EA’s Origin Leaves The Doors Unlocked, Looting Ensues

Taking stuff makes expensive things free!

As spotted by Kotaku, this weekend EA’s Origin had a sudden burst of not quite intentional generosity. As a thank you for completing a survey, a few customers were sent a voucher for $20 for the digital store, allowing them to download a free game. Except, well, EA forgot to make that code a one-time only thing. Can you guess what happened next?

Not only were those who legitimately received the code able to loot the store without restriction, but of course those codes could then be used by someone else. A close friend? A neighbour? No, of course, Reddit. Everyone in North America was able to plunder the store and download multiple games for free. Well, those in N.A. who read the Reddit thread.

Obviously EA has severed the code’s magic powers by now, but what remains to be seen is what happens to all that free content so many people have enjoyed. It would seem to me that EA handed out a voucher that allowed this – can someone be considered criminal for having taken advantage of it? Or is this equivalent to their having left the shop unlocked over the weekend, meaning people could walk in and take stuff? Internet – you confuse all ethics! In fact, it would seem reasonably likely that if there’s a code that allows this out there, that EA may not have any legal right to take the content back. But my goodness, they must have lost an awful lot of money this weekend, and they’re not going to like it.

Edit: EA have said they’ll honour all uses of the code this weekend! Gosh. Thanks Talkar.


  1. gibb3h says:

    What a shame.

  2. Talkar says:

    EA has already stated that you get to keep all the games :)
    link to forum.ea.com

    • Bootsy81 says:

      EA in shock display of acting reasonably and not trying to screw over customers at every chance! More at ten….

      • Hoaxfish says:

        wait until they come round and ask you to pay for them all

      • Stromko says:

        Hey the first hit’s always free, it’ll just mean more takers for the inevitable DLCs and expansion packs. They probably got more people signing up to Origin over this as well. They’ll make a mint on this, either with more sales or all that lovely invasive data-mining that their EULA allows.

    • RaveTurned says:

      Wow, I’d have thought EA would be the kind of company to reverse all those transactions, especially where users have obviously abused the code – unless they don’t have a way to track this? Then again, maybe they see this as a great way to get more people using Origin more often. Clouds and silver linings, etc.

      As an aside, I wonder whether fallout from this will alter EA management’s attitude to massive cut-price sales in the future?

      • tmargul says:

        You are assuming that they have some way to distinguish legitimate uses from illegitimate ones. You would think they would have coded such a thing, but then again you would think they wouldn’t have created a coupon code that broken in the first place.

        • Optimaximal says:

          I believe every survey offered a unique code, but a small subset of those codes made it onto Reddit. It would in theory be easy to spot them.

          • malkav11 says:

            AFAIK there was just the one code. And it only worked on a pretty limited subset of games. But still, first people discovered you could just use it over and over again on a cart full of those games until you got all of them for free, then when that was fixed people found a way to exploit some sort of glitch to get multiple free games out of it. Me, I snagged one and was done. Not necessarily out of virtue (though the multiple use tricks were pretty clearly abusive) but because I already had pretty much everything on the viable list save for sports games (bleh), Spore (bleh), Darkspore (bleh + always online DRM) and SimCity Societies. Wound up snagging the latter just in case I could find the engaging city builder some people claimed SCS turned into after some patching. Wasn’t really interested in the others I didn’t have.

          • Reg80 says:


            Actually it worked on most games. Most games that were under $20 could be got for free, games over $20 had $20 discount. Games that were released within the last 30 days were excluded, along with non EA published games. I got 16 games myself:
            Crysis warhead
            Mass effect 2
            Mass effect
            Battlefield 2
            Need for speed hot pursuit
            The sims 2
            Medal of honor
            Command & Conquer
            Battlefield 2142™ Deluxe Edition
            Dragon Age 2
            Dragon Age 1 + Awakenings

            There were loads more I could have got but it was taking 10 minutes to get each one as the site was being hammered.

          • jikavak says:

            Ooh,you got Spore!

          • malkav11 says:

            It only worked on EA games and not all of those – I tried to use it on Battlefield 3 DLC, for example, and was rebuffed. Admittedly, EA publishes quite a few games, but still, I already owned 90% of what was eligible, at least to be gotten for free.

        • Aankhen says:

          Easy. They already have e‐mail addresses matched up with accounts in their database, which is how they were able to send the codes out in the first place. All they’d have to do is go through the purchase history for each account and remove all games purchased using that code after the first one if that account was sent an e‐mail, or all games purchased using that code if not.

      • Bats says:

        EA stands more to benefit from having you as an ‘active’ user of Origin, than taking back the games that they accidentally gave out this weekend. After all, it’s just a cdkey pretty much, but I bet they just had a HUGE influx of new users, and that’s certainly something they can use to flaunt to investors/partners/etc. Everything is working as intended.

    • JackShandy says:

      Woah. That goes beyond reasonable, that’s a fucking saintly course of action. Is it just that they can’t get rid of the games bought with this code without screwing everything else up?

      • Mattressi says:

        I’m almost certain that the main reason they’ll “honour” the use of the code is because it is a single code which was given to many people (rather than a unique code for each survey user), as far as I can tell. Because of this, they don’t have any way to know who actually did take part in the survey.

