A Gamer’s Lament

by fmhilton

Imagine this:

You pay $60 for a product that you’ve been anxiously waiting to come out on the market.

It’s the newest, best rendition of this line. It’s guaranteed to work, and be enjoyable.

You plunk down your money, and buy it.

A few hours or days later you find that it doesn’t work at all. A design flaw, or something broke in it. You didn’t break it. The product broke by itself.

You want to return it to the store. When you do, you’re told that you don’t have the right to return it:

“Sorry, you bought it, and you have no right for a refund.”

“But it doesn’t work! Why can’t I get my money back?” You wail.

“Because that’s our policy. We don’t refund any money for any reason.”

That’s what gamers are faced with when they have a bad game that they bought but cannot play, such as Sim City that debuted just this past week.

Electronic Arts released a game that was unplayable for almost 90% of the people who paid $60.00 for it. They went through all the hoops not only to buy it, but to sign up for the ‘privilege’ of being handcuffed to EA’s servers (oh, yes..this is the wave of the future) for hours at a time attempting to play an unplayable game.

Despite the outcry EA has stated that they will not refund anyone’s money for this.

This generous return policy does not extend to digital sales. “As a general policy, EA does not offer refunds on any products downloaded through Origin,” said EA in its FAQ.

Sim City’s a DRM-laden buggy piece of trash, and it’s not worth $6.00, let alone $60 of anyone’s hard-earned money. Its’ gameplay is mediocre (according to some players) and the game when working has bugs that has them angry.

A quote from a player:

“This is an $80 Facebook game. This Origin (spyware) dumbed down piece of garbage, not only costs $80 for the full game (any lesser version withholds in-game content), but comes intact with intrusive, always-online DRM. Many people, even reviewers, were unable to access their games or load old saves because this. As a consumer, we should have a zero-tolerance for this sort of practice and boycott any game which is essentially an $80 rental. As to the content of the game, the city plots are abysmal in size, deals with neighboring cities are done automatically, connections with other cities (highways and rails) are done automatically, and much content like subway stations have been cut. The overall nature of the game is so limited that it when taken into context with its social gaming aspects, you have to conclude that would be better fit for a Facebook or iPhone game.

This isn’t the first time that this has happened. Blizzard released Diablo 3 a couple of years ago and under almost the same circumstances. However, they heard their customers complaints and did something about it: they removed the handcuffs and improved the gameplay so that everyone can play it without being tethered to the Internet for the sole reason that the game ‘might be’ pirated.

EA had a pretty lousy reputation before this for having less than sterling products and policies. They’re notorious for it. Despite this past history, they did have fans who eagerly put down their money on this game.

They’ve nailed the door on their coffin shut with this game because they didn’t listen to their customers when they were begging for EA to not put the ‘on-line only’ restriction on the game.

Then EA had the temerity to offer a bribe to all who were unhappy with this experience: a free game!

It’s insulting and demeaning to all of us who play games.

Customers do not appreciate being told they can’t be trusted to not pirate a game. They don’t like being robbed for a product that does not work. They especially dislike being told that they don’t deserve their money back for a product that doesn’t work, or is not worth their money.

But I’m not the only one who’s wondering why this has to be so prevalent, and this analogy is more apt than mine:

What we’ve seen following the launches of Diablo 3 and SimCity are people paying money to walk into the restaurant on opening day and not being served a meal. In a restaurant there would be immediate and dire consequences for such poor customer service.

In the video game industry, there’s no shortage of apologists justifying the outcome.

Nobody genuflects to poor customer service excuses in a restaurant. Any restaurant review would treat the meal and service as one singular expression of the experience.

Isn’t it about time EA went out of business? They’re not a 5-star restaurant but more like a greasy spoon, and their customer service is far worse.