Duelyst shuts out players from Russia & other countries

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The makers of card game monster-battler Duelyst [official site] recently got into bed with publishers Bandai Namco. But now the problems of this transfer of power are rearing their heads and, oh no, they UGLY. The most noticeable issue is that some players from Russia and other non-US countries have found themselves locked out of the game. A game they’ve spent a huge amount of time and money on. And it appears this is part of a larger shutting down operation.

Russian player Alpod first noticed the problem when he tried to log in last week and since then his complaints have usually ended with the response that the game is simply “unavailable in your region”. While other users have also complained about being locked out (including one user from Venezuela), others find they’re still able to play if they don’t use Steam as the launch client, or for some other mysterious reason. The problem is further complicated by login issues caused by the recent transfer (players have had to “relink” their accounts from one company to another as part of the move and that itself is causing lots of lost passwords and related problems). In other words, it’s all a bit messy.

It’s hard to get a straight answer from Bandai Namco or Counterplay about this. A statement from the original creators says that “the issue of Geo-IP blocking […] we are required to do for legal reasons”. In fact, they say they can’t even name the countries they aren’t allowed to operate in anymore, also “for legal reasons”. Meanwhile, when we asked Bandai Namco about the region locking we got this response:

“Unfortunately, to ensure compliance with U.S. and international laws and regulations and to fulfill [sic] our obligations to various third party service providers, Duelyst will not be available to users in all countries or regions. A timeline for sunsetting Duelyst in countries and regions where it will no longer be available will be announced shortly.”

That last sentence is probably the most important. It heavily suggests that some regions are now being totally shut out of the game, the doublespeak term “sunsetting” being used in place of the more realistic “shutting down”.

We’ve asked again for the countries and regions where this will be happening, impatient to see this list. It’s unfortunate this “sunsetting” plan was not made clear to players when the handover was first announced, as there are doubtless people out there who have bought in-game items and card packs without knowing they were about to be ousted from the entire community.

It’s a big pity. Duelyst is an excellent game, one of the best CCGs out there. We’ll update the story when we know more.

Oh, and if you’re thinking: “So what, Russian? Just use a VPN.” Well, that’s a totally different problem.

38 Comments

  1. Ghostwise says:

    Perhaps Bandai-Namco misinterpreted a tweet from the POTUS ?

    • Baines says:

      I vaguely remember a few years back some online game or service claiming it had to deny service to multiple countries due to US sanctions.

      • TheMightyEthan says:

        The US just imposed new sanctions on Russia, but that wouldn’t explain Venezuela. The Treasury did just impose sanctions on Venezuela’s president as an individual, but unless he happens to be the Venezuelan mentioned in the article I can’t imagine how that would affect access to this game.

  2. Andrew says:

    I like how that linked article about Russia spends 4 paragraphs on Russia and then 10 on China.

  3. Pogs says:

    Bandai Namco’s take on this (from Stormshade) in their forums ‘… the number of players in blocked regions is small enough that I honestly didn’t expect this to be a major concern for the community. It may seem coarse, but we truly are talking about a small number of players.

    Hmmm where have I heard that type of argument before…

    • bob22 says:

      They didn’t think it would be an issue? Are they stupid? If it was ONE person there would have been an issue.

      • Alga says:

        That’s true. Active Duelyst community is small, people basically know each other. So the issue is taken personally even by those who are not endangered themselves.

  4. Atlas says:

    It’s one thing to put money towards an online game knowing that one day it’ll shut down. It’s something else entirely to be suddenly locked out with no warning after being allowed in from the beginning. I don’t know if I could think of a faster way to ruin a company’s goodwill and community trust than to say “The game’s available for other people, we just don’t want you anymore. Thanks for the money though!”

  5. kwyjibo says:

    Massive shame that it looks like the lock out is going to be permanent and not just a temporary blip.

    The Russian market is not insignificant – I thought signing up with a publisher would help localization efforts, not actively hinder them.

    If other video game companies can operate in Russia, so can Bandai Namco. Guess it’s just a matter of cost to get out of existing contracts, or to set up the right company structure.

    • LexW1 says:

      I suspect Duelyst’s creators thought the same thing, and only found out about this after signing the contracts. It seems unlikely’d just have decided this was cool, given their attitudes.

      I’m a bit worried as one of my friends is a keen Duelyst player and based in Kenya. Hopefully that’s not one of the countries.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    The “it’s just the law, sorry” excuse sounds like some utter nonsense. Plenty of companies run servers for Russia and other sanctioned countries.

    I would somehow respect the company more if they just said they didn’t want to bother. Why lie about the reasoning?

    Also I’d prefer they avoid obvious PR/Marketing terms like “Sunsetting”, what the hell.

    • bandertroll says:

      There is law about storing personal user data in Russia. Bandai, I think, do not want set new server group in Russia only for 2-4% of their audience.

      • Premium User Badge

        Phasma Felis says:

        But saying that they aren’t allowed to name the countries they can’t operate in “for legal reasons” is an outright and obvious lie, and makes it harder to trust anything else they say.

        • bonuswavepilot says:

          Having had a poke around on their forums, I was impressed by how civil the whole thing was in comparison to some of these ‘gamer controversies’.

          You’re right that the claim about not being able to tell people which countries are on their block-list sounds like a load of cobblers, though.

      • bob22 says:

        I wonder if it will work out cheaper for then issuing chargebacks to 2-4% of their audiences lifetime spend while weathering a DDOS attack. Because that’s how I’d be balancing it if I were them.