        Another issue is that many people used the $20 off code plus their money to buy a game which costs more than $20, meaning EA would have to refund thousands of people some of their money, too.

        And, of course, the fact that EA is legally obligated to honour the transactions (from what I can tell), possibly plays a role in it (but hey, it doesn’t play a role in DRM/EULAs/cutomer rights until it’s taken to court, which it rarely is; so why worry about legality?).

        • njursten says:

          I haven’t studied law, but I think that usually if you’re aware that you’re doing something that the other part did not intend you to be able to, you’re kind of screwed.

          • HadToLogin says:

            Well, it might be different for different countries, but at least in my country law says citizen can do whatever is not prohibited. Which could be used to reason that if EA didn’t wrote “buy only one game with that code” (or equivalent), then you’re good to “steal”…

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Pretty much this! Hard as it is to believe, EA are being thoroughly decent over this – they know which codes were shared (each survey was unique) and they could find out with one or two court orders exactly who shared it, however it seems they understand that all these games have cost them very little in the grand scheme of things, but a heavy handed approach may cost them more.

            Could this be the first twinkling of an admittance by a giant publisher that an illegal download =/= a lost sale?

            EDIT @Had_to_login – I’m afraid even in the EU, if you know something is in breach of the conditions to which it is being offered, you are liable. For a directly relevant example – if you know a shop doesn’t use a unique barcode on vouchers and you buy one then photocopy it thousands of times, you have committed fraud. Doesn’t matter that the shop wasn’t careful enough – doesn’t matter that it is perfectly legal to photocopy the voucher – what is important is that you photocopied it and used it, even if the voucher didn’t have “Do not photocopy” writte on it. The law expects a certain social responsibility from you, unless you have good, doctor backed reason not to understand that this was wrong.

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            I’m afraid your not-a-lawyer perspective doesn’t quite match up with many legal rulings. It’s a good moral standpoint, but legal systems tend to give one solitary flying fornication about that at most.

            EA accepting the coupons in the manner they were used and no explicit terms against it could be argued as implicit agreement that EA acknowledges the coupons as valid. Whilst the various EULA terms about revoking access haven’t really been settled yet either. So it’s all rather uncertain who’d win.

            In fact, if EA were serious about being evil personified I wonder if it might be a smart move to revoke all those games obtained completely for free and just daring someone to bring a big class action lawsuit about it. I imagine they wouldn’t have a better chance of winning than with unique circumstances like that, and might set themselves up a useful precedent to use in the future if they did.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            @Droopy – care to share some of these rulings which disagree with my legal knowledge that if you knowingly commit a crime, in this case fraud, you are not liable to be prosecuted unless the company/person you defrauded asked you in writing not to commit the exact fraud you did.

            I’m waiting for the bucket load of examples.

            Still waiting.

            Tell you what, while we all wait for Droopy to come back, allow me to quote the legal guidance for the Fraud act (2006):

            “Fraud by false representation (Section 2)
            The defendant:

            made a false representation
            knowing that the representation was or might be untrue or misleading
            with intent to make a gain for himself or another, to cause loss to another or to expose another to risk of loss.
            The offence is entirely focused on the conduct of the defendant.”

            Or it could be covered by section 3

            “Fraud by failing to disclose information (Section 3)
            The defendant:

            failed to disclose information to another person
            when he was under a legal duty to disclose that information
            dishonestly intending, by that failure, to make a gain or cause a loss.
            Like Section 2 (and Section 4) this offence is entirely offender focussed. It is complete as soon as the Defendant fails to disclose information provided he was under a legal duty to do so, and that it was done with the necessary dishonest intent. It differs from the deception offences in that it is immaterial whether or not any one is deceived or any property actually gained or lost.”

            Belt and braces:

            “A representation is defined as “false” if it is untrue or misleading and the person making it knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading. Actual knowledge that the representation might be untrue is required not awareness of a risk that it might be untrue.”

            Which is why you should never listen to Droopy the Dog as he cannot ever back up his trolling.

            If I present information, you’d better believe I can back it up, despite Droopys belief that I am not a lawyer (He may or may not be correct – what my job title is is irrelevant and lawyer is such a catch-all term anyway. I could be a judge, a barrister, a solicitor, an attorney, a paralegal, a legal consultant and would have the required knowledge. I will never disclose my job title as it is unique and would make me easily identifiable). so Droopy, try again next time.

            PS Droops, were you the person who a week or so ago claimed to be an IP lawyer then magnificently confused civil and criminal law?

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            The not-a-lawyer was at njursten, who kindly qualifies his statement by letting people know it’s not a professional opinion. Bear in mind the context of the reply button in future before you get so very defensive.

            As for knowingly commiting fraud, that’s the point, there’s little to no proof that anyone committed it knowingly. The headline on reddit itself was “Use the code OS3874XVC to get $20 off Origin purchases! Can be used to get a $20 game for Free!” that’s all the information anyone needed to apply the coupon. There’s nothing to indicate there that it’s an exclusive voucher, or even a single use, it could just be a viral flash sale for all they know at that point. Likewise proving anyone had further context would be a ridiculously disproportionate effort involving court orders for ISPs which might yield nothing useful anyway.

