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Thursday, April 15, 2021

How PAC-MAN 99's Privacy Policy Lies To You

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - You shouldn't go anywhere near PAC-MAN 99.

Last week, Bandai Namco released PAC-MAN 99 for free to all Nintendo Switch Online subscribers. The purpose of the game is to try to get you to buy downloadable content for different game skins based on other Namco properties, as well as pay for game modes like private battle and time attack. All in all, you'll have to pay $30 to get the most out of it. (That's for the game modes and the cosmetic stuff; you can buy the cosmetics separately but not the game modes.)

Now, I have never liked PAC-MANthat's an understatement—but I figured I'd try it at least once. Typical of free Bandai Namco experiences like Dragon Ball FighterZ, you need to get through a terms of service and privacy policy to play anything. At least at 14+6 pages, the legal documents are substantially shorter than the 42+42 pages you see from Activision.

You need to hold down the A button to agree to the EULA.

So after that 14-page EULA/terms of service is that 6-page Privacy Policy, which I read. I took a screenshot of an interesting part about Game Analytics, which sort of implies that Namco is going to do things with your game data, though not sell it to third parties:

PAC-MAN 99 Namco Bandai Privacy Policy Game Analytics
“You can opt-out of this use through the options menu in the Game.”

You may like the idea of Namco doing special things with your game analytics and maybe marketing things just to you. I definitely don't want to be marketed about PAC-MAN because I'm the kind of person that gets mad every time I go to the character selection screen on Super Smash Bros. and see PAC-MAN there. Moreso on Super Smash Bros. For Wii U than Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, if only because it's hard to find anyone on that character selection screen, let alone PAC-MAN.

After agreeing to the Privacy Policy, the first thing I did was want to do as the Privacy Policy suggested and go to the options menu in PAC-MAN 99, which is called the Setting menu...

PAC-MAN 99 Setting Settings options menu Nintendo Switch
There is no opt-out option in PAC-MAN 99's settings menu.
(To my knowledge, the $30 DLC doesn't include one, either.)

Unfortunately, the option doesn't exist. ...I admit to have then explored the game's features (or lack thereof) and played a few of the 99-person matches. I didn't have fun and deleted the game. Now sort of concerned about what Namco thinks about me and what they plan to do. Who knows what “and perform other analytics” could mean.

There are two possibilities. One, Namco is actually not collecting any analytics data, so therefore there is nothing to opt out of. Or two, they are collecting data, and there's nothing you can do about it besides not use the game. After all, since it's free, you are the product. ...And I guess if you pay $30 for the DLC, you're still the product and they'll still track you, but now it's much more interesting for them because you'll probably be on their list of PROFITABLE suckers who they will go to first for more money in the future. It's very valuable data to know that you'll wittingly spend money on a bad, low-effort product.

I guess the real complaint in this article is that companies should customise their legal documents in accordance to what's being offered. There's actually very little purpose in making disclosures—that you need to acknowledge—if what you're disclosing isn't reflected in reality. It's scummy when you think about it. You'd be in trouble in Namco's eyes if you misrepresent your end of the agreement. We should treat them like they'd treat us when they misrepresent their agreement as well. An agreement—and it is an agreement, that's what you're holding down the A button for—is mutual. You could even say Namco's generic—or lying—terms represent contract fraud. They aren't upholding their end. It's an instant breach.

One notable exception to the “since it's free you are the product” rule is KoopaTV. KoopaTV is free and has no source of revenue or monetisation. Feel free to disagree with Ludwig that PAC-MAN 99 is bad, though he'll question your tastes if you do. He's not sure why you'd want to keep being victimised by Namco's lies anyway.


  1. What are they gonna use collected data for anyway? Pacman hasn't had a new game that wasn't a port/remake/reimagining of the original in yeas. Of course, anything else they tried with him really wasn't all that successful.

    1. Maybe for another Namco Museum. Do they still have those?

  2. omg I forgot it was THE Tax Day and so this wasn't an anti taxes article.


    1. Not next (this) week; they were extended 'til May 17.

  3. Well, I've never liked Pac-Man, so I figured I WOULDN'T even try it at least once. So I guess I don't have the same problem you do here, lol.

    1. I wanted to try it at least once so I could write about it. :x

  4. This is why Pacman is in Smash. To steal all of our data and also to bring forth the notion of cross-game immigration.

  5. I just don't get why they did pac-man. I mean, With tetris, yeah, that's a popular game. Mario 35, anniversary, fun game. Pac-man. Why do you make pac man an battle royale? at this point, we're going to have Pong 99 release on switch at 4:15 on august 15th.

    1. (being completely honest tho, I have a buncha ideas for how pong 99 would work, it would be kinda sick)

    2. I'm all ears for your Pong 99 ideas. :D

    3. Well first off, each player is against a cpu player, and if you hit the ball past the paddle, there will be another ball for the human opponents to block. also, you will have an energy meter, and when you miss a ball, you will lose some energy, and you go slower for a short time. if you lose all the energy, you lose.

    4. I...I actually like that quite a bit. I figure energy metre is equivalent to HP (maybe you can do some kind of special ability/power-up if you expend your energy...risky but maybe worth it?) but I especially like the "balls that fly past the enemy paddle flies over to another player's court."

    5. also, there could be a bunch of modes that mess with the way the game works, such as everytime the ball gets hit it goes faster, or big ball and small paddles.

    6. Yeah, that'd totally be a thing if they did that.


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