An open letter to Electronic Arts – because voting with my wallet isn’t enough.

Dear Electronic Arts,

I understand I am only one person, just one paying customer duly handing over my money in exchange for the use of your software.  I realize that no one in your company may even read this but I feel that it needs to be said and that other paying consumers feel the same as I do.  There are a lot of us out here buying your products or you would not be in the business you are in.  It is my hope that others will share my feelings and agree with this letter.  And go one step further by becoming vocal about it.

I’ve long been a fan of the games you publish.  I can clearly remember one of my first EA experiences – plyaing M.U.L.E on my Atari 400 with my Dad.  Thanks to you, my life was never the same after that.  I started exploring computers, picked up some manuals about basic programming, subscribed to various magazines and became a life long computer gamer.

Throughout the years you’ve published a lot of quality games and provided a ton of entertainment for me. You’ve been on my Atari systems, my 386, my Pentium 2 desktop, and every modern computer I’ve ever owned.  You’re on my high end gaming rig right now with Spore and Crysis.  You’ve been more of a constant in my life than most of the people I’ve ever shook hands with.

Sadly, today is the day that legacy ends. You’ve lost another consumer thanks to your combined use of DRM for all of your games and EULAs that strangle a users rights.  I’m here to tell you publicly that I will no longer support the EA software distribution model and sadly no longer purchase any of the great titles EA will publish until your company changes how they treat a money paying, law abiding consumer.  I am not only making my statement with my wallet but doing so vocally in the hopes of encouraging others to do the same.

I respect the fact that developers spend a lot of money and put a lot of time into creating great games.  I am completely willing to put up my $50 for a new title.  I am not willing to be treated to third party software installs on my computer, EULAs that effectively eliminate any rights I may have to use that software or dictate how I may do so after I’ve paid my money or in short, be treated like a criminal while the individuals who do pirate your software enjoy a better user experience.

I will not be pirating your software, so please leave me out of whatever statistics you plan to put forth showing how pirates are working on your bottom line.  I simply will not purchase any more EA titles, no matter how good they look.

Your use of SecuROM software, draconian Terms of Service and EULAs which no sane person should agree to have forced my hand.  I won’t be purchasing software from Electronic Arts any more.

If you would like to get me back as a paying customer, you can take a long and deep look at your use of DRM.  Stop using a system which is overcome within hours of a title’s release and essentially only hampers paying customers.  Until then, your games will be removed from my computer and SecuROM will be as well.  If I have to reinstall, so be it.

Be nice in your forums.  The below quote is a perfect example of not being nice.  It shows only that you would willingly take away a paying user’s ability to play a game based on words they would say.

Your forum account will be directly tied to your Master EA Account, so if we ban you on the forums, you would be banned from the game as well since the login process is the same. And you’d actually be banned from your other EA games as well since its all tied to your account. So if you have SPORE and Red Alert 3 and you get yourself banned on our forums or in-game, well, your SPORE account would be banned to. It’s all one in the same, so I strongly reccommend people play nice and act mature.

All in all, we expect people to come on here and abide by our ToS. We hate banning people, it makes our lives a lot tougher, but its what we have to do.

Those banned will stay banned, but like most other internet services, its not that hard to create a new fake e-mail account. However, its a lot harder to get a new serial key =)

I’m glad that smiley is in there or this slap in my face would sting a lot more.  In short, don’t punish us for buying your software.  Yes you have a right to protect your IP and as a gamer I respect that right.  I will not however allow any company to install potentially destructive software on a computer I own or have the ability to render my paid for software useless because they do not agree with something I may state in an online forum.

Until then I will continue to give my business to less restrictive and more understanding publishers.  Personally that means Stardock and GOG will be seeing more of my money in the near future.

If you feel the same way, I would encourage you to make your opinions known.  Don’t just stop buying.  Be vocal. Be polite, as concise as possible and let folks like us who play games and folks like those at EA who publish them both know where you stand.  Please feel free to copy any or all of the text here and use it yourself, or put your thoughts in to your own words.