            P.S. No, not disclosed my profession either but if you’re not averse time-consuming digging, feel free to double check, there’s probably a few hints if you want to get creepy level detective. If it helps put your mind at rest, I’ll follow njursten’s example and say this is not a qualified professional opinion.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I was talking about the person who posted the code is the one defrauding the company, and I have no wish to try to figure out who or what you are, I’d ask if I was interested, like I asked if you were the person I remembered last week

          • njursten says:

            If anyone cares, I was talking about the people using the code.

            Droopy, I didn’t think of that! You’re right. Me having all the info afterwards of course doesn’t mean that everyone that used the code knew that it was from some survey.

            I’d say it’s still a bit suspicous behaviour however, it’s not often that free stuff is handed out. Ugh, that viral marketing stuff would be hard to argue against though.

          • Droopy The Dog says:


            Oh I’m not saying many people weren’t completely aware of what they were doing just that, being a criminal law issue, the burden of proof is typically “beyond reasonable doubt” (globally that might not hold, but EU/US it does). So although the letter of the law says it’s wrong to do it knowingly, the application means that unless the voucher comes with such blindingly obvious warnings as “do not copy this” and “one use only” it get’s difficult to argue they definitely knew it was an unintended use. Which I imagine is where the slight misconception that “if they don’t say otherwise it’s ok” comes from, because in practical terms it makes it difficult to prosecute.


            And like I said, my comment was to njursten. But since you’re so determined to flex your legal chops on the matter, I’ll play devils advocate and go ahead and try and disprove your points now, it should be an interesting learning exercise for me. We’ll work with the UK fraud act since that’s what you’ve copy-pasted, but in reality since the original survey was only for US residents and that’s who you’re gunning for EA’d need to work with the relevant US legislation.

            First proving who shared the code, I’m assuming from the “one or two court orders” comment here you intend to obtain one way or another the IP adress that shared the codes online. It’s already been proven that an IP adress is insuficient evidence to identify a person even for a civil case, where the burden of proof basically boils down to “more likely than not”, in Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-26, CV 12-1147 (JS) (GRB). It’s a US case but as I’ve previously established, that’s actually more relevant if it were to really go to court. If my assumption is incorrect and you intend to definitively identify those who shared the code differently please correct me, since as I understand it the survey was anonymous and contained no personally identifiable details.

            Now proving EA actually lost out because the code was shared seems an equally difficult task, again I’ll lay out some assumptions because there’s no way I have access to the concrete numbers. First I’m assuming at least some people bought a game that was over $20 with the voucher and paid the difference, second I’m assuming the sum of those payments recieved outweighs the costs incurred by EA processing the orders providing bandwidth for all the games bought with the voucher. If either of those assumptions prove false there’s a much more solid case for loss at least, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume enough people paid something to cover nominal costs such as those.

            If they are true than EA’s case would need to prove that those who bought the games with the voucher would have bought the games for full price. Again this would a criminal case, so probably wouldn’t cut it, beyond a reasonable doubt would be needed. It’s hard to coax numbers out of games publishers but there have been a few instances of games devs talking about big increases in sales during cut price offers. And while they’re cagey about absolute numbers, steam have said that they see massive relative increases in sales of even older games when they go on a cut-price offer, not to mention the short lasting increase in sales they presume come from good word-of-mouth thereafter. With statements like that it’s not hard to build a case that without the voucher those sales would not have happened at all. And that’s not even delving into film, music and books for similarly relevant numbers.

            I suppose you could try to go with the “gain of others” in section two but given that he shared it publicly rather than specifically with people whom he might have an interest in seeing gain anything, it’s pretty clear if there’s any intent it’s cause EA a loss.

            So I’d argue that EA’s not being thoroughly decent by not persuing charges, they’re just being sensible not pursing legal action that’s just as likely to fail as succeed and would gain them terrible publicity in the process. Nor do they need to make an example of someone as a deterrent, since this is no doubt something they don’t intend to repeat anyway.

            Also, if you were uninterested in my details and only interested in knowing if I authored a comment you read with incorrect information, I would suggest you simply go back and check. You’re more qualified than I to remember which comments you’ve previously read. Otherwise it might be misconstrued as a lazy attempt to undermine my credibility rather than a genuine question.

            I don’t know what I’ve done to engender such vitriol from you, and statements like “you should never listen to Droopy”. Aside from the brief misunderstanding here where you thought I was questioning your maybe-I-do/maybe-I-don’t legal qualifications, the only other correspondance I can remember with you was over the pulling of that trashy seduce me game from greenlight, where I opined that a heavy handed pro-censorship stance just because it agrees with your views is irresponsible. If that’s all then I’m going to allow myself a drip of vitriol in return and request that if you can’t keep it civil then you at least keep your arguements solid and engaging rather than self-righteous and posturing. Cheers.

      • RatherDashing says:

        Saintly my ass. I actually completed the fucking survey, and NOW they are telling me “the code is expired” A WEEK before the code was supposed to expire, and they refuse to give me any compensation whatsoever. Meanwhile, people who abused the hell out of the code get to ride away with a cartful of free and heavily discounted games.

        I’ve never said this before, because I’ve always said companies are not Good/Evil, just more/less consumer-friendly, but:

        FUCK EA.

    • Baka says:

      Oh god, those atrocious comments around that CM statement.

      • DarkLiberator says:

        I feel bad for the CM who has to deal with that every day.

