I agree with most of what you said, but I strongly (but respectfully
) disagree with what seems to be an unspoken premise of yours.
"...from Shuffle iT's view they had nothing to do with what happened before...
Well, yes and no. Of course we all agree that Shuffle had nothing to do with the promises that had been made in the past...but ONLY in terms of making the initial promise. I think we all agree that Shuffle IS 100% responsible for the decision to honor or not honor the promises that that Shuffle "inherited." Now, this then becomes an economic decision and a moral decision.
If Shuffle crunched the numbers and said to itself, "We can afford this, but only if 'lifetime' members are forced to make ongoing yearly payments--and we can NOT afford to do this if that universe of lifetime members never has to pay us again, or has to pay us only for future updates.
", then that would of course have changed their business model. And maybe Shuffle would not have successfully bargained for the Dominion rights.
If I had been Shuffle's lawyer at that time, I would have advised Shuffle at the beginning, "Hey, this is gonna be a PR nightmare. People who paid for a lifetime membership before will understandably be pissed off. So, let's be proactive. We should get out in front of this. Tell people, 'I wish we could honor all the past commitments under prior ownership. But we can't. We cannot afford to do this, and have, frankly, our most loyal and die-hard Dominion players not contributing. If you great players got the game for free, forever, we'd have to charge new players double, and that will drive away those new players, which will drive us from running Dominion online. We are not happy about the need to do this, we know that you are even less happy about this. But we ask for your understanding. This is the only way the business model will work. And we want to make Dominion online an incredible success for years and years...[blah, blah, blah; normal PR statements.
Speaking as a lawyer (disclosure: my field of expertise has nothing to do with contract law, intellectual property law, or anything remotely related to this situation, so we all should take my observations with a healthy dose of skepticism.), I am actually very surprised that Shuffle was not required by law to honor the lifetime memberships. As a general rule, this sort of lifetime membership is a pretty routine liability of certain types of businesses, and IS transferred when the business is sold. I happen to have a lifetime membership to my gym. If the gym is ever sold to new owners, I have every expectation that--regardless of the person/company that buys this gym--I will continue to have that lifetime membership.
If you have a 5-year car repair warranty from Bob's Autos, and Bob sells his business to Mary, then Mary WILL
be forced to honor your warranty. And Mary knows this (and about the 274 additional 5-year warranties that Bob has sold in the past) and has factored this into the price she was willing to pay to Bob, in order to buy his business--and his assets like his business good will.
There is an exception to this in American law, and that is: bankruptcy. If the prior owner(s) of Dominion online had declared bankruptcy, then that judge would have had the authority to modify--or completely void--existing obligations, like people's 'lifetime subscriptions.' But my understanding was that bankruptcy was not a factor in regards to the Shuffle purchase. (And, if there *had* been a bankruptcy, all of us lifetime members would have had the chance to tell the bankruptcy judge, "Hey, we have this legal right and here's why we should be allowed to keep it, or get a full refund, or get a partial refund, etc.
I am actually not convinced that prior lifetime members do not have a valid legal case. But, to be honest, it's for such a small (relatively-speaking) amount, that I do not think anyone has the appetite to file suit. And unless you could get it certified as a class action, there is an almost zero chance that any lawyer would be interested in representing you.
For me; I get decent value for money paying the annual subscription. So, Shuffle gets my money. On the other hand; when other people ask me about Dominion online, I talk about how unethical I think it was to not honor the past contract, and so I guess that fractionally decreases the value of Shuffle's good will. Shuffle obviously understands this, and is--on balance--happy enough with that trade-off.
I realize that this post might make it seems as though this is a huge issue for me. It isn't. It's not even a big issue. It isn't. It's merely a tiny issue, but one that still sticks in my craw. And it's enough of a bother so that I will take 5 minutes to respond if I see a post that (in my mind) is suggesting that Shuffle was somehow an innocent bystander--someone that had no idea about these lifetime memberships before it bought the rights and was therefore blindsided when people started saying, "Hey, why aren't you honoring the lifetime membership I already paid for.
Shame on Shuffle, and shame on Donald X, for not anticipating this reaction. Which is, in my opinion, a very normal and expected reaction.
Other people may disagree with me--and may strongly disagree, for all I know!!!--and that is fine. I do not begrudge anyone who thinks Shuffle did nothing wrong. Vive la difference!