SimCity‘s upcoming three-day-long closed beta may have all the trappings of a glorified demo, but EA’s pumping at least one aspect of it with unnecessarily aggressive test-osterone. In short, if you stumble across a swarm of bugs (Sim Ants hopefully excluded) and fail to report it, you could be facing a ban. From all of your EA games. Yes, that’s what it says in the SimCity beta’s EULA. Nearly verbatim. I just changed the word “product” to “game,” because “product” sounds, well, about as out-of-touch as this incredibly iron-fisted move on EA’s part.
For reference/education, here’s the fine print, courtesy of Ars Technica:
“It is understood and agreed that, as part of your participation in the Beta Program, it is your responsibility to report all known bugs, abuse of ‘bugs’, ‘undocumented features’ or other defects and problems related to the Game and Beta Software to EA as soon as they are found (‘Bugs’). 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.”
So basically, guilty until proven innocent. Or until punished for being presumed guilty without any real chance to prove you’re innocent, as it were.
It’s a bizarre move, too – and not just because EA seems to be wielding its banhammer with completely reckless abandon. After all, aside from the aforementioned bug abuse, how will EA even find out if you’ve been withholding valuable information? I mean, maybe if you’re playing with a friend, and they’re like “Ooooooo, I’M TELLING.” But otherwise, isn’t the whole point of bug reporting that you, you know, have to report it first?
So, at the end of the day, it’s kind of a ridiculous clause to include in the first place, but the implications are still fairly unsettling. That punishment absolutely doesn’t fit the crime, and it’s quite a stretch to define it as a crime in the first place. I mean, I guess it sort of seems like a reaction to people who treat real betas like giant demos, but – if so – it’s almost comically backward considering that this beta is totally the latter. And sure, maybe that’s a problem in some cases, but legalese that carries the might of Zeus Himself isn’t the way to solve it.
I suppose the big lesson here, as ever, is that we really need to stop just skipping past EULAs. As EA themselves – among many, many others – have proven on other occasions, it’s possible to hide some real landmines beneath those languid lingual forests. And, regardless of whether these companies ever choose to enforce them, paying attention’s the only surefire way to ensure things don’t get out of hand.