    • LTK says:

      And there are STILL people bitching that they didn’t get to redeem their code while people were going to town on carting out bucketfuls of free games from Origin.

      Paraphrased from a couple of forum posts, “I filled out this survey for you legitimately! Now I DEMAND free games!”

      I mean, seriously, what did they expect? That they’ll just leave the doors unlocked because there may be original recipients of the code among the looters?

      • Neut says:

        I almost want EA to screw over their customers now if those are the kind of customers they have to deal with all day.

      • Mattressi says:

        They probably (stupidly) expected EA to uphold their end of the bargain. If you’re promised a $20 discount for filling out a survey, is it really unreasonable to expect that you be given it?

        • LTK says:

          Well, yeah. To use the storefront analogy: if Origin sends out e-mails to 100 people for a midnight opening where you can get $20 worth of free games, and 100,000 people show up before they close their doors, you can’t very well complain that you didn’t get in if you’re number 100,001, because then there’s no end to the number of games they need to give away.

          • Mattressi says:

            But in that instance, it’s an email sent out for not apparent reason, rather than being sent as a promised reward for completing a survey.

            Regardless, while I fully understand that EA can’t indefinitely allow the use of the $20 code, they could either let the code continue to be used until its original expiration date or find a way to give a unique code to each person who filled out the survey. If it really was a limited number of people who were given the survey, presumably there is some way for EA to have tracked them (even if it’s just knowing their email address). Send those people a unique $20 off code. Then anyone on the forums still bitching about not being able to use the code will be easily recognised as liars.

            I wonder what the survey was like. I used to fill out surveys for F2P games to get in game money. For a small amount of in game money (usually the equivalent of a $1), you usually have to fill out a 30 to 40 minute survey. For a $20 voucher, it either had to be a promotional survey (just advertising) or a really bloody long survey. If it’s the latter and I’d done the survey, I’d damn well want a working code too.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            @Mattressi – Please be careful of those paid for surveys, they are identity fraudsters favourites and they are bloody sophisticated. They like to pay you for surveys that individually wouldn’t leave you at risk but they collate them and bammy wham, suddenly after years, they’ve got together a frighteningly detailed history!

            That and the sales calls you will get if you give your real phone number out!

          • RatherDashing says:

            @Mattressi The survey was actually EXTREMELY short. “Do you know what the EA Store is called now?”, with a blank text box for you to type in your answer if you say “Yes”. A couple more questions along the lines of “Did you know Origin has a lot of free games?* Does this make you more likely to use Origin in the future?”

            *In hindsight this is really funny.

        • Levanon says:

          I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be upset that EA promised me something in exchange for my time, then decided not to honour that because the rest of the internet sucks.
          I’ve never used Origin, aside from the Battlefield 3 beta, so when I got the email, I figured “what the hell, it can’t be that bad…” So I filled out the survey, explaining honestly why I’ve never bought anything. Got the code, spent ages looking for something I wanted, then the code just didn’t work. No explanation.

          I might have become a regular Origin user. Now I think that unlikely. Good luck selling things to all those people that just stole hundreds of dollars worth of games from you, EA.

    • Cinek says:

      Yet another proof that digital versions of the games are worth NOTHING.

      Now imagine you go to retail store and do the same – take 50 games while noone looks, and go away – not only police would chance you, but also when found – you’d hit the prison or at least: got some other nasty punishment. Meanwhile on Origin? They just let you go with “enjoy your games” goodbye message. So.. after all for EA all it’s games are worth nothing and everyone can get as many of them as they’d like to only given a chance…

      …great, I won’t feel guilty next time pirating EA’s crap.

      • LTK says:

        It’s impossible to be able to tell which customers got their free games legitimately and which didn’t. That’s why EA is allowing people to keep their redeemed games. But you’re free to go on rationalizing your own bad behaviour, I guess.

      • Neut says:

        I didn’t realise I was paying for the manufacture and packaging of a game all this time when I bought it in the store rather than the time, effort and money gone into making the content on the disk.

        • HadToLogin says:

          Actually, around 25% price of boxed console game goes to publisher (and depending on deals, maybe 10% of that can go to developer – or nothing, like New Vegas with it’s metacritic bonus proved), rest is MS/Sony/Nintendo tribute, taxes, boxing, transport, shop-fees and probably some more stuff I forget. Not sure how PC game works, since there’s no console tribute, but I guess those 25% goes to publisher too (unfortunately, times when PC versions were cheaper because they lacked that tribute are long gone and forgotten).

          • vedder says:

            I don’t know where you live, but here new PC games are usually €40-45 (or €30-40 if I order it online) and console games €60.

      • SurprisedMan says:

        Wow. If I was capable of logic like that, I’d use it to justify something more fun, like genocide.

      • Acorino says:

        No proof, at most an indication.

      • PopeJamal says:

        Although the pirating angle is a bit “grey area”, the poster is absolutely dead-on:

        Digital downloads cost publishers next to nothing. Especially so for “bargain bin” titles like the ones eligible for this promotion.

        If that weren’t the case, you can bet that EA would be going after all of these people because they would have been out thousands of dollars.

        You can pat EA on the back for doing a good job if you want, but I wouldn’t exactly say they’re turning over a new, customer focused leaf here.

