EA bans customers from playing own games

Rock Paper Shotgun's John Walker is investigating EA's habit of banning customers from playing their own games. All it seems to take is a naughty word on their official forums. The bans prevent even single-player use of games, and EA does not give refunds.

Despite repeated attempts to receive a statement on EA’s current position on their banning procedure, we have only been met with silence for the last fortnight. ... I’m building up quite the portfolio of affected gamers, who find after a forum violation they’re unable to access their Origin games. And within this is a more disturbing trend – those who are finding that their forum bans are, without explanation, becoming permanent bans. Permanent bans from accessing their Origin accounts, their Battlelog accounts, and therefore downloading purchased games, and playing online. Something which obviously raises serious questions about consumer rights, which is of course another angle we’re currently investigating.

Walker points out that even if someone posts "invective-speckled" rants, that should only earn a forum ban, not the complete swiping of entire game catalogs.

For years, DRM advocates scoffed at the idea that it would be used for bullshit like this -- the refrain was always that it was about preventing piracy. But managing rights is what DRM was built to do, so that is what it's used for.

The problem is not that EA has an intentional policy of punitively screwing its customers. It will fix this specific problem, now that enough people have noticed it. The problem is that the machinery of DRM creates perverse incentives for everyone from top executives to forum moderators, and the corporate veil creates moral hazard to go with it. So you never know where the next shit ganache in the chocolate box will be.

EA Origin Bans: Update Edition [Rock Paper Shotgun]


    1. No, you don’t. Stop participating in this disaster. If enough people pushed back, it would change. Lazy, convenience-blinded iCulture is how this abusive behavior thrives.

      1. It’s exactly why all my PC gaming is through places like GoG and Humble Bundle. I don’t even do Steam, I saw way back when it came out where services like Steam and Origin were going.

  1. Battlefield 3 player here. I have been keeping up with the bans and reasons people are getting the boot from the game, it’s typically for saying something like “badass” in the forums. These are forums for a game whose characters regularly yell out stuff like “We’re getting fucked in the ass over here” and other vulgarities. 

    1. Forum and support accounts are separate to Steam accounts. When you receive a Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC) ban you are banned in all games which use the same game engine as the one you were cheating on.

      It is still possible to play those games but for online play you can only connect to servers which have VAC disabled.

      1. But it is only playing on VAC secured servers online- you could still play HL2 single player for example.

        1. I find the trade off for some forms of DRM (Steam, iOS/Mac App Store) perfectly acceptable.

          But what’s the trade? I mean, they put DRM in place, limiting what you can do with the game you purchased. What upside do you get in return, your advantage over non-DRM media? I mean I understand theirs, but what’s yours?

          1. A number of details these days, convenience and ease of use are usually the go-to-guys. Some DRM can give worthy trade offs against the clean-cut. Steam for example (I won’t go in to the other big name DRMs, Origin, Games-for-Windows etc. they’re just awful outright) can allow me to easily download any of my titles to any computer I log into with a Steam Client, and most games will include my saves and settings. Likewise, I can have every title I’ve purchased on Steam, installed and ready to play in a mere double click.

            Were I to have all those titles on Disk, I’d have the convenience of a quicker install, but I also need to have the key-code at the ready, the disk at hand, and also inserted to boot up the title alone. 

            The Mac App store equally has the nice bonus of having all my purchases in the one place, and ready to install and notify me of updates, as apposed to me personally having to manage email for updates to my apps bought online from the individual seller. 

            Some DRM can really cause trouble, like Origin, but the nicer ones out there are well worth taking advantage of I feel.

    1. Since EA´s portfolio consists of mostly sports games, war games, racing games and the Sims, I don´t have a particularly hard time not using their software.
      I never understood why people play games that simulate as realistically as possible the most dire and dull parts of real life.

      1. People play simulations because sometimes it’s fun to answer the question “I wonder what would happen if I did this…?”.   I know I’m not a race car driver, and lord knows I shouldn’t be if my performance in these games is any indication, but it’s fun to pretend and take that pretense further than sitting in a box in my living room going “vroooom”.   Being able to take your imagination a little bit further by seeing the results of your actions without consequence  is the main draw of these games.

