Saturday, 9 March 2013

A bad week for EA games


I know it's the cool and popular thing on the Internet to hate EA and treat them as some kind of 1980's evil mega corporation that wants to rule the world, but personally I just see another major games company that act the same was as Activision Blizzard or Valve or Ubisoft.  They all want to make money, but for some reason EA wanting to be profitable is wrong?

Well this weeks events have certainly done nothing to help diminish this perception.  First there was the question as to whether or not the the Dead Space series was being canned or not after a news report from videogamer claimed that inside sources had told them that the series was being canned due to poor sales of the Dead Space 3.

EA immediately denied this story and went on the offensive by calling the news report patently false and a load of "hooey".  I have to agree that it seems unlikely that EA would cancel a series that has a big fan following and had relatively good reviews from journalists with each title.  Still EA didn't help themselves here by acting so aggressively when videogamer than told news sites that they had run the story by EA prior to publication.  Apparently EA UK passed on the story to EA America for some kind of verification only to receive the standard "we do not respond to rumour and speculation" response, so videogamer went ahead, only to be verbally attacked by EA the same day.

I am glad that EA aren't cancelling the series since I really enjoy the gameplay and being a massive wimp this game consistently scares the shit out of me every time, so to lose that would kind of suck since the latest games co-op aspect is something I really want to experience.

My take on this story is that EA are obviously at fault for not either denying the story to videogamer and thus avoiding this whole debacle or acting before publication and telling major news sites what their plans for the franchise would be going forward.  Instead they let this run and then acted, putting themselves on the backfoot.

I guess this is EA's error 37 screen
The other major story involving EA this week is Simcity.  Who would have thought that a city building simulation game would cause so much trouble?  It's true that simcity is one of those big casual games before casual gaming become a whole sub-genre of it's own, but EA really did screw the pooch on this one.  Since games launch in north America on Tuesday they sort of act as a guinea pig for the rest of the world and this time it saved me some money, because apparently the always online DRM the game uses fucked it up royally.

Thousands of players found themselves unable to login to the games servers and those lucky few who did make it online found themselves being disconnected and losing all of their progress as a result of this, and then being unable to play again because the servers basically had a conniption fit and died due to the massive number of users trying to login at once.

This sort of thing isn't new to the gaming world, most recently Diablo 3 suffered this when their servers couldn't handle the millions of users all trying to play at once and prior to that we have seen MMO games suffer the same issues at launch.  Why developers always use their beta data to judge their launch figures is beyond me.

What's so fucking dumb about this approach is that when you have a beta you generally only allow a fraction of people into it, usually because you either pick names from a pool or those who signed up or from those early buyers who preordered day 1.  But for some reason developers always seem to think that the number of players in the beta is somehow close to the number at launch, which is stupid because many gamers will wait for launch to buy their copies or preorder later or even skip the beta altogether.  The developer will then only have as many servers as they had during the beta and then be dumbfounded when the game servers crash on launch, only to then add more servers which they should have done from the start.

Basically games developers of the world as a simple rule always have more servers than you think you need for launch.  If you think 20 is enough add 10 more just to be sure.  If the player numbers are huge then you won't have a horde of pissed off gamers to contend with.  Of course this issue wasn't fixed by Friday this week when the game launched in Europe and the same issues plagued gamers over here.

And as of typing this issue is still ongoing as EA have finally admitted they screwed up and have offered to give players a free game from their catalogue as means of an apology, which is cool and everything, but I imagine many players will still want to simply play the game they paid good money for and I don't blame them.

The story gets even worse though because gamers who bought boxed copies can get a refund, but if you bought this digitally through Origin and downloaded it you cannot get a refund.  Now this logic is so backward it hurts.  The only way as a customer you can know that something is broken or defective is by opening the box and trying to use it before finding out it's broken and then return it.  But according to EA if you downloaded the game you forfeit your right to a refund which is wrong on so many levels.   A gamer from Scandinavia found that if he tried to report the charge to his bank as fraudulent, then his Origin account may be locked and he would lose access to all his games.  This kind of blackmail is also pretty unacceptable and maybe this was just the guy on the live chat being a prick, but if it's standard practice it needs to stop now.

Customers of the origin store deserve to have the option of a refund because how else are they supposed to know that the game wouldn't work prior to trying to play it?  Whoever thought of that particular clause needs to be fired or taken out back and shot for being such a prick to genuine customers.  Pirates win here again because given time they will hack this game so you no longer need the always online DRM to play your singleplayer game.

Who knows where things will go next with these stories but either way it will be pretty interesting no doubt. 

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