The term “coming soon” is one of the most popular terms used in marketing. It proves to be super vague, as well as kind of assuring. Hearing that something is “coming soon” may not be specific, but it does promise that whatever is coming, will come in the foreseeable future. Well, according to Germany, that is not the case. In short, Germany bans vague advertising terms such as “coming soon” and “shipping soon” in favour of specific dates!
Think of any trailer that debuted at E3 2018. How many of those contained the term “coming soon” at the end? Not many in my recollection, but still more than I would like to admit!
According to Techpowerup, the German ban was enacted after the Munich Regional High Court took issue with a reseller who was taken to court over excessive delivery delays. Now, for any retailer to sell a pre-order for a “commodity or a digital software license”, the retailer must specify the “exact date on which the product will be delivered”. Harsh!
This essentially means that all stores in Germany will not be allowed to accept the money of any customers, if there is a dispute on the release date of an item or game that has not yet released. There is no word on whether this will also affect the likes of digital platforms like Steam or GOG. However, there is no reason not to think they would also be affected.
This ruling bolsters Germany’s consumer rights laws, which Techpowerup claims are “among the strictest in the world”. This policy joins another nationwide returns policy where customers can obtain refunds on products without giving any reasons why within a specified time. The pre-order ruling also falls in line with the returns policy. This means that retailers are not only not allowed to sell games without release dates, they must also adhere to giving customers their money back, no questions asked, within a set period. How would this affect digital goods tied to accounts, I wonder?
To me, this ruling comes with its own set of worries: when a developer wants their game to be sold in Germany, they will be forced to decide on a release date. How would their sales be affected, when said release date cannot be met? There are hundreds of factors that come into account, that may cause a delay in shipping a new game. Look at the past few years alone, and you will see multiple games that have had rocky launches, thanks to forced releases. Other studios, like Rocksteady and Warner Bros., received flak for setting release dates, and not complying with them – for example, Batman: Return to Arkham ended up getting delayed twice, once indefinitely.
Needless to say, the fact that Germany bans ‘coming soon’ marketing practices is definitely a pro-consumer decision – and in light of so many scummy business practices and loot box controversies, this can definitely be regarded as an overall sound decision.