How EA Is Turning A Bad Situation Into A Win

Posted by jakob187 (21670 posts) -

Over the weekend, many people became aware of a glitch with a promo code that EA had offered through a survey for their Origin service. The promo code in particular was for $20 credit towards a purchase, and even with some stipulations attached, this meant that a majority of games under $20 were free. The glitch was that people were able to use the code multiple times through specific exploits (deleting cookies, using different browsers, etc etc), thereby stocking up on a ton of games for absolutely nothing. Some called it theft while others called it a ploy by EA to get a larger user base. Many believed it would result in banhammers being dropped.

None of this is the case, as EA has come out on their forums and stated that the coupon is expired now and that they will honor all sales from the promo code. They went so far as to say "enjoy your games".

People have fumed about this over the last few days, and while they do have valid points, there are bigger things at stake here, and EA has now put themselves in a very advantageous position. I have a bullet pointed list to explain:

  • Holiday season is coming up. With all the new users on Origin, EA has the opportunity to try offering deals that can beat out Steam, thereby enticing users to buy from their service rather than Steam.
  • EA now has a better chance to test our their Origin service and servers, making sure that any potential kinks are worked out.
  • There is a solid opportunity to flaunt some numbers to third-parties in order to get their games onto the service, offering some form of competition against the monolith that is Valve.
  • With the plethora of negative PR surrounding EA over The Old Republic, Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 3, Dead Space 3, Medal of Honor, the "Doctors" leaving, and so many other things, this is an opportunity for EA to gain an upswing of positive PR. Hell, this is the same company that was voted the single worst corporation in the world...OVER BP!

The problem on the other side of this scenario, however, is precedent. Now that EA has made this decision, it means they have set in stone that they will turn the other cheek when it comes to people exploiting their system. What happens the next time that they issue a promo code that is used maliciously? If they ban people or even cause some hoopla about it, the easy response for the user is "remember when we downloaded all those free games that one time and you didn't do shit about it?". It's a slippery slope to run along.

In the end, this is what I know: I finally get to play the PC version of Dragon Age Origins and use some other games I acquired to stress test my new gaming PC a bit more. Because of this single move, I think I might buy myself a game on Origin. The hook has been set.

#1 Posted by jakob187 (21670 posts) -

Over the weekend, many people became aware of a glitch with a promo code that EA had offered through a survey for their Origin service. The promo code in particular was for $20 credit towards a purchase, and even with some stipulations attached, this meant that a majority of games under $20 were free. The glitch was that people were able to use the code multiple times through specific exploits (deleting cookies, using different browsers, etc etc), thereby stocking up on a ton of games for absolutely nothing. Some called it theft while others called it a ploy by EA to get a larger user base. Many believed it would result in banhammers being dropped.

None of this is the case, as EA has come out on their forums and stated that the coupon is expired now and that they will honor all sales from the promo code. They went so far as to say "enjoy your games".

People have fumed about this over the last few days, and while they do have valid points, there are bigger things at stake here, and EA has now put themselves in a very advantageous position. I have a bullet pointed list to explain:

  • Holiday season is coming up. With all the new users on Origin, EA has the opportunity to try offering deals that can beat out Steam, thereby enticing users to buy from their service rather than Steam.
  • EA now has a better chance to test our their Origin service and servers, making sure that any potential kinks are worked out.
  • There is a solid opportunity to flaunt some numbers to third-parties in order to get their games onto the service, offering some form of competition against the monolith that is Valve.
  • With the plethora of negative PR surrounding EA over The Old Republic, Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 3, Dead Space 3, Medal of Honor, the "Doctors" leaving, and so many other things, this is an opportunity for EA to gain an upswing of positive PR. Hell, this is the same company that was voted the single worst corporation in the world...OVER BP!

The problem on the other side of this scenario, however, is precedent. Now that EA has made this decision, it means they have set in stone that they will turn the other cheek when it comes to people exploiting their system. What happens the next time that they issue a promo code that is used maliciously? If they ban people or even cause some hoopla about it, the easy response for the user is "remember when we downloaded all those free games that one time and you didn't do shit about it?". It's a slippery slope to run along.

