The Sims Social pulls a bait and switch on players

Should it count as fraud when in-game items obtainable through virtual currency don't perform as advertised?


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Free-to-play games have always existed on the edge of false advertising. After all, the very term "free to play" completely ignores the fact that people can spend seemingly limitless amounts of time and money on them. But a recent incident with Electronic Arts' hit Facebook game Sims Social describes a form of false advertising considerably less reliant on a game of semantics.

No Caption Provided
A skull-and-crossbones thought bubble adequately describes the proper reaction to EA's underhanded Sims Social bait and switch.

Last week, an ad in the game challenged players to get a Vespertine Cocktail Bar Reward that would churn out simoleans (one of the game's four primary resources) and collectibles every hour. Although the reward criteria can be met without spending a dime, impatient players or those who won't meet the task's deadline can speed things up by dropping real money for an injection of SimCash. But after the offer went live and the original ad went out, EA changed both the deadline and the reward. Instead of an hourly injection of simoleans and gifts for as long as the game runs, players would instead get a onetime injection of social points (another of the game's resources).

As one would expect/hope, angry players took to the game's message boards to complain about the switch. A number of players raced to get the cocktail bar only to find the reward they spent their time and money chasing had been switched on them. And those who completed the task before the ad was changed received neither the social points nor the advertised hourly rewards. And the only "official" word from EA in the thread is a moderator confirming that it's not a bug and that the players' complaints have been passed along.

On the surface, this looks an awful lot like fraud. But I suspect the virtual currency buffers placed in between the users' money and the Vespertine Cocktail Bar will in some way protect EA from any sort of consumer complaint. After all, players didn't spend their money for that in-game item; they spent their money on Facebook Credits, which were converted to SimCash, which could then be converted to energy, simoleans, and social points in order to meet the reward criteria.

But to focus on whether or not this protects EA from lawsuits and Better Business Bureau complaints is tangential to the point. The larger issue here that gamers should be up in arms over is that this represents a fundamental lack of respect for the customer on EA's behalf. They laid out a transaction for gamers with clear parameters and then changed the deal midstream, neglected to notify gamers of the change, refused to honor their commitment to people who had already completed the deal, and then ignored the resulting complaints.

EA laid out a transaction for gamers with clear parameters and then changed the deal midstream, neglected to notify gamers of the change, refused to honor their commitment to people who had already completed the deal, and then ignored the resulting complaints.

It's not the first time EA has skirted the lines of false advertising, either. Just last year, Battlefield 3 arrived with a previously advertised bonus that PlayStation 3 owners who preordered the game would be given a free copy of Battlefield 1943. That deal had been announced months earlier, but EA didn't bother to update gamers until after Battlefield 3 hit stores and people wondered where their free game was. On top of that, EA didn't take the initiative to inform people that the promotion had changed; a developer had to be asked about it on Twitter before public acknowledgement came. (EA eventually pulled an about-face and said it would honor the original promise, but only after it had been the target of a class-action lawsuit.)

And then there was NHL 09, which arrived on store shelves with cover art proudly proclaiming it "Winner of Seven Sports Video Game of the Year Awards." Obviously, it was the preceding year's installment in the series that won those awards, but unless EA wants to come clean and admit that one year's version of the game is the same as the previous year's, it doesn't get to advertise on those laurels. (EA didn't respond to a request for comment at the time of the game's launch, but more recent installments have similar blurbs that tout the franchise's award total instead.)

Whether these examples are the product of a publisher with a fundamental lack of respect for its customer base or a series of innocent blunders perpetrated by unthinking individuals, they are inexcusable. And EA needs to admit and embrace that fact, because if it isn't willing to respect the money, energy, and time people put into its games, those customers will just find better places to spend those resources.

As of press time, EA had not responded to a request for comment.

[UPDATE 3/9]: EA has responded to the issue in its Sims Social forums. A moderator posted the publisher's explanation, saying, "Unfortunately the information we gave you in terms of what the Aquabatix tubula reward actually did, was incorrect… We changed it as soon as possible, but some players saw the original messaging for a few hours." As a make-good, the publisher is offering 1,000 simoleans to players.

