Over the weekend, EA gave away a code for a $20 game download in the US or Canadian Origin stores in exchange for completing a short survey. This is a standard operating practice in marketing circles, and one that is generally well-received all the way around. But what happened after EA released the code was nowhere near so well-received, at least, not at EA.
EA made one small mistake when it released that game code: the code was released unsecured. An unsecured code can be used over and over again, by anyone who wants to use it. The code then found its way onto popular website Reddit, whereupon a horde of gamers, spurred on by the promise of a game code that would basically pump out $20 worth of games on an unlimited basis, flooded the servers and snagged copies of pretty much everything they could get their hands on.
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Origin's community manager Sam "QforQ" Houston then took to the EA forum yesterday, saying that the code had now expired, and expressing the hope that the fans "enjoy their games". George Broussard, formerly of 3D Realms fame, took to Twitter (News - Alert) with a bit of a sardonic twist: "Going to be a fun IT meeting at EA in the morning."
Additionally, we received some original commentary from the Chairman of www.CouponCodes4u.com, a leading coupon site in the US, Mark Pearson. Pearson remarked on EA’s discount code problems:
"EA has paid a price for not properly understanding the coupon code market and not realizing that money-savvy consumers will not tolerate being messed around when it comes to saving money on console games. What has started out as a great community-building and engagement tactic has turned into a wave of criticism from online gaming communities, a group that is well known for taking no nonsense when it comes to brands trying to work with them. A simple conversation with us as a leading global coupon site operator, or one of the many other coupon sites out there could have helped EA avoid this brand catastrophe.”
While this is certainly a blow for EA--they likely lost thousands of dollars worth of opportunity to sell games--it may not be quite so big a problem after all, for three good reasons. One, EA will almost certainly be getting some major publicity from the affair as the report circulates throughout the blogosphere. Two, it's a safe bet that some of those users who took advantage of EA's unintended largesse may well come back to buy more games later, even without the coupon code, having seen for themselves the array of games EA had available at the time and may have available in the future, as well as the ease of use on the Origin Store. Three, chances are, EA lost few opportunities for sales, as in all likelihood those users weren't planning to buy games from EA anyway, and just seized on the opportunity to get something for nothing. But this unexpected free sample may well have fueled interest in future EA releases.
While this is something of a black eye publicity-wise for EA, which has had its share over the years--remember the "EA widows" of 2004?--this may well be one of those unexpected opportunities for EA. Still, future coupon codes from EA will likely come with a note of extra security, as this likely isn't the kind of thing EA wants to do any more often than it has to.
Edited by Brooke Neuman