Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Banned from EA's Forums? Then You Might be Banned from Their Games as Well.

Shooting your mouth off online might earn you a forum ban, but if you get kicked off of EA's official forums, then you might find that's not the only thing you get locked out of...

Oh EA, you and gamers can only have what is the classic example of a love/hate relationship. Gamers love the products you put out, from Battlefield to Dragon Age to Dead Space and many others I'm sure. But sometimes the things you do, like the DRM and EULA stuff, just drive people up the wall. Seemingly proud to continue with this somewhat baffling state of affairs it seems that recently people have discovered an interesting little tidbit: currently if you get banned on the EA forums you'll likely find yourself unable to play any of the games that you've purchased through their online service, Origin.

This story is only a couple weeks old, but has its roots going back a couple of months to March, when according to this Escapist article a user that had received a temporary ban on the forums in found himself unable to active Dragon Age 2. This was worrying news, as while a ban is nothing to take lightly, one would assume that the forums and the game store account the user has are two very separate things, and that a ban on one wouldn't -- or rather shouldn't -- necessarily affect the other. Although the game ban was eventually lifted, there was still a point where a BioWare community rep claimed that this was exactly as intended, and that people should "consider it an added incentive to follow the rules,". Very worrying indeed. But after his account was restored everyone assumed that this was simply an oversight and that it would be the last anyone would hear about it.

Fast-forward roughly eight months and it would become apparent that this was not a case of simple oversight. People that found themselves banned from the forums -- sometimes for questionable reasons -- also found themselves locked out of the games they'd purchased from the Origin store, which includes Battlefield 3. Not exactly a user friendly scenario in anyone's books. When asked about why people getting kicked off of the forums were also losing access to their games EA was rather vague, stating:

“With every game and service EA offers, we take the satisfaction of our customers very seriously. We discourage cheating and strive to maintain a high level of integrity in both our games and our forums. Therefore when someone violates our Terms of Service, we are forced to take actions that can include suspensions and other measures. We do not take those decisions lightly – however the integrity of our services and the satisfaction of our customers requires a clear set of rules.

“We have listened to our customers and are planning a policy update which will include more equitable rules on suspensions – we want to make sure the time fits the crime. As with all technology updates, these changes take some time to implement. Meanwhile, we urge any user with a question about suspensions or our policies to please contact us at (866) 543-5435 so we can address their specific situation.”

Well, that's about as clear as mud. More than anything at the moment people just want a clear stance: does a ban from the forums also mean an automatic denial of the games that you've purchased from EA? Currently it seems the answer is yes, but EA's answer as to whether it will remain that way or not is an indecisive "Well, maybe, sorta, I guess?" This isn't really the best reassurance for players out there wondering if a misstep on the forums will result in them not being able to access hundreds of dollars of games, perhaps forever.

Even if a definitive answer does come down the pipe, there will be major issues if EA does decide that forum offences do merit a denial of access to games. Some might argue that if a person is a complete idiot or troll on the forums then they might deserve to not have access to their games, but I would argue that since the forums are a service that are not in and of themselves necessary to play the games, and that the games have been purchased, that restricting access to those games on the basis of forum misgivings is completely wrong and arbitrary.

Certainly the only case that I can see is if someone is utterly stupid enough to brag about getting pirated games somehow on the forums, then yes their Origin access should be revoked. However, being an idiot, although annoying, is not a legitimate reason to deny access to games (at least not the single player components). It sets a worrying precedent that I hope more companies will not follow in the future, because while I can understand watching your mouth in-game, and that you should at least be courteous on the forums, I don't think that a punishment should cover both bases.

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