In the end, this is what I know: I finally get to play the PC version of Dragon Age Origins and use some other games I acquired to stress test my new gaming PC a bit more. Because of this single move, I think I might buy myself a game on Origin. The hook has been set.

#2 Edited by CornBREDX (5274 posts) -

I only got NFS HS because I wouldn't buy it otherwise (I'm not big on driving games but it looks good and I need a diversion sometimes so why not). 
 
My big problem is having to use origin so I didn't get anything else because... I still have no interest in origin. I'm sure it will help EA get some converts but origin, just to me, feels inferior to steam and having games in multiple DRM Digital stores just makes things to complicated. At least with GOG i can download them then burn to a disc and never have to worry about it. 
 
I guess what I'm saying is Origin adds nothing new (and even removes some functionality) to what we can already get so I don't like using it.

#3 Posted by Dogma (961 posts) -

I have a question. Just how great of a number went and redeemed this code? I'm wondering how much Origin may have grown during the weekend. Can it really be that much?

#4 Posted by CornBREDX (5274 posts) -
@Dogma: It was all over Redditt and other places around the internet so I'm sure a fair number of people used it. I don't know if there are factual numbers though.
#5 Posted by Questionable (619 posts) -

So they are actually awarding the people who repeatedly abused the same glitch to buy out half the store?

#6 Posted by Dagbiker (6976 posts) -

I also think it is because there is no way for them to track who used the code only once and who used the code 15 times. Because if it was as simple as deleting your cookies I doubt it sent any of that data to the official servers.

#7 Posted by Silvergun (297 posts) -

Well figure, if they ban everybody who did that, it's not like they'd recoup any of the sales, plus they're also losing out on any future business from those people. Not to mention, if they do ban everybody, that's some seriously bad press for Origin, which is really the last thing it needs given how Steam is currently trouncing them. On the other hand, the only downside of them just letting it go is a bunch of whining nerds crying about how they 'did the right thing' and aren't seeing any benefit from it (which is just amazingly childish). This makes Origin look good, and potentially brought in a number of customers who might use the service in the future.

Figure, if Valve knew the sort of repeat business a lot of its customers would be doing, I bet they'd have no problem throwing a bunch of free games out there to get people on board too (which I guess is sort of what the summer / Christmas sales do).

#8 Posted by laserbolts (5321 posts) -

Weren't the $20 off codes supposed to be good until the 21st but instead are only good until the 14th because of this? I'm sure they pissed off alot of people that did out the survey and were looking to use the discounts legitimately. It's basically EA saying fuck you guys were going to reward these scumbags that ruined it for everyone instead.

#9 Posted by Akrid (1356 posts) -

It may turn out to be not necessarily a bad thing, you're right, but in any case it is not something EA intentionally tried to foster. That makes me doubt that they're really prepared to attempt to exploit the situation back into a positive, profitable position. I'm sure EA is really cursing themselves for handling this so poorly more then anything at this point.

And you say good PR - it would be good PR if they said something like "Hey, come make a new account and you get like 15 free games". Instead, they just fucked up royally. That is definitely not good PR. At worst, it's presenting the image that it's totally fine to exploit them because they are such a bad company. At best, it's a mediocre gesture of sheepish good-will.

#10 Posted by jking47 (1211 posts) -

Wish I had got in on this, I was without internet when it happened.

#11 Edited by Gamer_152 (14078 posts) -

I suspect @Dagbiker may be right about this one. These actions seem way out of line with EA's usual behaviour, which has been to try and rip apart those getting their games for free at all costs, and if they were stopping people reusing the code only using cookies, then that strongly suggests they weren't storing any server-side information about this, and if they weren't storing any server-side info then they would have had no way to actually reclaim the games they accidentally handed out, meaning they had to just let people walk away with their games. Let's suppose by some small chance they actually do have the facilities to reclaim those games though, I still think it's reflective of the exact attitude of EA that the only way they really managed to overcome their own short-term greed and get people on the Origin service was through a complete mistake.

