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Streaming boxes: will we soon only play in the cloud?

Cloud gaming is considered to be the next step for the games industry. In the future, players will no longer need expensive hardware to play games with high resolution graphics but can experience the game entirely on the internet via so-called streaming boxes. Spotify and Apple Music have shown the way for the music industry, and Netflix and Amazon Prime did so for the movie and television industry

In his presentation on our conference "More Than Just a Game" on “Streaming Boxes”, Prof. Jon Festinger outlined the legal implications of Cloud gaming for the games sector. With regard to the legal practice, the Streaming of Games will at first affect the drafting of contracts. This is, on the one hand due to the fact that streaming is different from previous forms of distribution, e.g. in physical form on discs or other storage mediums or in digital form as downloads. Therefore, such technology will, for example, have effects on licensing agreements. In this context, games providers should pay attention to have all their provided content sufficiently licensed. On the other hand, streaming technology will also lead to different business models such as, for instance, subscription models instead of individual purchases, and thus other contractual relationships with players (long-term contracts instead of individual purchase contracts). This may raise issues with regard to players’ support, for example if game providers decide to discontinue certain services.

Prof. Festinger also spoke about the new technical possibilities arising for game providers through continuous streaming, and the related legal questions. In the future, streaming will allow providers to precisely record and document the game actions performed by the players, in order to obtain information on user behaviour and user preferences. This will first of all raise issues related to data protection law. But as the providers may be able to adapt their game to the player demands through such information and the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence, streaming technology will raise further, yet unpredictable legal questions in the more distant future.

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