        • mittortz says:

          Just because giving away a digital download for free doesn’t immediately incur any costs, doesn’t mean the the product doesn’t have value, or is “worthless”, in the words of OP.

          He’s acting as if these companies charge money for games just to be cruel, because they just say abra-cadabra, create content, and reap 100% profit. Further, there is a real potential loss of sale due to this oversight. I’ve been considering buying the BF2 collection for a while now, and if I had gotten a hold of this code in time, I would have gotten it for free (which means I would never pay them money for it). The fact that a significant number of customers just received games for free which they may have paid for at one point or another, even if at a bargain price during a sale, means that EA certainly suffered at least some loss of revenue. The same goes for piracy – the reason this argument is so quickly disregarded is that copyright lawyers take it to the extreme and claim that every download represents a lost sale at full cost and that sharing it represents 3 million lost sales at full cost, etc.

          Whether or not they’re “turning over a new leaf”, this could be considered a generous move assuming they weren’t forced into allowing it for a technical or legal reason (most likely the case anyway). And fuck justification of piracy, especially something like what OP used. I say that as someone who pirates content on a regular basis (but you will never see me claim that it is ever fully justified).

      • belgand says:

        Actually it would be more like they e-mailed me a coupon for a $20 discount that said “one per game”, but not “one per customer” and I printed off a bunch of them and used them to buy games. There’s no theft involved and people do things like this with other coupons all the time offline.

    • Bishop says:

      Next question is did any developers get cash for all those coupon sales?

    • Zogtee says:

      All the people who took pride in doing the “right thing” and only used the code once must be shitting themselves now. :D

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        Greed, right? Yeah, well, not everybody is so ruled by their vices.

      • SageGaspar says:

        There are opportunities to take advantage of people’s mistakes every day. Can’t say I “shit myself” every time that I pass on one. Especially when we’re talking about sub-$20 video games in the age of Steam.

      • Askeladd says:

        Also there’s a certain limit on games that I actually like and play… I can’t say I need any game right now.
        A Steam sale would also provide me with unlimited 20$ coupons – figurativeley.

      • Vorphalack says:

        Hypothetically, if i’d had access to one of these codes, I wouldn’t have used it more than once even if I knew I could. While it may not be illegal to use it repeatedly, it does not feel fair as it was clearly unintentional.

  3. LTK says:

    This is exactly why EULAs for digital distribution have clauses in them that the proprietor can revoke access to the games you purchased/redeemed for no good reason other than they feel like it. So it’s almost certain that EA has a legal right to take them back.

    Although Talkar tells me they’re not doing that! Wow, classy move, EA.

    • Reg80 says:

      EULA’s do not supersede law. Here a product must be fit for purpose and cannot be taken away “for no good reason”. So in the case of legitimately purchasing a game, what you said is incorrect.

      • LTK says:

        Yes, but not in the case of purchasing a limited, revokable license to play a game, which is what you do every time you purchase a game through a client-based digital store.

        • PopeJamal says:

          I think the main point here is that there is very little applicable case law on the books in regards to how these things work.

          Until they get an established precedent in real court cases, you are both just throwing words at each other.

        • codename_bloodfist says:

          Unless you live in the US, the courts are more than likely to side with you. In fact, the only time I remember EULA being enforced were the cases of copyright infringement for commercial purposes, e.g. Blizzard vs. Glider.

  4. Lokik says:

    For some reason this makes me happy.

  5. NathaI3 says:

    While I don’t care about EA as a corporation, I do feel sorry for whatever poor sap (or group of saps) this gets blamed on. I’m sure they won’t be up for a promotion any time soon.

    • RaveTurned says:

      Yeah, that person’s going to have a bad start to the week. In their shoes I’d be less worried about a lack of promotions and more worried about keeping a job at all. :/

      • Henson says:

        Unless…it was their plan all along! Of course! They release a temporary bottomless discount and further entrench their store’s platform into the customer base! They might even gain a swathe of new Origin users in the process! Those crafty bastards…why, it’s brilliant!

        • belgand says:

          I suspect you mean “Origin users”, to be new it would imply that they already had users before this.

          That’s a big benefit to them. It drove a ton of customers over to their slow, badly-designed site to marvel at their terrible prices on a deeply limited selection of games.

  6. Slinkyboy says:


  7. merc-ai says:

    Well, even in MMO standards it would be considered as exploiting known bugs and therefore a punishable action. I’m sure that in digital distribution the rules are more strict, not less.
    My guess is that EA will at least remove games downloaded that way (which is the right move, imo). Though they might as well use banhammers on some people.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      The rules of actual commerce are almost definitely less strict than those of an MMO. Or rather, they don’t cut so relentlessly one way.

    • ShineyBlueShoes says:

      There was also a lot of plausible deniability as well since you didn’t have to do anything other than open a new private browsing session to be able to get a new game.

  8. vexytube says:

    I’m not really sure they lost any “money” since those games were below $20. Meaning they’re old and forgotten, plus orign is not the best platform….

    • LTK says:

      Regardless of whether they were old…

      But my goodness, they must have lost an awful lot of money this weekend, and they’re not going to like it.

      You almost sound like a publisher! Games redeemed by free codes aren’t lost money any more than pirated copies are.

      • John Walker says:

        That’s a fair point.

