on mobile distribution platforms.

We have also attempted to contact Valve, and have not gotten a response at this time.

How do you feel about this new EU regulation? Let us know in the comments below!

 
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Joseph Allen

Staff Writer

Dark Souls changed my life, and I'm here to spread the good news. I like pretty much all sorts of games, but I judge everything by its proximity to our Lord and saviour, Dark Souls.