Be seeing you.

-Ben

Thanks to Shamus for pointing me towards the forum article.

[tags]video games, drm, electronic arts, goodbye[/tags]

21 thoughts on “An open letter to Electronic Arts – because voting with my wallet isn’t enough.

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  1. Misunderstanding, back peddling, whatever it was the moderator who originally posted it has since taken it back. Except they can still do this if they wish, they just choose not to. At this time.

    I’m not going to hang around their corner any more to see how many more kicks in the balls they’re going to deal out.

    That’s only one point in my post. DRM, and the EULAs still stink in my book so no more EA for me.

    Also, when requesting that someone do something, make it a request, not a demand. Okay? Thanks.

    Like

  2. It’s interesting that an unban occured shortly after this article was posted, and that the first comment points this out while requesting an update. EA damage control?

    The best public relations management in the world can not spin abuse of a playerbase into anything positive for a game company. It’s sad that people put up with abuse from governments, utility providers, and bosses, but those are things essential to life. Video games are by no means a necessity.

    This means that, EA, you’ll continue to make money and those who don’t care how they’re treated will keep you afloat. However, I would not define the mere ability of the average EA coder to put food on the table as success when proper relations with your customers would put that coder in a nice new BMW.

    Gamers, recognize that being treated poorly by companies like EA is a growing thrend and that you’ll need to start talking with your wallet if you don’t like it. And you don’t. But you won’t. This has all been done before.

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  3. I am increasingly of the opinion that EA has less than adequate respect for their customers. Their communications always give me the feeling that they think because we’re gamers, there is no need to take customer-relations seriously.

    When Red Alert 3 was released, many copies were missing the last digit of the serial code. The official solution at the time was to try every letter until you find the right one, but I felt the wording was somewhat patronising. It could be that it’s just me who thought this, so judge for yourself:

    “If you are trying to install Command and Conquer Red Alert 3 and the code is only 19 characters long, then it is missing the last letter or number. This was due to a misprint on a small number of manuals and we apologize for any inconvenience this has caused,”

    “There is currently a work around that may allow you to bypass this issue. Since you have the first 19 characters of the code already, you can basically try ‘guessing’ the last character,”

    It then offered a link to follow if people wanted an alternate method (probably mail ordering another manual).

    If it were me writing that, I would have offered to send a new manual FIRST, and THEN offered the must easier but unorthadox solution, and would have done it in a much less wishy-washy way and certainly without suggesting that people GUESS the missing digit, like its some sort of fun game.

    To be fair, this was probably written by just one person whose job is not customer relations, but it does feel pretty unprofessional and just another jab in the side from an already obnoxious corporate entity.

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  4. Sorry, i missed the rest of the solution:

    “To do this, simply enter your existing code, and then for the last character, try the letters A-Z, and then the numbers 0-9. You should eventually get the right combination, and be able to play the game. If this does not work, you can follow the instructions below.”

    All these words and phrases like ‘basically’, ‘simply’, ‘bypass the problem’…they get to me.

    The whole thing is like being in a restauraunt, having your meal arrive but missing the cutlery, and then the waiter suggesting you use your fingers whilst he goes and gets some for you. SOME restaurants you can get away with this. I do not expect the EA restaraunt to be like.

    Maybe it is something to do with feeling that big obnoxious corporations should bend over backwards to make you happy when communicating with you, to make up for everything else.

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  5. Sorry, i missed the rest of the solution:

    “To do this, simply enter your existing code, and then for the last character, try the letters A-Z, and then the numbers 0-9. You should eventually get the right combination, and be able to play the game. If this does not work, you can follow the instructions below.”

    All these words and phrases like ‘basically’, ‘simply’, ‘bypass the problem’…they get to me.

