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EA offers, denies SimCity refunds

EA offers, denies SimCity refunds

Thu 07 Mar 2013 9:30pm GMT / 4:30pm EST / 1:30pm PST
GamesOnline

Amazon pulls digital version from sale due to server issues as publisher disables "non-critical" features in attempt to improve user experience

The winding saga of SimCity's launch woes took another few turns today as Electronic Arts turned off some of the game's features to improve the user experience and reportedly denied refunds that it had already offered to players.

As reported by Develop, EA Origin global community manager Marcel Hatam had told those let down by the game's launch woes that they could request a refund for their order from Origin. However, when Develop actually sought such a refund, a customer support representative said that refunds would only be given in "exceptional circumstances," and that the game's current state did not count. (The referenced post of Hatam's has been edited, and currently directs users to review Origin's refund policy.)

For its part, EA is still attempting to resolve the game's issues, which include an array of server-related bugs and connection problems. In a post on the SimCity forums, a representative said the company is disabling "a few non-critical gameplay features" like leaderboards, achievements, and region filters in the hopes that it will improve the rest of the experience.

Frustrated players (or would-be players) made their displeasure known, flooding Metacritic and Amazon.com with scathing reviews of the game. As of press time, the game boasts a Metacritic user score of 1.8 out of 10, based on 1,685 ratings. Meanwhile, the Amazon product page for the game shows an average rating of 1.2 stars out of five, with 906 reviewers. The complaints on Amazon were enough to cause the retailer to post a prominent warning about the server issues on the product page, and to stop selling the downloadable version of the game. The site now lists it as currently unavailable, saying "We don't know when or if this item will be available again."

An EA representative had not responded to a request for comment as of press time.

30 Comments

EA writing the book on how not to launch a game. Its a shame because the game isnt half bad once you get to play it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 7th March 2013 10:49pm

Posted:A year ago

#1

Johnny Hsu
Employee

12 31 2.6
I agree, if you can get on to play it's been awesome. Well up until Zombies demolished my city infrastructure and my city went bankrupt. Where's Daryl Dixon when you need him?

Posted:A year ago

#2

Christopher McCraken
CEO/Production Director

106 240 2.3
Popular Comment
As long as users keep paying for incomplete, and unfinished, untested products (Diablo III, The original release of Fallout New Vegas, Aliens: Colonial Marines)...these kinds of launches will continue to become a rule, rather than an exception. Users have created a market for this. It's profitable, especially when you remove or obfuscate the refund process.

In short: users are now in the position of paying their way into more substandard service. This will happen again, because there is no disincentive to insure it does not happen again.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Paul Jace
Merchandiser

768 1,001 1.3
I agree with Christopher. With PC's I suppose it's always been like this but now that all consoles have hard drives we are more likely to get unfinished buggy games just because the publishers know that they can fix them in the future with an update or patch. This is why there are very few games that I buy on day 1. I like to give games some time to work out their kinks first but many of these games should never be allowed to ship with some of these bugs in the first place.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 8th March 2013 12:19am

Posted:A year ago

#4

Patrick Williams
Medicine and Research

93 61 0.7
Popular Comment
Gabe Newell understood this lesson years ago where he described PC gaming as a service and that the way to beat piracy was to address that a great many consumers were disaffected by these kinds of events.

Edit: It is ironic that Sim City can survive godzilla, meteors, aliens and zombies when its greatest catastrophe is called EA.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Patrick Williams on 8th March 2013 3:32am

Posted:A year ago

#5

Saehoon Lee
Director - Gaming

59 40 0.7
It was enough to wait for the launch of the game.. now I have to wait yet again. Bad launch is one thing, but I think EA will try to go with "Sims" like marketing where "expansion" + "dlc" is their main market and I am afraid if I buy into the initial purchase, I may be falling into their endless expansion marketing and land up paying around $400 during the life span of this Simcity game.

Posted:A year ago

#6

Jason Alexander
QA - Senior Tester

20 15 0.8
There was previous article where the CEO admits it himself. That it is the drive of his company to put micro-transactions in all futures games. Of course he went back on it but I doubt it's going to change. This is kind of where part of the market is going. I wish them luck though.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jason Alexander on 8th March 2013 5:09am

Posted:A year ago

#7

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,374 1,021 0.7
As long as users keep paying for incomplete, and unfinished, untested products (Diablo III, The original release of Fallout New Vegas, Aliens: Colonial Marines)...these kinds of launches will continue to become a rule, rather than an exception. Users have created a market for this. It's profitable, especially when you remove or obfuscate the refund process.
But, let's face it, this is fed by the publisher's insistence on enticing customers with pre-order bonuses. Pre-order and get TF2 hats, whole games, in-game items, free Day-1 DLC. You name it, the publishers are doing everything they can to ensure that they get the gamer's money before (sometimes long before) the game has dropped.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 8th March 2013 6:59am

Posted:A year ago

#8

Andreia Quinta
Creative & People Photographer

193 424 2.2
Electronic Arts turned off some of the game's features to improve the user experience and reportedly denied refunds that it had already offered to players.
Never cease to amaze me, oh EA, you are something else!

