As Once Human Terms of Service fuel a flood of negative reviews ...

4 days ago
(Image credit: Starry Studios)

Once Human developer Starry Studios has responded to player privacy concerns, after many of the anticipated survival game's 'Mixed' Steam reviews focused on its aggressive End User License Agreement (EULA).

Once Human - Figure 1
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Having been published by Chinese giant NetEase, Once Human collects personal information from players under its publisher's privacy policy. The list of collected data is pretty long - as well as gameplay-relevant information like your name, contact information, marketing preferences, and gameplay details, which are all collected through the game itself, NetEase also collects information "through use of our services or from other sources."

It's that section that appears to be causing the most concern. In many instances, NetEase looks to collect information that's not substantially different from many other game publishers - things like name and contact details, marketing and communication data, social media accounts, game accounts like Steam or PSN logins. There are also sections of Privacy Policy dedicated to gathering of aliases and social media accounts and geolocation information. In certain US states, NetEase is also able to collect data such as postal address, physical characteristics or description, protected characteristics such as race or gender, browsing history, occupation, and ethnic origin as derived from profile pictures or avatars.

Several of Once Human's negative reviews mention the privacy policy, EULA, or other terms of service. While there are concerns expressed about lack of servers or characters (the latter of which has already been addressed by developers) a substantial majority of players who are giving Once Human a bad review are doing so on the grounds of the personal data it collects, with many of them only having played the game itself for a very brief amount of time.

In response, the game's developers issued a statement on its official Discord server (via Steam). That statement reads that "NetEase takes out users' data privacy very seriously and adheres to the data privacy principles such as data minimization, purpose limitation, and transparency." It points to the issue of government-issed IDs, saying it would only collect that data "where local laws require us to do so, [....] when the identity of a user's parent must be verified to obtain consent for their child, [...] or when the user wishes to correct their age information." If that data is collected, NetEase says it deletes it immediately after fulfilling the purpose it gathered the information for.

Starry Studios also points out that NetEase has explained to players "how [they] can exercise [their] rights to manage [their] personal information," via in-game customer services. The privacy policy has also recently been revised, with the new version set to be "published soon." However, the developer says that "we have heard your concerns and will continue to improve on how we describe our data privacy practices." That's unlikely to change much in the short-term - NetEase is a publishing giant with its influence felt in all kinds of games around the world - but it might do something to help stem the tide of negative reviews. Once Human does seem to be off to a decent start with a peak of 80,000 players, but a 'Mixed' sentiment on Steam can spell very bad news for a game this early in its lifespan.

Hours before launch, hyped survival game Once Human reminds players about its seasonal server wipes "to provide a fairer, more relaxed, and freer gaming experience."

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I'm GamesRadar's news editor, working with the team to deliver breaking news from across the industry. I started my journalistic career while getting my degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where I also worked as Games Editor on the student newspaper, The Boar. Since then, I've run the news sections at PCGamesN and Kotaku UK, and also regularly contributed to PC Gamer. As you might be able to tell, PC is my platform of choice, so you can regularly find me playing League of Legends or Steam's latest indie hit.

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