    The whole thing is like being in a restauraunt, having your meal arrive but missing the cutlery, and then the waiter suggesting you use your fingers whilst he goes and gets some for you. SOME restaurants you can get away with this. I do not expect the EA restaraunt to be like.

    Maybe it is something to do with feeling that big obnoxious corporations should bend over backwards to make you happy when communicating with you, to make up for everything else.

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  6. Woah – from October when I wrote this to January – looks like someone else got a hold of this article. 🙂 I’m still of the same mind as when I wrote it -although in the forums here (and noted in a comment above) EA did retract this in their own forums after what I can only imagine was a lot of behind the scenes consternation.

    My view on overly invasive/secrete DRM hasn’t softened – but I’ve heard that EA is looking to use steam to digitally distribute their games *without* SecuROM. That may edge me towards trying something like Mirrors Edge. I’m just not sure yet. I’m still very wary about giving EA any of my money right now.

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  7. I have heard about EA’s new draconian policies and DRM, and I am done, too. I have spent thousands of dollars on computer games in recent years, many of them from EA, but not one more penny in that direction.

    I have never pirated a game, or any other software, nor do I intend to do so.

    EA, you may think that you are losing money to piracy, but you haven’t seen anything yet–destroying your own customer base will be far more devastating.

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  8. Honestly, Ben, I don’t think an ‘open letter’ was necessary. In the grand scheme of things, voting with your wallet saves time and effort you wasted last year by being yet another guy who wanted to complain about SecuROM. Especially when you boast that you love games like Spore and Crysis. Spore, if I remember correctly, originally had SecuROM, but I guess it was the exception to the rule?

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  9. Its not just complaining about SecuROM. Its that EA continues to undervalue the a a very large group of people who are actually buying their games.

    I recently purchased Spore for my daughter, but after the support issues around the DRM and the extra crud that gets installed I can’t see buying any more games from EA, its more headaches than its worth.

    Most frustrating is the repeated statements made by EA executives and other public representatives of EA that illustrate their hubris, lack of understanding of the matter, and simply not getting the gaming community.

    Like

  10. You all realize that the PC-market is effectively dead. Pirates ruined it for the rest of us and now ALL major publishers concentrate on the current consoles.

    The harsh restrictions, DRM etc. are a last effort to keep the platform afloat. If the piracy on the PC/Mac continues as is, all major publishers will cease releasing new titles for the PC/Mac.

    Not buying these games, although you would love to play them, only furthers the idea that publishing PC/Mac games is not worth it anymore. You’re only accelerating the process. It seems that the demise of PC/Mac as a gaming platform is inevitable…

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  11. The idea that pc market for video games is dead is just simply not true. Take a look at Valve’s sucess with Steam as well as their flag ship games. The concept of blaming pirates for ruining it for the others is just an excuse for those who were making shitty games to begin with. Why do game developers focus on Console game system? Simple. Because they can bullshit their poorly designed eye candy overated products by unloading tons of money via advertisement. And as soon as a sucker purchase it for 60 bucks and open the box, majority, if not all vender will refuse to refund it. No matter if it product was genuinely unsafisfying. How many times have you bought a game with high expectation but ended up feeling cheated, and betrayed at the game you purchased, played for 15 minutes, and will probably open the case ever again.

    I don’t agree pirating is good practice, but the level of abuse and the way some publishers are there are encouraging people to steal their game just as much as the incentive of only able to play a game offline for free.

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  12. @Michael: Not true according to some numbers I’ve seen. The PC and Mac market still outweighs the consoles close to 10/1 combined.

    Here is one link I found by googling for “pc market compared to consoles”: http://blog.wired.com/games/2008/11/study-pc-gaming.html

    PS. The article linked says there have been sold 196M Gaming PCs and 75M consoles. There are no numbers for computers being sold not specifically as a gaming pc but still are used to play computer games. The 10/1 figure I saw was an article I read a long time ago so I can’t confirm the validity of that.

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    Like

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