A settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit filed over two years ago in the state of California. The retailer was accused of deceptively misleading consumers into believing used games they purchased would include bonus downloadable content when, in fact, that content was only available for free to the games’ original owners.
According to a press release issued today, a United States District Court judge approved the settlement reached between GameStop and law firm Baron and Budd, which was representing plaintiff James Collins. There are two aspects to the settlement, one of which includes consumers getting money back from GameStop. Those who purchased qualifying used games and are PowerUp Rewards members (the new-ish name for the store’s loyalty program) are eligible to receive a check for $10 and a $5 coupon. Those who are not members can get a $5 check and a $10 coupon.
Details on what games qualify were not mentioned in the press release; the original lawsuit listed games like Dragon Age Origins, Mass Effect 2, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 as those which include one-use codes that unlock content for new game buyers. A Facebook page has been set up by Baron and Budd to inform consumers on the details of the settlement.
The issue raised in the lawsuit was not over these games having such DLC, but because this DLC is advertised as being free on each game’s box art. (A used game that is $5 cheaper than a new copy isn’t such a bargain if you have to spend $10 or $15 to get DLC included with the new copy for free.) As such, GameStop’s website and stores located in California (as that is the state in which the lawsuit was filed) will have to post signs for the next two years indicating that an additional purchase may be required for access to any advertised DLC.
“We are pleased that as a result of this lawsuit, we were able to obtain complete restitution for consumers, with actual money paid out to people who were harmed by GameStop’s conduct,” said Baron and Budd attorney Mark Pifko. “The in-store and online warnings are an important benefit under the settlement as well, because if GameStop discloses the truth to consumers, it is unlikely that they will be able to continue selling used copies of certain games for only $5 less than the price of a new copy. In fact, we already know that not long after the lawsuit was filed, GameStop lowered prices for used copies of many of the game titles identified in the lawsuit.”
The press release encourages those living in other states to contact Baron and Budd if they feel they’ve run into the same issue with GameStop. The monetary aspect of the settlement is sure to encourage many consumers to seek a similar outcome in their home state, but it’s the other part that GameStop should be enacting in all of its stores.
You could argue GameStop shouldn’t have to be responsible for informing consumers about the way online passes work. But as long as the company continues to generate so much money off of the sale of used games, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that it provide some indication that what’s shown on a game’s box art is not necessarily indicative of what consumers will be receiving. Not everyone who shops in the company’s stores is a savvy gamer familiar with the concept of DLC or online passes.
GameStop has in at least one case taken steps to provide used game buyers with a more comparable experience to that of buying a game new. Batman: Arkham City‘s Catwoman content was locked behind an online pass, but the store provided a new code to unlock that content with used copies. More often than not, however, that is not the case.
This may all become a moot point if the next generation of consoles prohibit the use of secondhand games, and if not because of that, then the eventual move to games being digital-only will have the same effect. With there being a distinct possibility that used games will stick around for at least another generation, though, GameStop may continue to face this sort of criticism until online passes are eliminated (not happening) or it takes steps to better educate consumers. Doing so might even turn into a business opportunity if it begins selling online passes in the same way it already does DLC.