Earlier we got a message from frequent commented DBMurray regarding a message he received about what is happening to customer data as part of the EA/Popcap merger I wrote about here. As we were conversing, I got the same message which is shown at top.
Although the message says ‘good news’, neither DBMurray nor I find the news all that great. Why? Well, as my earlier article indicated, PopCap is a pretty cool company with great games. EA is a terrible company with a tendency to treat customers poorly, lock people out of their games for vague and inconsistent reasons, gobble up properties and kill them, milk franchises for all they can take until customers wise up, and engulf smaller companies and ruin them.
As a reminder, here is what PopCap said about the EA merger:
It means PopCap will join forces with one of the world’s largest game publishers, giving us access to many more resources and a greatly expanded global audience.
It doesn’t mean that PopCap is going away or changing what we do or how we do it. On the contrary, PopCap’s creative culture is the main reason EA was interested in us. We’re not changing our focus from creating awesome casual games everyone can enjoy.
The hope was that with PopCap bringing something totally outside of the core EA family that perhaps they would be somewhat left alone … but what we found out was that it isn’t true. Now, unless you DELETE your PopCap account before the end of the year, ALL of your information will be transfered to EA for whatever they decide to do.
Here is a snip from the EA Privacy statement:
A. How EA Uses Your Information
EA uses your information to fulfill your specific requests, purchase orders and to send you purchase confirmation and other account-related information. In addition, the personal information you provide will allow us to send you messages about things including new products, features, enhancements, special offers, upgrade opportunities, contests and events of interest. You may also later opt out of certain of these communications.
Otherwise, EA uses personal and non-personal information, both individually and combined together, to better understand the behavior and preferences of our customers, to troubleshoot technical problems, to serve static and dynamic advertising, to enforce our Terms of Service, to ensure proper functioning of our products and services as well as to help improve them. In addition, we combine non-personal information with personal information, such as an email address, to administer loyalty programs, tailor our offerings, web pages or game play experience to you.
If you choose to use our referral service to “Tell a Friend” about an EA product or site, we will ask you for your friend’s name and email address. We will send your friend an email on your behalf inviting him or her to visit the site or check out our product. EA stores your friend’s name and email for a short period for the sole purpose of sending this email and for redundancy checking, to be sure that your friend does not receive multiple copies of the same email message. We do not keep or use this information for any other purpose.
Your participation in tournaments or other online game events is also conditional upon our collection, use, storage, transmission and public display of statistical data (such as your scores, rankings and achievements) generated through your participation.
B. Will EA Share My Information With Third Parties?
EA will never share your personal information with third parties without your consent. We may, however, share anonymous, non-personal, aggregated and/or public information with third parties.
And so on … it is clear that they are constantly collecting your data, and in general are just using it to sell you more stuff. But as we have seen they are also very quick to ban and terminate accounts for using language they deem inappropriate in their forums. To be clear, you can be banned on a forum for saying ‘My favorite line from the game is …’ and quoting a line from the game!
They spare no ink describing the many ways you can lose your account and how if you upset them you have no recourse, even if it means losing access to something you paid for based on a subjective interpretation of a forum remark.
Here is a snip from the EA Terms of Service statement:
9. Termination of EA Services
EA may also terminate access to EA Services for violation of this Terms of Service, if EA (in its sole discretion) deems that your use of EA Services renders EA Services less safe for others and/or minors or for illegal or improper use of EA Services, Content, Entitlement, products, or EA’s Intellectual Property as determined by EA in its sole discretion. You may lose your user name and persona as a result of termination. If you have more than one (1) Account, EA may terminate all of your Accounts and all related Entitlements. In response to a violation of these Terms of Service or any other agreement applicable to EA Services accessed by you, EA may issue you a warning, suspend your Account, selectively remove, revoke or garnish Entitlements at an Account and/or device level , immediately terminate any and all Accounts that you have established and/or temporarily or permanently ban your device and/or machine from accessing all EA Services or certain EA Services. You acknowledge that in such an instance EA is not required to provide you notice before taking action to suspend or terminate your Account, temporarily or permanently banning your device from some or all EA Services or selectively removing, revoking or garnishing Entitlements associated with your Account. If EA terminates your Account, you may not participate in an EA Service again without EA’s express permission. EA reserves the right to refuse to keep Accounts for, and provide EA Services to, any individual. You may not allow individuals whose Accounts have been terminated by EA to use your Account.