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Avatar image for deadridinhood

the game is starting to piss me off i cant buy the thing i need for the weekly quest, no matter what i do the " sorry we hit a snag" bs keeps popping up after i try buying the item i need to finish the next step and im starting to get really pissed off, if this is the kind of thing im supposed to expect in the future then i dont want to play it anymore.

Avatar image for magusat999

That's just scratching the surface of EA's transgressions with this game, and it's sister game SimCity Social. The game is a shameless cash cow - most of these so-called F2P games are, but EA makes it so overt and obvious that it's just disgusting. The game is far from balanced, just simple things like building furniture has deep stacks of goals - forget it if there is a time limit. And 100 simoleans isn't worth a damn thing in the game, so that is a sorry consolation. Why didn't they give players a similar item that does the same or similar job as they expected from that one?

I played both of the Sims FB games for a few months and because of the ghetto games EA is playing I have abandoned both of them (lets not even start about the Olympic Games scam they pulled in SimCity Social). They are dragging this once venerable franchises name through the mud, making it wholly undesirable to play, frustrating and most of all - no fun whatsoever. I hope my Sims Social character dies a slow death of deification, dirty hygiene, malnutrition, joblessness, boredom, and loneliness in his SHACK dusty SHACK with stuff that will never be finished and full of broken items, dirt and water on the floor - because I am not going back there to help.

Avatar image for SANDMAN201

@Lhomity That's what they do! How did you find out?

Avatar image for speed45823

Here's an idea...BOYCOTT EA games entirely. Then ppl won't get ripped off n EA will (Hopefully) change their ways.

Avatar image for bumbum1991

Sorry if I offend you guys but: "F*CK YOU, EA." *From BF Play4Free to BF3 and now this, I have enough.

Avatar image for hickabickabooya

EA is the prime example of what any person (or corp.) will pull to get money for nothing. They aren't the only ones, just the most obvious. And it isn't a "big company" thing either, but companies can just do it to more people faster.

Avatar image for escritora84

EA is notorious for this crap. People are still complaining over all the new Sims 3 content in the Sims Store that should have been included in Showtime. EA doesn't care about their customers, just their cash flow.

Avatar image for laugm

At least I quit the Sims Social months ago.......

Avatar image for Philly1UPer

and they say social gaming game from facebook will slowly take over hardcore gaming.

Avatar image for Marky360

@Lhomity Dude that was funny as hell I can actually picture EA execs dressed like evil sith lords laughing wickedly dude that was hilarious

Avatar image for bronygamer

one more reason i dont play social games

Avatar image for Glaxton

Hopefully this shows more people how this company truly sees its consumers, a money-machine to take advantage of. Although, it's nice to see Gamespot bringing up these issues for the larger public to witness.

Avatar image for mfv12979

stop supporting any games made by EA. simple as that. all they do is scam the consumers. im suprised they haven't gone down under. sooner or later they will be in a court "EA vs consumers" and EA losing billions because of what they did lol.

Avatar image for de_graph

i'm going to sound like a jerk, but you're an absolute sucker if you pay real money for a social media web game. let's face it, facebook is the ultrawhore of advertising and if you're sitting there for hours playing your Sims Facebook Edition, the amount of ads you're subjected to, paid their way ten-fold.

Avatar image for YukoAsho

@Lhomity - The difference is that EA has a history of going back on their word in all manners. They haven't figured out that they can't apply the same strong-arm tactics and outright lies outside of their Madden players.

Avatar image for YukoAsho

@MasterTheHero - The hilarious thing is that it's having the exact opposite effect. Activition keeps putting out games, especially Call of Duty, they clearly outline their DLC plans, the multiplayer suite is no way adversely affected if you don't buy the map packs, and they don't try to screw consumers over. In short, say what you will about Activision being risk-averse, they at least run a mostly honest business, something EA seems incapable of.