      • LinHongJun says:

        They have got a lot of Origin users.

      • Persus-9 says:

        Well that depends doesn’t it. If the same company owns all the rights to the game and wouldn’t have to pass on any money from sales then no money has been lost. If on the other hand there is some sort of royalties deal with any of their developers or third parties then presumably EA would have to honour that and give them their payment even though they failed to take any real money from the consumer. I don’t really have any knowledge of how these things work exactly but I wouldn’t have thought EA would keep all the money from all the games sold on Origin.

      • Schadenfreude says:

        EA still has to pay for all the bandwidth used to download these games, so it did cost them money. Not $20-per-game-money but they will be out of pocket.

        On the other hand, they’ve probably seen a massive spike in the number of Origin users.

      • HadToLogin says:

        If it weren’t for that code, must people wouldn’t get them anyway. But it is lost money unlike pirated copies, because EA must pay for transfer :P

        • Askeladd says:

          So … to screw them over:

          download every game in your library, delete, download every game in your library, delete, downloa….

      • derbefrier says:

        eh I was planning to get Mirrors Edge the next steam sale. so they lost out on a couple bucks from me. :)

        Hell it may even work out in their favor. I wonder how many people installed Origin just to get a free game? If I was at EA I would be arguing this little mishap potentially expanded their customer base but a quite a bit. I mean getting people to install it is half the battle. Once installed and people realize it wont make their PC explode maybe they will become a little more open to using it!

    • Sic says:

      EA are probably all hootin’ and hollerin’ because of this right now. In a good way.

      “Someone is using our shitty service! Gee wiz, this is awesome! Send out thank-you-mails to everyone who bought the games!”

  9. Debe2233 says:

    They will immediately assume that every game bought is a sale they’ve lost rather than realise that 70% of the games bought this way were purchased opportunistically.

    I feel bad for the poor sod in EA who didn’t check this before sending it out. It will not be a good Monday morning for them. :(

  10. Koojav says:


  11. Bootsy81 says:

    The sad thing is, even if I’d been aware of this in time I probably still wouldn’t have used it. There just aren’t any EA games I can think of that I’m interested in owning, even for free, and it would require installing Origin right? Well, thanks but no thanks….

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      That was pretty much my reasoning to do absolutely nothing when I heard about the coupon. Well, I played some Blood Bowl. But that’s irrelevant to the discussion.

  12. Dana says:

    So where do I get the legit survey, I don’t mind even one free game. I never got any email, even though I have few games on Origin already.

  13. rocketman71 says:

    I’m not installing that POS, even if the games are free.

  14. Terrell says:

    They probably did it on purpose.

    People shit talked Origin so much, saying it was spyware, etcetera. But now when they could get some free games? Everyone installed it.

    EA benefited from this since now people use their client and will most likely buy some games from or for it, like Battlefield 3 for example.
    Alot of people didn’t buy Battlefield 3 because of Origin, but now when everyone got Origin installed, so why not?

    • Mattressi says:

      That’s a very good point. I certainly wouldn’t touch Origin normally (even when they had those $1 games), but I got Dragon Age free with the code and I’m now using Origin without issues. It would certainly be a smart thing to make your customers think they’re tricking you, when you’re actually tricking them into using your system.

      Still, I can’t see myself using Origin other than for free games, because I don’t trust EA to not revoke all of my games for no reason at all. Plus, one digital distribution platform/DRM (Steam) is enough for me.

    • John Mirra says:

      Even if it’s true, it is doubtful decision. Only one of over 30 my Origin friends who jumped on BF3 since its release bought one more game.
      And when I get the code yesterday I just didn’t know which game I really need there. Some games I already have on Steam, some games I don’t ever want to play and some games I wish I never have played. I chose The Saboteur just because I can’t buy it on Steam.

    • Shadowcat says:

      Yeah, I was going to make a similar point. I’m not convinced that they did it on purpose, but I’m completely convinced that it’s a long-term win for them (in which case they should have done it on purpose; I just don’t think they did…)

      Personally, not even free games will make me touch Origin, so I ignored this “deal”, but clearly there are now a large number of new Origin users, and as I strongly suspect that the biggest hurdle for such systems is getting new users who are willing to sign up to Yet Another Account (especially one with a bad name), I can’t see how this is anything but a good thing from E.A.’s perspective (and so any attempt to revoke the purchases would have been complete madness on their part).

      • Prokroustis says:

        This. If it was not on purpose – it would be a genius move let’s be honest – it certainly makes sense they let people keep their “ill-gotten” games.

  15. mashakos says:

    I got alerted to this on neogaf while it was happening. Sadly, I am stuck on the blasted EU store, so had to impotently watch as the Americans gleefully plundered. Painful! :(

    • John Mirra says:

      Use proxy next time!

      • mashakos says:

        i did i did! kept getting “payment authorisation failed”. Seems like they have a system to detect vpn connections

      • Reg80 says:

        I didn’t even have to use a proxy, just used the US store web address and everything worked fine. In the UK.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      You’re upset you couldn’t dishonestly get something for free?

  16. brat-sampson says:

    It’s just a shame it was NA only IMO…

  17. Crosmando says:

    It’s funny, because even went totally DRM-free like GOG, I doubt it would improve their sales substantially, such is the level of consumer trust for EA.