I'd still argue that this situation has been handled poorly though. As @laserbolts said, this code was supposed to be good until the 21st and EA shut down their whole deal on it early. This may not seem like the biggest of problems, but that the code was never meant to be used by gamers in general, it was a code EA were giving to people who completed their online surveys. This means that there are now many people who've genuinely tried to help EA, and have got comparatively little or nothing at all when they were promised a hefty chunk of store credit, while those who abused and exploited EA's systems have been rewarded with armfuls of free stuff. Many of the people who took that survey were loyal EA customers, while many of the people who misused the code just rolled up without any kind of real ties to Origin and walked away with a bunch of games. As one EA forum user put it, they "rewarded the abusers and punished their customers".

Maybe it's just me but I'm having trouble even finding a proper statement from EA about this, I can't find anywhere they're actually informing anyone that they've revoked use of the code and given system abusers a bunch of free games. The most I can find is that a staff member just rolled up in the middle of a thread on the EA forums and said "We'll honour your purchases, enjoy your games" and then left. That's an abysmal way to handle this. I also don't think this is setting in stone that they don't care about exploiters. If they moderate users in the future for exploiting their system, I don't think anything is really going to happen if the users turn around and say "But I was allowed to exploit before". I don't think most service providers would really bow to this kind of reasoning, let alone EA, who've time and time proven again that they don't care how fair anything this, as long as it's in the interests of making them money.

But okay, even out of this horrible mess, maybe this does mean that they can snag more players for Origin. The thing, is only half the job has been done so far. They've obviously got some new customers and existing customers who'll be using the service more, but their success in the long term is going to rely on them keeping them around. If they really want to measure up to their rival, they're going to have to have an enormous library of games and consistently excellent deals. I'm sceptical over whether they can deliver that.

Moderator
#12 Edited by bybeach (4826 posts) -

I have no interest in Origin beyond pure need, so while I saw much of this, getting DA2 for free has absolutely no appeal. That to me rates as high as being gifted my 2 cat's retail end products from their litter box, though true the Felines have done well by this model.

I think EA accepted that it was better to keep the worms in the can and put the best face on it somehow. The employees responsible for allowing this may not fare so well. But EA may have stumbled into some kind of win, long perspective required...

Origin will never let this happen again, and will stipulate so in language, I'm sure. it will be made very clear so as nobody can say EA has accepted all this as practice.

#13 Edited by mlarrabee (2951 posts) -

@Dagbiker said:

I also think it is because there is no way for them to track who used the code only once and who used the code 15 times. Because if it was as simple as deleting your cookies I doubt it sent any of that data to the official servers.

I'm not very versed in web implementation, but I imagine EA must have the IP address of every person who uses the Origin store to download from their servers. Actually doing something with those IPs would be next to impossible, legally, because who's to say fifteen different people didn't just happen to use the same computer on the same day to purchase one item apiece. I think they have the information they need, but would be hard pressed to do anything, not to mention the bad blood that would produce.

But like I said, I'm not speaking from knowledge.

#14 Posted by Tru3_Blu3 (3204 posts) -

And this, folks, is how you think like an economist. Damn good analyzation on EA.

#15 Posted by jakob187 (21670 posts) -

@Gamer_152: I can understand the points that you are making. I did see quite a few people in the EA forums that had been issuing complaints about taking the survey and their code was not working on legit purchases they wanted to make, followed by cursing about the exploiters. I do feel sorry for those people and I'm hoping that EA will offer a unique solution to those people as some form of goodwill gesture. That part offers them bad PR, but at what percentage? Always remember the golden rule: bad PR is still PR. It keeps your name out there, hated or not. I can guarantee that the number of people that were legit in their code usage were at least 1:3 in comparison to the number of people that exploited the code heinously. If I'm a company that's looking at my pocketbook as well as overall total user base, I'm going to pick the horde of new people on the service over anything else. Again, they are in a unique place where this happened right before the biggest season of the year for video games. If they can offer up smoother deals than Steam (which is doubtful as their library is far smaller, but still...), then they could end up getting some serious headway on their service.

