Sometime last week EA sent out surveys to users of it’s digital distribution platform, Origin. The reward for completing the survey was code for $20 off their next purchase in the online store. However, due to what was most likely a lack of foresight on the company’s part, everyone who completed the survey was given the same code, making it easily exploitable for the rest of the internet.
And exploit they did. It wasn’t long before the code was posted on Slickdeals.com and from there began popping up on 4chan and Reddit. What’s more is that the code wasn’t even working correctly. The fine print states that the code is only good for games $19.99 and up, but was apparently working for anything $19.99 and under, with users having mixed results on anything with a higher price point.
Also, the code was only supposed to work once per customer but Reddit user Shanaki posted the above image of way more than one $20 game loaded into his cart with the discount applied to all of them. Other users were successful in getting the code to work multiple times by using multiple browsers, deleting cookies, using incognito mode, or entering the code while logged out of the service. While mileage varied, the average number of times users appeared to be getting the code to work was three before receiving a message that it was invalid. Undeterred, some were simply creating new accounts and trying again anyway.
Needless to say, countless free games were “given away” by EA and at first, some were speculating that the whole thing might even have been intentional, as some sort of viral marketing scheme. Create a coupon code, “leak” it on popular internet forums, and expand your user base. It’s not a bad idea. People are much more likely to take the plunge into a new service if they’re given a significant value up front. Sony did much the same thing earlier this year by giving an “instant game collection” to Playstation Plus users, although they were much more straightforward in their approach.
While a nice thought, it’s probably not the case. For one thing, it doesn’t explain why the code would be so inconsistent in terms of when it worked, how it worked, and how long it worked. It also doesn’t explain why the code was deactivated entirely less than 24 hours after the exploit started appearing around the internet, despite being advertised as valid until the 21st of October.
That last point has much of the Origin community, those who actually completed the survey in question anyway, up in arms, as EA has yet to offer an alternative plan for users who tried to be honest like their mama taught em. In a thread on EA’s official forums, Origin Community Manager Sam Houston confirmed that EA is teaching a class in just how cookies crumble with this reply to a user:
So if those who have taken the high road are out of luck, what does that mean for those who took advantage of EA’s blunder? Will they be allowed to keep their free games? Looks like it. In that same forum thread, Sam confirmed that anyone who managed to get their hands on some freebies will be allowed to keep them.
So some lucked out while others …. the opposite of lucked out. It seems a little unjustified to punish those who completed a survey based on the promise that they would get something in return because Origin did a bad job preventing their code from being abused. Either way, I’d be willing to put money down that EA changes how they handle coupon codes in the future.
UPDATE: It seems EA will in fact be providing new codes to those who completed the survey. The new codes should be received via email in 1-2 days. These will probably be a bit more secure than the last.