  18. ikinone says:

    Is it really fair to claim they have lost a lot of money on this?

    How do you know customers who got these games for free would have otherwise paid for them?

    While there may be minimal costs for the bandwidth to transfer the games to people who obtained them, EA has gained future potential with customers who become attached to their service.

    • ShineyBlueShoes says:

      Only so much as piracy actually loses money and not as a theoretical argument to show why it’s bad. There’s the huge upshot here that now there are hundreds or thousands of customers tied into Origin who may be more willing to buy a game they wouldn’t have before and continue to use their service. 99% of the people who got multiple games probably wouldn’t have bought any of those on Origin anyway so all you’ve lost is bandwidth to grow your install base. For once I think EA used some sense and realized the potential for this to be a massive win.

  19. Lars Westergren says:

    >Or is this equivalent to their having left the shop unlocked over the weekend, meaning people could walk
    >in and take stuff? Internet – you confuse all ethics!

    Not really, it was obvious this was taking the fruits of someones’ creativity and hard work when they didn’t intend for that to be free.

    • LTK says:

      Regardless of the intentions of the developers, EA published their game, so EA calls the shots. If they intend your game to be free, there’s not a lot you can do about it as a developer.

      • jrodman says:

        I rather doubt those are the standard terms of these contracts.

  20. Dowson says:

    EA cocks up like this quite often.
    On the old store once in a while certain games would be priced at 0 when you entered the checkout and that would last for several hours. I still have those games on my origin account, but I already owned them on Steam so I’ve never touched them.

    I imagine they never bother to remove them because the amount of ‘lost copies’ is really low.

  21. Zelius says:

    So… why did no one tell me about this?

  22. LinHongJun says:

    Actually EA CS is better than Steam CS.

    • jezcentral says:

      And it has a working, yes, a working!, off-line mode. But don’t let that get in the way of The HAAAAATE!

      • Cytrom says:

        1, I cannot play my games bought on origin at all due to a trivial client update bug that hasn’t been fixed for months now. I think that’s kind of a big problem.

        2, Origin freezes my computer for several seconds whenever it starts up.

        3, I never needed customer support with steam in the first place, while I needed it several times for every EA games I ever bought. Having a better customer service is more of a necessity than an advantage for EA.

        4, Not sure if its just the beta version of steam I’m using, but now the offline mode bug is actually gone for me (where you had to go online first to go offline.. which was quite stupid)

        5, The origin store is simply a chore to browse

        6, EA consumed and systematically ruined about 50% of the greatest developers of all time, destroying and devaluing a bunch of my favourite game titles and continues to research new ways to to extrct more money out of games and gamers, take away customer rights and generally degenerate the user experience of legit customers… in short I hate EA and everything they represent, not without reasons.

        • zeroskill says:

          At point 6:

          It does mather little to EA because the people they pissed off are no more in their target audience age. The same that happend to Origin Systems and Bullfrog and so many others (Origin Systems used to be my favorite developer) will happen to Bioware, DICE and all the other developer studios that EA owns currently, in the case of Bioware it already has begun. EA will gut them out good, that’s what they excel at (besides marketing of course).

          The reason people hate EA is not because of Origin or because they are “Steam fanboys” or because of EA’s insulting attempts at milking fan favorite franchises, but because they killed great studios of the status of Bioware and DICE in the past.

          But as I said before this mathers little to EA now because their target “boobs and explosions” audience in the age of between 14-18 knows nothing about what EA did it the past. They will have to see for themselfs. Then the cycle will repeat itself and it will begin anew, and EA will be making more money.

        • Brun says:

          Completely uninstall and reinstall Origin to get rid of the client update bug. A simple Google search would have told you that, but I guess you’re so predisposed to hating Origin and EA that you couldn’t bother.

          • Machinations says:

            Oh is that all? Just completely remove and reinstall the POS ‘store’. and presumably all my games?

            Funny how I’ve never had to do that with Steam.

            People hate EA for good reason. You like them, great, but don’t condescend to me about EA’s business practices. They are the antithesis of Valve; who have probably single-handledly saved PC gaming. Origin remains a POS.

            That is all.

  23. jplayer01 says:

    I don’t get how anybody can say they lost lots of money with a straight face. Reproduction of each product costs nothing and, more importantly, I think it’s fair to assume that everybody who ‘abused’ the voucher wouldn’t have actually bought many of these games when faced with the proper price.

    In fact, considering it’s only a 20 pound voucher, I’m sure some of them bought games at higher price points simply because they could ‘finally’ get them cheaper. It’s what I would have done, since I find the prices on Origin are excessively high.

  24. Shadram says:

    … Thalkar.

  25. brkl says:

    Somebody got fired.

  26. lociash says:

    The recent trend of publications penchant for referencing Reddit is getting awkward.

    Some people believe this was less an accident and more a marketing stunt to get users onto their service.

    • RatherDashing says:

      If it were a marketing stunt, they wouldn’t tell me(someone who legitimately filled out the actual survey that they sent out) that the code expires on the 21st, tell me YESTERDAY when I called customer support that it was an issue on their end and that I should try tomorrow, and then tell me TODAY that “the code is expired, sorry sir, that promotion is no longer valid”.

  27. alsoran says:

    I wondered whether this would be counted as piracy?

