For 18 hours in the middle of October, Electronic Arts shit the bed. EA’s Origin service put out a promotion in which a user could receive a $20 code to purchase software from the Origin store. Standard promotional strategy, right? Well, it would be right if the code only worked once. Savvy gamers realised that you could use the codes multiple times, and that you could share the code with others. Pretty soon there was a metric shit-ton of free games being downloaded.
Following the chat on Reddit there was a feeling or nervousness in many of the ‘redeemers’. People were worried their accounts would be banned, losing all their purchased games as well as the free ones. EA aren’t known for their altruism, being better known for their intrusive DRM and cannibalism of other games studios. It looked grim; there was no way EA would let people get away with downloading free games through their free Origin service.
When Origin manager Sam Houston posted on the EA forum, 15,000 arseholes clenched their arseholes. Gamers peered into the topic and saw what was written: “EA will honour all sales made with the coupon code over the weekend and hope fans enjoy their games.” Well, that was unexpected. I actually saw this topic as it was posted and it made me very happy. It’s nice to know that a big company is willing to own its mistake and not go after those who benefited from it.
The problem was people were already tense, and EA are the bad guys! Not ten minutes after the good news was posted, the people who didn’t download free games were up in arms, decrying EA for not punishing the wicked thieves. I refreshed in disbelief. Gamers were now criticising EA for letting people have free games.
I know I’m being a little dramatic here, so I’ll apply more rationale to the situation. There were many people who did not take advantage of the code as they felt this to be the moral choice. It’s here that I call partial bullshit. I believe that many people didn’t reuse the code, but in no way was it a moral decision. The fear of losing their accounts (and potentially hundreds of dollars worth of games) was, I feel, the driving factor.
Credit has to go to EA here, they messed up and their damage limitation has been good. No-one has been punished other than EA and after the exploit was sorted EA allowed the legitimate customers to claim their $20 as well. And anyway, it was only redeemable for old games!
In other news, it looks like the Kickstarter bubble is starting to pop with Mob Rules announcing that they’ve ran out of Kickstarter money and no longer have a programming team to work on Haunts: The Manse Macabre. Project leader Rick Dakan posted a grim update on the current status of Haunts, describing how both programmers have left the team and the initial development has taken three times longer than estimated. The team now consists of Dakan and game artist, Austin.
It seems as though everything that could have gone wrong for Mob Rules has gone wrong. They haven’t been financially extravagant and there’s certainly an appreciation for the funding they’ve received (Dakan still plans to complete the game). The core issue with Kickstarter is that it can’t account for all the variables, for example, what if team members quit? An advantage of having a publisher is that you can squeeze money out of them if you have a good reason. On Kickstarter it’s enough that people give you money based on a promise, never mind asking for more funding. Dakan is now in talks with another game company to help finish up the production which kinda takes the purpose of Kickstarter away. Who’s really funding this game now? I guess that as long as the game is made and the backers get their rewards, there’s no harm done, but it can only be a matter of time until a promise goes unfulfilled.