    • rangent says:

      This is coming from the same company that had a Kickstarter to initially fund their premium game, then switch to F2P, then, using that same money to fund their initial effors, never gave any significant perk to the 3,500 people that made this game possible in the first place. I’ve loved playing the game, but this level of “why should we care about the people who actually want to play this?” is pretty normal.

    • Flopper says:

      Sunsetting isn’t a PR/marketing term. That’s used internally as well. It’s replaced the term phasing out. Why do they change language every few years? I dunno. Someone needs a job naming processes I guess.

      • bob22 says:

        Doublespeak was the incorrect way to reference it but it is corporate nonsense. It just means closing down – it’s the business equivalent of ‘passing away’ except nobody’s feelings are being protected.

      • Premium User Badge

        Phasma Felis says:

        It’s still just a bullshit euphemism, like getting “rightsized” instead of “laid off”.

  7. Hoot says:

    If only Valve would do this on Dota 2 and CS:GO, it would be almost like gaming in the early 2000s again. That would actully be progress.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    Are players, at bare minimum, being refunded for their purchases? That doesn’t make it All Good, but at least it stops it from being borderline-theft.

    • WaitWhatHow says:

      No refunds. In fact, Russian users were still able to purchase premium currency through Steam while locked out. (The users didn’t know why they were locked out. It was only after a user posted screenshots of their proof of purchase that a mod made a statement. All this transpired on their official forums)

  9. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    Watch them get DDOS’d and hacked a thousand times over now!

    • Sgt_Big_Bubbaloola says:

      Yep the ONE country they did not want to do this to is Russia.

  10. Premium User Badge

    MOOncalF says:

    “I have plans for your car!”

  11. XX says:

    1)Release new expansion
    2)Lock some regions out
    3)Tell them they will be locked out

    Call me a cynic…

  12. Kitsunin says:

    Whoa! That’s not okay! If they don’t at least offer refunds, that should be illegal!

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      Regarding refunds, from their forum:

      “If a user is interested in a refund due to this, they can submit a support ticket. Please be aware that my team does not hold the final decision in these matters, and will escalate these tickets to the appropriate party, but must abide by their decision.”

      Which sounds to me like ‘no refunds unless people get angry enough for the ruckus to start costing us sales’.

      • bob22 says:

        Yea or ‘I personally sympathise but the business will do nothing’

  13. BaronKreight says:

    its a sad story really. gaming should have no borders just like sports, music, movies and art.

  14. Pinga says:

    What about, you know, every single other game in existence that still works fine? Looks to me that they are handling this in a very poorly and shady manner.

  15. Rince says:

    Dear costumers in those specific areas, go and suck a lemon. Thank you. Gotta love that corporate politeness!

  16. SuperTim says:

    I do sometimes play MMOs, and I find that a lot of whales are not from the US.

    If your game can’t handle them, then your game is dead.

    I also got 2 e-mails asking if I wanted to move account to a new site. I haven’t done that because Duelyst isn’t the game it used to be; I haven’t played it for a long while now, fortunately.

  17. Captain Narol says:

    That’s very sad and surprising.

    I encourage all the people who are now unfairly locked out of Duelyst to give a try to Shardbound, it’s an EA game in the same category (ie a mix of CGG and Turn-based Tactics) that is very promising and player-friendly.

  18. n0etics says:

    I just wanted to make an effort to inform people about a likely reason for the geo-locking.

    After a bit of digging this was discovered

    Law 526-FZ: “The law stipulates that all personal information provided by Russian citizens when registering on websites, making online purchases or sending electronic messages is considered personal data and must be stored inside Russia.”

    Russia doesn’t allow any information regarding Russian citizens that is used in online transactions to be stored outside of Russia. This game has in-game transactions and likely stores the innformation attached to those transactions somewhere in North America. Therefore Russia law prohibits a major part of this game, and possibly the entire thing. This doesn’t tell us anything about Venezuela but I assume there’s some similar law in their country.

    This appears to be what BNNA is trying to work around. They can’t say anything about it because it’s company policy and they signed a contract. Just like they say “Circumventing the region blocking is, for legal reasons, against our EULA and Terms of Use.” They can’t say to use a method of your choosing to circumvent the blocks, but they basically lay that option out for anyone who might be interested in using while simultaneously covering their own asses and telling you that it’s against their TOS. If anyone has ever worked in a large organization you’ll likely be able to recall a time where you were told something similar.

    The odds are that they won’t be able to do much of anything so long as certain countries have these kinds of laws in place. Maybe I’m wrong and I hope I am, but I doubt that. Either way, please stop complaining about something the devs cannot fix and start going to your local politicians office and asking them to write laws that amend the current ones or to abolish them altogether. That’s the only real way to affect any change, not by yelling into the forest and expecting it to fall down.

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      Which is all fair enough, but still leaves the question of why try to stonewall people about it? Why vague corporate-speak instead of just saying “Russia’s stupid new laws won’t work with our payment system”?

  19. Jovian09 says:

    In the nicest possible way, what a steaming pile of bullshite. I’d be heartbroken and furious if I’d been enjoying and investing in a game for a while and was suddenly told the it’s changing owners, so I’m not allowed to play it anymore because of my nationality. It’s unbelievable to me that Bandai-Namco would take this IP on knowing the consequences for a considerable proportion of its players, and not informing anyone about it beforehand.

  20. bonuswavepilot says:

    The devs have posted an update with more details about exactly which countries are affected, and promising some rewards as apologies for people who have been inconvenienced.

    They still don’t actually say why they’re doing this, though.