Friday, 25 January 2013

Simcity Beta EULA Had a Megaban Potential

If there was ever a good reason to read the fine print, this would be it.

Another delightful storytime about EA today. What's it this time I wonder? Sit down as I regale you with a tale of how by playing the Simcity beta you could have potentially been banned from playing all EA games. Now, whether or not this is something that might even be, shockingly, justified, it certainly didn't help EA's reputation among gamers when the following was originally found in the end user license agreement for the Simcity beta test:

"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."

You read that last part right; failure to report a bug could result in not only being kicked out of the beta, but of losing access to all their EA products. EA has admitted that the current EULA is incredibly broad, and will change it, but the fact remains that this was actually in the original agreement that people had to acquiesce to in order to join the beta.

The first thing that springs to my mind is that this provides no better example of the fact that even if it's a giant pain in the ass, you need to go out of your way to read the damn EULA, or else if shit goes down and you cry foul, they can just say "hey, you agreed to it when you signed up, the clause is right here, in plain print," and there's really nothing you can do about it.

Admittedly, this kind of clause isn't that unusual in a beta for an online game, or even an online game at all. Of course Simcity is primarily an offline, single-player experience. EA is backing down and changing the EULA after noting as above that it was far too sweeping. It is going too far, but if it were limited to the game itself then there likely wouldn't have been an issue.

You might be surprised that I'm not coming down a little harder on EA for all of this, but while their wording did make it an idiotic move, and one very reminiscent of the whole "hey, get banned from our forums? Enjoy being locked out of all your Origin games as well if your account was linked!" fiasco that happened back late in 2011.

The part that concerns me more than the overreach though, is what could have been potentially constituted as overlooking a bug. Certainly there are obvious bugs and glitches that need to be reported because they can render the game unplayable. What if, however, there were bugs that people didn't know where bugs? Could a person that was playing without knowledge that anything was wrong still be banned? I'm not sure, but when I think of the potential answer it doesn't bring me much comfort.

This may be coming too late, but as more and more games become available through digital only means, people are going to have to pay more attention to things like this. I know that South Park had an episode mocking the idea that the EULA is a thing that is read, but like it or not we might need to whip out the reading glasses and spare some time before diving into our gameworlds, just so that we're aware of any potential pitfalls.

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