Posted:A year ago

#9

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

261 161 0.6
Legal regulations, just like some exists in South Korea, should definitely be implemented in some other places as it appears abuses become more and more common and not done by some dodgy unknown companies. If the companies are not responsible enough to provide what they say they sell, some higher authority has to "teach" them. You wouldn't buy a car without tyres and engines (that may or may not be added by some sort of good will process by the seller later on), would you? Or un that case, without a working window control system that would not prevent you from driving for sure, but that is still something that is supposed to be working on purchase.

While it could be understood that this happens and has to be done, removing non critical features, it raises again the question of the game not ready for a launch and launched anyway.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 8th March 2013 8:55am

Posted:A year ago

#10

James Prendergast
Research Chemist

730 410 0.6
@ Christopher:

I'm sorry but I completely disagree with your logically unsound statement. Just how, exactly, are customers supposed to know that a product they buy will be "incomplete, and unfinished, untested"?

Divination? Piracy?

Please, pray tell. Even I, in my relatively informed position with respect to gaming, have bought a few clunkers over the years... but, as you point out, because we "licence" games and don't own anything and because all parts of the industry from the point of sale (physical and digital), media, as well as the developers and publishers deny any refund/resale there is no way to punish the industry for their behaviour. Completely stripped of any impartial oversight due to self regulation and erosion of consumer rights consumers themselves are powerless to stop this unless they stop buying altogether.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by James Prendergast on 8th March 2013 10:02am

Posted:A year ago

#11

Sam Brown
Programmer

237 163 0.7
how, exactly, are customers supposed to know that a product they buy will be "incomplete, and unfinished, untested"?
@James: We don't, but we have no guarantee it'll be any good either except for prior experience (Diablo 3 in this case). We don't buy other products sight unseen (unless they're dirt cheap, which games like Sim City and ACM aren't these days) so why should be do it with games?

I don't pre-order any more, and I actively discourage anyone else from doing it - particularly as it appears to be impossible to get a refund if the product is not to your satisfaction. Kickstarter tactics are for indies, not for enormous publishers like EA. I want proof my new car, my new fridge, my new phone actually works before I buy it, and I demand the same for my 50 games as well.

And @GIBiz: I would be really interested in a decent article on the legality of refusing pre-order refunds. Surely that has to be against distance selling regs in the UK at least?

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 8th March 2013 2:28pm

Posted:A year ago

#12

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

261 161 0.6
Kickstarter tactics are for indies, not for enormous publishers like EA. I want proof my new car, my new fridge, my new phone actually works before I buy it, and I demand the same for my 50 games as well.
If we can easily understand that for a fridge, phone or car it is enforced by some laws in most countries, is there one applying as well to digital content and in particular video games ?

Posted:A year ago

#13

David Spender
Lead Programmer

127 51 0.4
One thing I can't figure out - is there a rational reason for not including an off-line single player large map version of play besides wanting to force online DRM to reduce piracy?

I've heard online-only small map play is being forced on players so they can experience the real 'vision' what was intended for this game. However that just seems like a smokescreen for forcing a copy-protection scheme that is more enforceable. After all, dollars drive game decisions more than vision - especially at EA.

Quote from a just published New York Times article:

"It is unclear what problem Electronic Arts was trying to solve by requiring SimCity to work only if the computer running it was online and connected to its servers. Company representatives have not responded to several requests this week to discuss the matter."

Edited 1 times. Last edit by David Spender on 8th March 2013 6:04pm

Posted:A year ago

#14

Bryan Robertson
Gameplay Programmer

86 209 2.4
While there are cases where games are rushed out of the door to hit a release date, it's worth pointing out that the reason more games have bugs nowadays, is that games are much more complex than they were even a decade ago.

If a million people play your game for an hour on-release day, then that's more person-hours of testing than that build ever got during development. A bug that might happen once every six months during testing, might happen all the time when the game releases, due to the number of people playing the game.