        The only simulations I play are racing games but my favorite example is the Burnout series.  I consider myself a safe driver.  I follow the speed limit and/or drive appropriately for the conditions, leave plenty of room and don’t read paperbacks on the drive to work but I really enjoy just smashing the crap out of every car I see in Burnout.  Deliberately smashing up other vehicles is something I would obviously never do here in reality but where games are concerned, simulations in particular, the lack of consequences for my jackassery is surprisingly cathartic.

        As for EA specifically, I lost interest in their offerings a long time ago.  I keep hearing about how Origin is supposed to be the Steam-killer but can’t be bothered to find out.  I just hope the users stop getting the short end of the stick.

      2. This is largely true of EA as a developer, but unfortunately, they’re also the publisher of various studios’ works which this (non)policy also impacts, like Bioware.

    2. Correction: don’t BUY software/services created by EA.

      Pirates don’t have to worry about this stupid nonsense.

  2. This is why I always play cracked versions of my games, and never buy games that don’t have working cracks.

  3. When EA started shutting down the servers for console-based games that were over 1 year old a few years back (a decision I’m told that they later reversed), I vowed never to buy or play another one of their titles again. I haven’t, either.

  4. Let me guess how this story is going to go
    1. EA are not listening to its own customers because these customers have no power on their own
    2. This post will bring some really bad publicity plus highlight possible illegality
    3. Suddenly EA will start ‘listening to its customers’ with some half-baked apology about miscommunication, and they’ll fix the issue
    4. I’ll quote this post when the above happens.

    1. 5.) In six months time the exact same thing will happen (people have short memories).

      6) After the cycle has been repeated a few times, EA will emerge victorious. Ultimately, people will be more concerned with the shiny game bauble that their rights as software purchasers. A decade or two from now the next generation of players will find it hard to believe that there ever was a time when people weren’t under DRM’s watchful gaze.

      (Sorry. Guess I’m feeling cynical today…)

  5. Unfortunately, PopCap has now been acquired by EA as well, making my EA boycott retroactively difficult.  

  6. Basically EA is stealing from its customers. Why should I invest $60 in a game that they will just steal from be one way or another:
    * They ban me
    * They stop supporting the DRM server (THIS HAPPENS A LOT)

  7. Not too long ago, I tried to get a serial key for a game that I had purchased years ago. So I take a picture of my game DVDs and send them to EA customer support and politely ask for a serial key. They refused to give it to me without a picture of the manual too- the thing that actually has the damn code in it, which I lost. Now, at this stage I could just send them my DVDs by mail and wait whatever ridiculous period of time it takes for them to send me a code but here’s the thing:

    Why are they pretending that their codes and games can’t be obtained freely from less legitimate sources? The very fact that I contacted them at all gives me the immediate benefit of the doubt. The rigmarole they want to put me through will only every apply to honest people. DRM does not in any way affect pirates. It will only ever affect people like me, who one day get in their head they want to dust off and play a game they own, only to find that it’s more trouble than it’s worth. The point of DRM is to give these companies control over how honest people use their product.

    1. They don’t want you to dust off old games. Dusty old games don’t earn them more money. Go buy a new game! (Subscription-based services, real-money in-game stores, and other monetization strategies change that – making people playing and replaying and replaying old games into a money maker… but usually one designed like a slot machine or other Skinner Box).

      But really, once you’ve bought a copy the only reason EA gives a shit at all about the quality of your play experience is because bad word-of-mouth reviews at release time squelch sales. Years later they’ve already sold as many as they ever banked on, and don’t care what happens as long as you won’t bother to sue them over it.

  8. “The problem is not that EA has an intentional policy of punitively screwing its customers. It will fix this specific problem, now that enough people have noticed it. ”

    Sadly this is not true.   6 months ago this same thing happened, and EA claimed it was not their policy for forum bans to affect game acounts and it was a mistake that would be fixed.

    Now, the problem has cropped up worse than ever, and some EA big shot puts out  a press release talking about people being banned in-game  (A totally separate issue), while ignoring the forum ban problem everyone’s upset over.   Then EA goes into stonewall mode, not responding to journalist questions.  And in the meantime, all of EA’s support personnel are adamant that forum ban = game account ban absolutely IS the policy.

    So, no, there is no guarantee that EA will fix this.

