If you’ve been following the news here, here, and here, you’ll see that EA—considered the worst company in America in 2012—had inserted some extremely harsh language in their end-user license agreement (EULA). This clause would have banned players from all EA games if they failed to report a bug. (My original title for this article would have been, “Beta Testers: If You Do It Wrong, EA Will Ban You from All of Their Games.” However, I just received news that EA is updating their agreement.
After querying EA, the company told me,
“The clause in the EA Beta Agreement for the SimCity beta was intended to prohibit players from using known exploits to their advantage. However, the language as included is too broad. EA has never taken away access to a player’s games for failing to report a bug. We are now updating the Beta Agreement to remove this point.”
My gamer outrage has been slightly mollified. Telling us that you’ve “never taken away access to a player’s games for failing to report a bug” is great to hear. And it’s wonderful that EA is reassessing their EULA. But I have to stress that this gamer outrage was completely justified. Check out the original clause:
“If you know about a Bug or have heard about a Bug and fail to report the Bug to EA, we reserve the right to treat you no differently from someone who abuses the Bug. You acknowledge that EA reserve the right to lock anyone caught abusing a Bug out of all EA products.”
Previously, EA’s EULA said that by failing to report a bug, “We reserve the right to treat you no differently from someone who uses the Bug.” Yup. The words “treat you no differently than someone that EA perceives as a wrong-doer.” (and I’m not even certain that utilizing a bug is wrong-doing. See “emergent gaming.”) sounds extraordinarily hostile. But their legal department wrote and approved it.
With that, EA wasn’t making new friends in 2013, either.
This original clause upset me because of its terrible ramifications: It wouldn’t just jeopardize the already shaky relationship between EA and their customers, but it would result in bad games.
If beta testers are under the threat of being banned for failing to do their unpaid jobs correctly, I can’t imagine EA would have found too many players willing to risk playing a game in beta.
And since beta testers actually make the game better by reporting many of a game’s bugs, by threatening them with a ban from every single EA game, the game loses. And so would the company who scared away its beta testers, by releasing a less-than-polished product.
EA, I’m very glad you saw sense. But I’m sorry that it took the Internet to make you see it.
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