(This is referring more to open-world games like Skyrim, where's it can actually be very difficult to find all of the bugs before release)

Posted:A year ago

#15

Joshua Rose
Executive Producer / Lead Designer

191 74 0.4
I guess EA wasn't paying attention when Diablo III had a crappy launch due to all their 'server and connection issues'.

I agree with James, a game trailer can make even a bad game look absolutely amazing. Why? Because it's called a TEASER trailer for a reason...

The end result of a tease is generally a let down due to unmet expectations. The whole cloud based game saves should be an option, not a mandate. On Steam you can decide whether or not you want your game saves and settings saved in the 'steam cloud' for use on other machines.

Personally I haven't played this iteration of Sim City, but my dad has. From what he's told me, it sounds like EA tries to facebook-ify the game to be a 60 dollar social media game... I don't know what their plans on for future releases, microtransactions, dlc, etc... but I do know they won't be getting jack squat until they fix the problems they already have.

On a side note... Offering refunds then having them denied? Really??? Why even bother? Just outright say it... It should sound something like this "We have your money already, we'll fix the problems eventually... Our shareholders don't want to give you back your money."

Posted:A year ago

#16
Eric,
If we can easily understand that for a fridge, phone or car it is enforced by some laws in most countries, is there one applying as well to digital content and in particular video games ?
In terms of digital products, UK consumer rights law is uncertain, not settled, and does not accord with reasonable expectation.
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/31837/10-1125-consumer-rights-in-digital-products.pdf

Nor is anyone likely to litigate over a 50 product (it costs 100 to file with the Small Claims track). We could do with some legislation, but in the meantime I think people are better off buying via a significant and apparently consumer-friendly retailer, e.g. Amazon.

I don't know about other countries.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tristram Defries on 8th March 2013 3:04pm

Posted:A year ago

#17

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

261 161 0.6
@Tristram Defries
Thank you for the clear answer. I would not have seen it differently from my own experience. Basically it is then all about finding a more compliant retailer (return policy) in some cases or letting anyone else probe the product for you at their expense (really nice) or wait for a sufficient amount of reviews and user comments to show up before making a choice. It feels otherwise a bit like gambling, and while you always get something it may not be what you expected (which is perfectly fine if you are also there for the thrill of betting).

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 8th March 2013 3:29pm

Posted:A year ago

#18
For those that think companies can and do just get away with such practices as releasing buggy games, I disagree. EA and the SIms is getting hammered all over the place. On amazon they have 1 star, amazon even warns its customers now. Word of mouth about this launch is absolutely killing this game, how many sales have they lost, I suspect a truck load.

EA loses money every quarter, their stock price stinks, EA keeps this up, they will indeed pay a price.

Posted:A year ago

#19

Mary Hilton
Community Manager

35 17 0.5
There was one other game they did this with a very long time ago, and paid a heavy price for it: Spore.

Whatever happened to that, anyway?
EA hasn't learned a damned thing in all those years, and now they're going to really pay the price. Ubisoft did, and for EA to assume they can rise above the fray and make this playable is ridiculous.
Game over for EA, and the players who believe otherwise are foolish to waste their money on this farce.

Posted:A year ago

#20

James Verity

132 25 0.2
As long as users keep paying for incomplete, and unfinished, untested products (Diablo III, The original release of Fallout New Vegas, Aliens: Colonial Marines)...these kinds of launches will continue to become a rule, rather than an exception. Users have created a market for this. It's profitable, especially when you remove or obfuscate the refund process.
@Christopher McCraken - you cannot blame the consumer, they are always led to believe that software is made and sold "Fit For Purpose" and in cases like this it is clearly not... Developers will have a major backlash if they continue with the chuck it out bugged software and patch it later mentality they have at the moment...

and companies wonder why games are discounted within weeks of release, and why people resort to software piracy... you all only have yourselves to blame when you give consumers crap software like this!!!

Posted:A year ago

#21

Christopher Bowen
Editor in Chief

393 503 1.3
@Mary - Spore sold like hotcakes. EA learned a lot: they learned that consumers bitch, and bitch, and bitch, and pay anyway. That last part is *literally* all that matters.

Posted:A year ago

#22

David Serrano
Freelancer

280 246 0.9
Do any of the industry's associations or organizations have the ability to penalize EA for this? Because in the big picture, an incident like this indirectly impacts other developers and publishers. It erodes consumer confidence in games that require a persistent internet connection.

Posted:A year ago

#23

Jason Alexander
QA - Senior Tester

20 15 0.8
Yes it sold but it was not Will Wrights vision of the game. Please look up what that game was supposed to be and not what was released. Also you could play it offline.

