Electronic Arts learned last week that when you ignore your user the consequences can be catastrophic. The anticipated SimCity launch was an utter disaster, with their DRM system preventing customers to play.
What happened is that the new EA title requires constant Internet connection to play. Is not enough to validate your copy when you install the game, Sim City is in constant communication with Origin’s DRM server to ensure your game is legal.
As a result customers that have paid £45 for the game were unable to play, sitting in interminable queues in front of their computers only to get error messages as Origin’s servers were overflowed with requests. Such was the outrage that even Amazon has stopped selling the game.
Some may say that this is a technical problem: basically the system wasn’t ready for the avalanche of excited gamers, and that soon the issue will be solved as new servers are put in place by EA.
I’m sure this storm will quickly go away. The game is apparently quite good so I expect people to show mercy once they can play. But for me this is not a technical issue, it’s conceptual. Is not about not having enough servers, is about ignoring your users.
And how’s this related with UX? For many the user experience field is confined to the creation of blueprints for digital products (websites, apps and similar). But in reality UX is about caring for every detail of a product, and here’s where EA has failed miserably with an insulting attitude. Let’s see why:
You don’t own the game, you’re only renting itIt’s not nice to spend £45 on a game only to find out that EA can decide at any time if I can play it or not. If sometime in the future EA decides that this version of Sim City is not profitable or wants to promote the next release of the saga, they only have to pull the plug and you won’t be able to play it again. A game you -in theory- own. Don’t be fooled, you’re not buying the game, you’re only paying for the right to play it -until EA decides you’ve had enough-.
EA decides how you can and can't play the gameDo you have a 12 hours flight to Japan next week? Sounds like the perfect time to improve that city on your shiny new game, but there’s a problem: EA decided you can only play if you're online.
No Internet connection = no game, so forget about playing on a plane, on the train, when Sky is down or whilst you’re moving houses and your Internet connection is not yet working.
They don’t care about youEA only cares about your money, and they definitely want to amass as much as possible even if that means ignoring you, the guy who is paying it.
By ignoring their users and putting every imaginable barriers between them and their games EA is achieving quite the opposite: fomenting piracy. It’s like a DVD, filled with unskippable anti-piracy warnings and trailers. You vilify your customers whilst those who downloaded the film illegally can enjoy it without barriers. Not a clever move.