While many, many gamers signed up blindly for the SimCity beta test, other eagle-eyed fans actually read the End User License Agreement and discovered the publisher held the power to ban you from all EA products if you misbehaved. Now, EA and Maxis are frantically back-pedalling, claiming their words were somewhat misinterpreted.
The original EULA was simple, and brutal:
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.
This was problematic on a number of levels. Firstly, the guilty-until-proven-innocent approach isn't the most friendly one to take, particularly when dealing with an audience who is less than pleased with you (EA was recently voted the Worst Company in America in 2012). With no way, really, of telling what is a bug and what is a feature, EA were risking the sort of backlash recently heaped upon Guild Wars 2 for the Snowflake exploit. Gamers in that situation allegedly didn't realise they were doing anything wrong, salvaging items and making a profit, but were promptly banned when ArenaNet caught up to them.
Then we have the cautious fans who are just as likely not to sign a document containing such a clause. This results in fewer beta testers, meaning fewer eyes checking the new game for issues, glitches and game-breaking bugs. End result: Buggy final product, not something EA is too keen on.
The clause in the EA Beta Agreement for the SimCity beta was intended to prohibit players from using known exploits to their advantage. However, the language as included is too broad. EA has never taken away access to a player’s games for failing to report a bug. We are now updating the Beta Agreement to remove this point.
While we haven't seen the new wording just yet, it's assumed the updated EULA is also retroactively applied to trigger-happy gamers who signed up despite the threat of bans, meaning everybody will be on an even playing field. Hooray! Thank you, internet, we couldn't have done it without you!
SimCity enters beta testing this weekend, before targeting a worldwide release from March 5th.
Jimmy the Geek