    As I see it, EA basically has no respect for its customers and thinks it’s OK to treat them like children.

    1. “As I see it, EA basically has no respect for its customers and thinks it’s OK to treat them like children.”

      Most of the people being forum banned are acting like children.  I see nothing wrong with treating them as such.

      1. Besides the issue that only acting like a child on the forums (not the games themselves) will get you banned, there’s the fact that just having your name mentioned in someone else’s offending post can get you banned (i.e. without actually doing anything at all).  The absurdity of being locked out (perhaps permanently) from one’s single-player content for using words like “ass” or, apparently, “e-peen,” even when it’s quoting someone else in the forums (and even though far, far worse behavior goes unpunished in games themselves), surpasses all other considerations, however.

      2. After all, Battlefield 3 is rated “M for Mature.” by the MSRB. If use of profanity is somehow a sign of an immature mind, then it surely follows that those who use these forbidden words are ineligible to play. 

  9. Technology will soon “win” the war on drugs.  But the prison-industrial-healthcare complex will be stronger than ever, thanks to the surge in incarcerations meted out to rom dealers and operators of rom cartels.  Stand up to The Cloud, right now, if you ever once appreciated individuality, the arts, or uncontrolled expression.

    When your whole life is dangling from a cloud server’s recycle bin, will you have any recourse? What happens to your data when you die? Is it all cancelled – your ebooks, your egames, your level 200 WoW elves, your posts, your pics, your shitty poems? Or worse, does it go into some sort of data-probate , to be picked and sorted through, appraised, apportioned and fairly distributed by/to strangers? Food for thought.

  10. The funny part of the whole “DRM is to prevent piracy” angle is that I find that I either don’t buy/play the game (like the whole Assasin’s Creed series) or I pirate the game and play it that way. Either way, the publisher basically forced me to not buy the game from them.

    I cannot be the only one.

    1. You’re not.  I haven’t pirated a game since my school days, but then again I haven’t bought many either.  I don’t care how good a game looks, if it requires any sort of online registration, activation or connection to play I’m not interested.

      So not only does DRM not stop piracy, it actually harms sales.  And some overcompensated executive somewhere is patting himself on the back for thinking it up.

    2. Not alone at all. I had the sorry encounter of playing Bioshock 2 on my friends Steam account on release, only to realize to create a save file at all required the same tired, log in to GfW (within Steam, mind), that I both needed to have a constant connection and that I could not create an account and save after 3 hours, but needed to create one before I began to play.

      Needless to say, I’ll be checking for this Games-for-windows voodoo on Steam before buying certain titles.

  11. How is this not criminal or at least civilly actionable fraud?  Under what circumstances does EA’s EULA state that they can rescind the license to run the software they sold?

    1. Over on the PRS forum, somone posted the relevant bit of the EULA.  Basically, it says they can take away your “account” (ie: your access to the games you purchased) whenever they damn well want. It places no restrictions on itself for providing you access.

  12. Obviously it makes no commercial sense for EA to be this draconian and piss off its users. But this is what happens when particular important decisions get made much further up the chain of command than they should be. Someone decided on the bans, someone else decided on the ‘linking’ off all of the account levels, etc., etc., all without being in a position to understand all of the potential knock-on effects, and without knowing what their colleagues were deciding on…

    Big company = stupid decisions.

    1. Actually, I’m convinced this isn’t due to any deliberate decisions, but is an accidental side-effect of how systems were cobbled together on their end.  I know some of their online code has, in the past, been re-used in different contexts for which it wasn’t original developed and for which it wasn’t appropriate.  I rather suspect something like that happened here.  The back-end of the ban system is probably such a mass of spaghetti they can’t easily sort out where the problem is (and it screws over a small enough number of players that they don’t want to spend the money to fix it).

  13. The  ban’s ungrammatical style just rubs salt into the wound.

    “Please be informed that your account not only suspended, But it is also Banned, So you will no longer to play the game in single player.”

    Perhaps it serves as a warning. Do not try to appeal to reason, or mercy– your pleas will fall on non-fluent ears.

  14. I have yet to see someone that got a forum ban that didn’t deserve far more.  I’m VERY pro- forum bans becoming game bans or entire account bans.  Maybe more people will stop being asshats on the internet.