Posted:A year ago

#24

James Prendergast
Research Chemist

730 410 0.6
@ Sam Brown.

Sam, I honestly don't understand why people are comparing this to "prior experience". There's not really any recent prior experience for this:

You wouldn't not buy a Ford because Suzuki had a recall, would you? You wouldn't not buy a mordern Ford because they had a recall on a model 20 years ago, would you? (Apologies for the car analogy - seems to be the go-to thing for discussion!)

So here you can't compare different companies EA vs ActiBlizz. You can't compare different products HackNSlash vs Simulation. You can't compare different release times Spore vs SimCity. There's just nothing to compare with - too much is different. Now, the next game EA release is a HackNSlash that requires to be online all the time within a half year to a year then, yeah, you have prior experience but any other comparison at the moment is wrong.

Posted:A year ago

#25

Kevin Clark-Patterson
Lecturer in Games Development

288 23 0.1
EA had a similar server issue on iOS with The Simpsons 'freemium' game Tapped Out. The difference there was that consumers didn't pay $60/40 for a copy were unable to play it. EA quickly removed it from 'sale' until it had sufficient servers in order to cope with the demand which took around 4 weeks iirc. Those that were 'fortunate' enough that got through on the first wave were constantly greeted by server connection issues and poor performance.

EA appears to have learnt nothing from their previous 'mistakes', all the while the consumer is left wanting while the industry looks on in disapproval yet scratching their heads wondering how to cover ever increasing development costs.

Posted:A year ago

#26

Sam Brown
Programmer

237 163 0.7
@James:

I disagree, I think you can directly compare EA and Acti. Both are enormous publishers beholden to shareholders, spending millions per game, and concerned about piracy and their place in a new videogames market. And Diablo III wasn't twenty years ago, it was less than ten months ago (May 2012) and broadband and server technology hasn't moved on a great deal since then (and besides, there's the Simpsons game Kevin mentions above). The game genre itself is irrelevant, what matters is server load, and if any portion of the game code is being run on the server I would argue that a sim, depending on its complexity and detail, takes up more processing power than a hack and slash.

There are several reasons MMOs usually have a series of public beta tests gradually increasing before launch, and this is one of them. If SimCity was subs based instead of pay-up-front a lot of the ire it's attracting might have been avoided.

I wonder if it's more or less expensive to maintain several massive server farms for years than it is to ship a dongle with each copy of the game?

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 9th March 2013 9:09am

Posted:A year ago

#27

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,374 1,021 0.7
@ Sam

I entirely agree. It's not down to genre, it's down to sales and prior knowledge. If EA expected Sim City to sell well (and they will have had order numbers, so they will have known about this), then putting on extra servers before launch and retiring those that were unnecessary should not have been a problem. Any forward-thinking business would actually provide a good number of extra servers as leeway, just to avoid the PR shambles that afflicted Blizzard. It confuses me why EA thought they could do this and not provide a decent number of servers, especially when poor download speeds and connection issues for the Sim City betas were rife.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 9th March 2013 9:17am

Posted:A year ago

#28

David Serrano
Freelancer

280 246 0.9
Christopher McCraken

I agree in principle, but it's not quite so black and white. I think there are a large number of consumers, most under the age of 20, who are guilty of repeatedly rewarding developers and publishers who release incomplete, unpolished, bug filled games. But EA is a completely different animal. I think EA intentionally jumps from one consumer controversy to another because Riccitiello knows EA's business practices, and the video and computer game industry's in general, are still largely off the radar of the FTC. And each time EA gets away with intentionally misleading, deceiving or ripping off consumers, they push the envelop even further the next time to see how much more they can get away with.

So personally, I believe EA has refused to provide refunds to consumers who purchased what by definition is a defective product, to see if the FTC (and BBB) will once allow them to violate the rights of consumers. But it's not only the FTC who's asleep at the wheel... where's the outrage from the ESA, EMA and professional game journalist about EA's refusal to acknowledge or adhere to misleading and deceptive business practices and consumer protection laws?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by David Serrano on 9th March 2013 5:16pm

Posted:A year ago

#29

Adam Learmonth
Studying BSc (Hons) Computer Game Applications Development

16 7 0.4
An overall thought on this and other related issues of SimCity and the like: I cannot overemphasise how afraid I am of games becoming "services" as opposed to "products". This trend, if it continues on its path towards becoming the norm, will put me off playing video games forever. Whatever happened to "Plug In And Play"?

Posted:A year ago

#30

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