11. Rules of Conduct
You may violate the Terms of Service if, as determined by EA in its sole discretion, you:
– Post, transmit, promote, or distribute Content that is illegal.
– Harass, threaten, embarrass, spam or do anything else to another player that is unwanted, such as repeatedly sending unwanted messages or making personal attacks or statements about race, sexual orientation, religion, heritage, etc.
– Organize, effectuate or participate in any activity, group, guild that is harmful, abusive, hateful, racially, ethnically, religiously or otherwise offensive, obscene, threatening, bullying, vulgar, sexually explicit, defamatory, infringing, invasive of personal privacy or publicity rights, encourages conduct that would violate a law or in a reasonable person’s view, objectionable and/or inappropriate. Hate speech is not tolerated.
– Use abusive, offensive, or defamatory screen names and/or personas.
– Engage in disruptive behavior in chat areas, game areas, forums, or any other area or aspect of EA Services. Disruptive behavior includes but is not limited to conduct which interferes with the normal flow of gameplay or dialogue within an EA Service. Disruptive behavior shall also include, but not be limited to, commercial postings, solicitations and advertisements.
– Disrupt the flow of chat in chat rooms with vulgar language, abusiveness, hitting the return key repeatedly or inputting large images so the screen goes by too fast to read, use of excessive shouting [all caps] in an attempt to disturb other users, “spamming” or flooding [posting repetitive text].
– Impersonate another person (including celebrities), indicate falsely that you are an EA employee or a representative of EA, or attempt to mislead users by indicating that you represent EA or any of EA’s partners or affiliates.
– Attempt to get a password, account information, or other private information from anyone else on EA Services.
– Upload any software or Content that you do not own or have permission to freely distribute.
– Violate any additional Rules of Conduct applicable to a specific EA Service that you are using.
– Promote, encourage or take part in any activity involving hacking, cracking, phishing, taking advantage of exploits or cheats and/or distribution of counterfeit software and/or virtual currency/items.
– Upload files that contain a virus, worm, spyware, time bombs, corrupted data or other computer programs that may damage, interfere with or disrupt EA Services.
– Post messages for any purpose other than personal communication, including advertising or promotional messaging, chain letters, pyramid schemes, or other commercial activities.
– Improperly use in-game support or complaint buttons or make false reports to EA staff.
– Use or distribute unauthorized “auto” software programs, “macro” software programs or other “cheat utility” software program or applications.
– Use any game hacking/altering/cheating software or tools.
– Modify or attempt to modify any file or any other part of the EA Service that EA does not specifically authorize you to modify.
– Post or communicate any person’s real-world personal information using an EA Service.
– Attempt to interfere with, hack into or decipher any transmissions to or from the servers for an EA Service.
– Use and communicate exploits and/or cheats.
– Attempt to use EA Software on or through any service that is not controlled or authorized by Electronic Arts. Any such use is at your own risk and may subject you to additional or different terms. EA takes no responsibility for your use of EA Software on or through any service that is not controlled by Electronic Arts.
– Interfere with the ability of others to enjoy playing an EA Service or take actions that interfere with or materially increase the cost to provide an EA Service for the enjoyment of all its users.
– Unless expressly authorized by EA, you may not sell, buy, trade or otherwise transfer your Account or any personal access to EA Services, Content or Entitlements, including by use of auction websites.
– You may not conduct any activities that violate the laws of any jurisdiction including but not limited to copyright infringement, trademark infringement, defamation, invasion of privacy, identity theft, hacking, stalking, fraud and the distribution of counterfeit software.
– Post or transmit unsolicited advertising, promotional materials or other forms of solicitation in-game or in the forums.
– Abuse or exploit bugs, undocumented features, design errors or problems in the game.
– “Role–playing” is not an excuse for violating this or any other policy.
That is just an amazing array of possible ways to get your account banned – and we have seen that EA is all too willing to perform punitive account lock-outs based on the smallest of infractions.
I am sure that the folks at PopCap meant what they said about EA liking their culture … but sadly for PopCap they assumed that meant that EA would actually respect PopCap’s customers and allow their fun culture to remain. Now we know that simply isn’t going to happen. PopCap will be yet another generic cog in the machine, pumping out generic casual games like Bioware pumps out generic RPGs and EA Sports Studios pumps out generic sports games.
So I guess PopCap games truly IS dead.