German courts have banned vague release dates for game pre-orders. The change means that stores can’t offer pre-orders with placeholder delivery dates such as “coming soon” or “available soon.” The ruling is likely to have a significant impact on the timescale in which online retailers sell videogames, as well as some hardware.
A consumer group, Dusseldorf Consumer, brought the issue to the attention of the Higher Regional Court of Munich. The court reached their decision back in May. A translated statement from the group’s CEO, Wolfgang Schuldzinski, states that “if consumers order a product on the Internet, sellers have to specify until when [sic] the goods will be delivered.”
Some of the titles on our list of upcoming PC games might be affected by the new German ruling.
According to Heise (via Eurogamer), the case originates from August 2016 and the sale of the Samsung Galaxy S6. Despite continuous requests by customers to learn when the handset would be available, pre-order pages simply informed them that “the article is available soon.” Judges ruled that this statement did not provide the information legally required by the seller.
The change means that German pre-order packages will have to tell would-be customers exactly when their goods will become available. That’s likely to affect videogames in particular – some examples of titles that are available for pre-order (in the UK) but don’t have a release date yet include Dying Light 2, Death Stranding, and Cyberpunk 2077.
The impact of this ruling isn’t entirely clear yet. A glance at a handful of titles on Amazon Germany offers placeholder release dates. Doom Eternal and Rage 2 both have dates stating December 31, 2019 (at time of writing), while the Cyberpunk 2077 release date is currently touted as December 2099. These tentative dates are likely to act as a replacement to “coming soon” dates for the time being, the alternative being an unlikely removal of pre-orders from German markets.