You mentioned their library, and yes, it's smaller. It's also a much younger service. Steam had many of the same issues in the beginning. God, people FUMED about Steam in the beginning. It was the worst thing that ever happened to PC gaming, and yet now it is considered the messiah by the mainstream. It's something I've said about Origin from the moment it arrived: people would frown upon it for at least two years, then they'd find it to be an acceptable service, then another year or two later would find it being actual competition against Steam. Hell, if I were a game company right now that just saw Origin picked up a shitload of new customers, I'd be launching my new game on that service day and date without issue. That's money!

@Tru3_Blu3: Indeed, that is the way I approached it. EA needs it right now, especially if you've got people in the company saying that they need to focus on original IP going into the next gen. That money doesn't fall out of thin air, even though this is the same company that makes oodles and oodles on Madden and FIFA alone. Every extra penny counts, and they know it. There was maybe a 5% chance they would make a choice other than "let's keep this new user base and see what happens". is correct when he says it's only half of the work done, but let's be honest with each other here. We know what happens when a Steam sale kicks in. People go haywire and buy shit they don't even need. If EA can get the same kind of business on a big sale, they are in a good spot.

So overall, this is definitely a double-edged blade for EA to balance on. Right now, they are taking an interestingly amoral high road for the time being. I wouldn't be surprised to see some type of retaliatory thing from Valve in response.

#16 Posted by TooWalrus (13197 posts) -

I kinda knew what this was going to say before opening the thread- this mistake does have the potential to help EA in the long run. I'm not surprised there are people out there saying this was a purposefully overlooked (though I don't believe that myself.)

#17 Posted by beeftothetaco (423 posts) -

Probably the first good move EA has made in years. Origin still sucks ass though.

Online
#18 Posted by jakob187 (21670 posts) -

@beeftothetaco said:

Probably the first good move EA has made in years. Origin still sucks ass though.

Of course Origin sucks ass. It's trying to be a Steam imitator more than an innovator, and it's only a few months over a year old. It's not like they've had the time to refine things the way that Valve has. As it stands, however, I'm fine with the service so far. It does what it's supposed to: delivers me PC download content and lets me play it.

#19 Posted by CommanderZx2 (134 posts) -

Is this really that great a move? Anyone else who was invited to do complete the survey will now find that the code no longer works due to certain people abusing it.

#20 Posted by Slag (4352 posts) -

EA is in a tough spot, but it probably makes more sense for them to be lenient than antagonize a large amount of potential future customers. As others have said I'm not sure EA has enough info to accurately figure out who is guilty and who is not.

#21 Posted by beeftothetaco (423 posts) -

@jakob187: I was thinking more along the lines of always-on DRM and not allowing modding on most of their games. The service itself sucks too, though.

Online
#22 Edited by Zekhariah (697 posts) -

I think it was also a matter of effort, in addition to the "good will" where they would take the (IMHO) unfair backlash that removing the games would have caused. Presumably a lot of those titles were purchased by people who have little to no intention of playing them, so it might not be that much of a legitimate sales loss. And they would have had at least a few people making legal threats, and keeping this in the news for ages, if the issue was pressed. I would have personally gone with origin service bans if I was running it though >.>.

Origin service itself is actually pretty decent now too (its incomplete compared to steam, but it downloads and installs games - just use Skype or w/e for your chat needs). But I cannot imagine it is intentional, because it basically makes it look like they are incompetent at running a online store - kind of risky when you are asking for CC info.

#23 Edited by Tru3_Blu3 (3204 posts) -

@jakob187 said:

@beeftothetaco said:

Probably the first good move EA has made in years. Origin still sucks ass though.

Of course Origin sucks ass. It's trying to be a Steam imitator more than an innovator, and it's only a few months over a year old. It's not like they've had the time to refine things the way that Valve has. As it stands, however, I'm fine with the service so far. It does what it's supposed to: delivers me PC download content and lets me play it.

Except that it's enclosed and doesn't allow users to do anything with their games. At least Valve doesn't restrict anything with theirs. We can mod and alter the games they made on their little internet store without an consequence. Our owned product are ours completely, not 50% of it.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.