  28. Ahtaps says:

    It will be interesting to see if the people who signed up just for the free games continue to buy from Origin or simply keep their free games and resume buying from elsewhere.

    On a slightly tangential note, as an Australian, I can’t help but think of our energy service called Origin every time I see the name.

  29. Gnoupi says:

    And suddenly, the number of regular users on Origin doubled.

  30. njursten says:

    Actually it seems like you could only use the code once per account, so you’d get at most one free game (well, two by using the web and app version of the store at the same time). Of course, this makes it quite hard to figure out which users used the code “illegally”.

    • nearly says:

      actually, there was a workaround/exploit where if you added a game to your account while logged out and then applied the code, deleted the item from your cart, and then signed in, the game would appear in the store with the promo price still applied once you searched for it. it was slow, but essentially let latecomers continue to snag all the free games they wanted.

  31. Megakoresh says:

    It’s EA.
    Do check this part of the forum: link to forum.ea.com

    • Prime says:


      I sense a trap…

      • Megakoresh says:

        Ah I see. You have uncovered my evil plans for turning keyboards into chinese salad leaves! Your days are numbered!

  32. DarkNightRJ says:

    Man they’re gonna let everyone keep them? I actually just used it for one game because I figured they’d remove the games and/or ban people or something.

  33. Prime says:

    Well at least EA now know there’s demand for their games. All they have to do now is cure themselves of that bothersome addiction they have for being paid.

  34. Lee_Nox says:

    Actually, Origin didn’t get that much from it, since after suspending the promos they kept the survey up, so people who filled it in didn’t get any coupon at all. So they are now on the forums demanding that Origin honor their deal and Origin basically adopted the Rainman tactic and are going “The coupon is now expired. Definitely expired.”

  35. jiaco says:

    @ RPS – once again, a brilliant story title that gives me a great image in my head and a smirk on my face.

  36. frightlever says:

    Hmm. If nothing else it’ll have encouraged a bunch of people to try Origin for the first time. Could work out very well for EA in the longer term.

  37. woodsey says:

    They have to honour it anyway, don’t they? If you price something wrong in a shop or you aren’t explicit about things on a retail voucher then it’s all the same.

  38. Cytrom says:

    It’d be probably a bigger hassle (and costing more money) to get back all the games and punish every single person who downloaded their free game rather than just making some free marketing noise out of the situation…

    Digital games are infinite, they didn’t actually lose a penny here.

  39. Sonblade says:

    EA definitely played this right. Thousands more people have Origin accounts now, which will be sending them emails about sales, new products, updates, etc.. The cost of this flub is offset by the accidental marketing they’ve pulled off.

    • jonfitt says:

      Yup. Also, the sub-$20 games list were a lot of games that have been on deep Steam sales before.

  40. pupsikaso says:

    I wouldn’t have used it. I wouldn’t get games from Origin if they actually PAID me to do it.

  41. Lucid says:

    Only managed to nab Spore: Creepy & Cute before they fixed the bug that allowed you to get $20 off of multiple games.


  42. papfinn says:

    I did receive the survey, but didn’t get to it until it had been shut down. It would have been awfully nice to have had a chance to use it. I’m annoyed that it got so widely broadcast, but more so at EA, I mean what else would you expect, it’s the internet.

  43. Artist says:

    One minute of silence for the poor soul(s) who made this mistake and lost their head for this…

  44. Juiceman says:

    “Or is this equivalent to their having left the shop unlocked over the weekend, meaning people could walk in and take stuff?”

    No, in fact that’s still considered stealing. People aren’t allowed to just take your stuff if you forget to lock your door.

    • GSGregory says:

      First this made my day. Second I would view this more like leaving a sign up saying free and forgetting to detail what is free. Or maybe a giftcard that didn’t actually lose any money during a transaction. People aren’t stealing as much as they are taking advantage of you epically failing.

  45. Cantisque says:

    I would be surprised if this was some kind of ploy to draw more people onto Origin. It’s not like it cost them anything, since the majority of games that were plundered wouldn’t have been purchased by these people anyway.

  46. wisnoskij says:

    Too bad they are all Origin games, you would have to pay me $20 a game to use that service.

    • Juiceman says:

      Spoken like a true uniformed internet zealot who’s never even tried the program.

      • Machinations says:

        I’ve used Origin and concur with the original poster.

        Less assumptions please, you know what they say about assuming..

        What I don’t understand is how anyone could defend EA in general. They are a shit company and everything bad about the industry, personified. Only 2K pises me off more.

  47. jonfitt says:

    Stealth marketing to get people using Origin, by giving away games at the tail end of their life. Very clever.

  48. kwyjibo says:

    I saw this over the weekend, and I just couldn’t be bothered. I claimed a free copy of Burnout Paradise from Origin ages back, and have just never bothered to use the service.

    If I want free games, I go on piratebay.

  49. Armitage says:

    It is legal for EA to cancel any purchases that violate their terms of service such as exploiting a promo code. It gets a little more complicated when money has exchanged hands. In those cases, a user may have grounds to take EA to court. But there is almost no chance that this becomes a class action suit, or see a courtroom.

    So there are very little legal concerns for EA in this situation. Primarily this is a PR issue. They simply cannot afford the bad press that would ensue after cancelling all those orders.