    1. Read the (RPS) article.  At least one person was banned for simply having their name mentioned in someone else’s offending forum post.  There’s absolutely no excuse for that, nor for people being locked out of games – not just multiplayer, but single player content as well, even though EA stated it wouldn’t do so, previously. Given that players could get away with far worse language/behavior in games themselves, it’s completely ridiculous. Also: your own language in this post could get you locked out of EA content, so…

  15. DRM = Digital Restrictions Management, not Rights.  It has never had anything whatsoever to do with anyones rights, and everything to do with restricting the use of technology.  Labelling it rights management is just a slick form of framing the debate and you shouldn’t be buying it – let alone reinforcing it.  

    If everyone would start simply calling it digital restrictions management, we would have much more honest discussions about this problem.  Remember, this has never been about copyright  infringement, it has always been about control.

  16. EA games should be avoided generally. I have this experience about the SIMS3 game from my kids. It comes on a DVD, and despite the fact that I have an original disc I can not use it on our kids PC  – all our PCs have no disc drive so we load everything on the server and from there via network on the computers. With EA’s DRM its not possible to use a disc image, nothing except the original mounted disc is accepted to start the game.

  17. EA game are terrible, every single EA published game I have bought for XBOX 360 has been buggy/crashy.  It’s amazing how they get away with publishing such shoddy, unpolished games.  I no longer purchase games from them because of this.  I am also not surprised that they would want to ban people like this, because they know the people who are emotional(swearing/flaming) on the forums are likely game addicts and will just sign up for a new account and repurchase the games (double the profits!).

    1. I haven’t had that problem at all with Mass Effect 2. On the other hand, I have had problems logging into their server–it isn’t my connection because I’m obviously connected to XBox Live, can see whenever my friends come onto XBL, etc. The server is only available late at night, sometimes. I don’t really care that much as I grabbed all of the “Cerberus Network” DLC at once the first time I was actually able to get in, but it is a pain to have to wait a bit while the game tries to log in every time I start it up.

    1. I bought a physical disc of Skyrim because I figured I’d love it enough to keep it around; turns out it requires Steam.   And don’t get me started on Ubisoft’s always-on crap.  The separation between online subscriptions and actual media is getting very slim these days.

    2. I’m guessing you haven’t been buying many games lately – this isn’t about “subscriptions” but sales, either on disc or as downloads.  Besides the online activation required for disc-based games as mentioned by rabid’ above, buying add-on content often is only available as a download (i.e. DLC, DownLoadable Content).  Some of the people being locked out of their games had, in fact, bought them on disc.  Increasingly there’s no distinction between downloads and DVD (nor should there be, at least in terms of consumer rights), especially when games have multiplayer functionality.

  18. I’m surprised no one mentioned this poor chap: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/9.328868-EA-now-issuing-permanent-Origin-bans-through-content-filter?page=1

    Who was banned literally for being sworn at by someone else. Not responding with swears, but because someone else swore at him, and ended their post with his username. Gotta give a big round of applause to EA, who is one of the worst companies in the video game industry when it comes to customer service.

  19. This MaximumTacos guy had my sympathy right up to the line “curry-soaked conversation script drone.” EA should still never have game-banned him, but still, what a dick. :(

  20. They’re really going to want to get this under control with Star Wars: The Old Republic releasing within two weeks.  MMO gamers are a rabid breed, prone to all forms of asshattery.  If they start banning accounts for forum profanity, they’re going to chop off their own fingers very quickly.

    1. Ahh it’s not like the EVE players are about to decend en mass; that lot play mean. 

      Considering the alleged disconnect between TOR and Origin if and only if you buy the boxed copy I can see this game being the biggest single up tick in brick & mortar sales since Steam first appeared.  Same with Mass Effect 3. 

      But aren’t BoingBoing a little behind with this news?  It’s been reported on since Feb/March after all… 

  21. Origin and Steam have almost the same policy. Steam however can’t and will not ban your Steam account for an offensive post on the forums as the two services are extremely separate. 

    Steam will however ban your entire account in a heartbeat if they catch you playing a pirated Steam game. That in itself is similar to EA’s Origin but I agree – banning someone’s entire account because they said a naughty word on their precious community forums is a bad strategy.

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