Avatar image for Lhomity

Any other F2P facebook game by any other publisher and this would have been reported as "Small communication error disrupts players for a few minutes. Later everyone got over it." But since this is EA, its suddenly a despicable consumer rights violation. But that's cool. Keep wearing your tin foil hat and concoct more conspiracy thoeries about EA because thats what really cool kids do, right? Oh no, this wasn't just some poor sap writing the wrong item description - no no, the corporate heads of EA all got together in a dark, vaguely-candlelit room. Around a pentagonal table, they sacrificed goats, drank and bathed in the blood of the slain beasts, and chanted verses to Lucifer, then came up with a wicked fraud scheme for their Sims facebook game and laughed mockingly all of their consumer base "HAHA WE SO EVIL HAHA HA".

Avatar image for ziproy

Are you people kidding me... Do you all know how big a scam these social games are??

Avatar image for FraBaktos_basic

And that's why you don't 'buy' any of EA's games, at this point they definitely don't deserve your money... use your cash to support indie developers that are actually doing something original and interesting, and are not trying to scam you every penny they can milk out of you.

Avatar image for PDXmauler97

Why do people even play Sims on facebook when there is a PC version of Sims that is 10x better? If you feel like paying money for in-game crap, you will probably end up just paying the price of the normal PC version of Sims.

Avatar image for NeilCardiff

[quote="Ultra_Taco"]I don't understand why people would spend real money on Facebook games anyways.... :/[/quote] I don't understand why people would spend real life on facebook.

Avatar image for zzanzabar

In a way gamers are treated by EA like people who buy porn online. When the consumer is conned, no one dares complain because they don't want to ADMIT that they got suckered, I mean after all it is 'just a game' right? What recourse does a gamer have? He can't LEGALLY pursue any action and there will be PLENTY of suckers who will proclaim that 'this is a business, if you don't like it don't buy it.' They forget that the company has an legal OBLIGATION to tell the truth about what it is offering. There were similar shanagians with ME3 with their 'day one DLC' (which just happened to be ON the disc when it shipped, so I believe). Gamers are, next to porn addicts, the internet's prime number one suckers when it comes to false advertising and getting taken advantage of.

Avatar image for Tekknight

@Ultra_Taco Well to be fair... we pay money for console and PC games. AND DLC so... sounds pretty similar.

Avatar image for Azzer_007

EA did this with Battlefield Play4Free - changed some of the bought guns, people had paid for which gave a "permanent unlock" - and completely nerfed them, and then brought in new guns that were the same level of the previously "permanently unlocked" items people had bought, but at a monthly fee. The claim was for "balance" - but of course, if it was for balance, then replicas of the previously bought items, at their previous power levels, wouldn't have been brought in to the game on pay monthly. EA just keeps milking and milking, ethics and morals thrown aside, customer care trampled on. From the shady nature of forcing people to use Origin recently, to the way they bend any developers that sign to them to the cash-cow ways (day zero DLC etc.), to things like this... it's getting to the point where many people are now simply saying "No" - and refusing to buy any game branded EA, no matter what the game is or who actually developed it.

Avatar image for holtrocks

Guys the thing u gotta understand is there a business and there job is to maximize profits yes it sucks but thats the way it is.

Avatar image for Jaga_Telesin

This is just more typical EA BS. What is amazing is that *anyone* still trusts that company at all. EA was removed from my list a long time ago - I will simply not purchase a game where they were involved, and where they stand to make money. Perhaps some industrious individual will take their latest scam to heart, and start a class action against them. It would be great to see some negative press surrounding them.

Avatar image for Ghister

This is the reason I am not playing Star Wars. I simply don't trust EA anymore.

Avatar image for luizferrarezzi

well they did something simillar in Battlefield 4 free (fee)

Avatar image for thrice00

It's EA........ It's just business as usual. Stop crying!!!!

Avatar image for thorn3000

well, those are play for free games for you... EA definitely is not the first or the last to do such a thing, I was a Zynga player (FB game company) for 2 years and I cannot even count the number of times this happened - that conditions have been changed during a promo action...if you read EA terms of service you will notice a line that states that you agree that EA can change its products or terms of those could file a lawsuit, but I doubt it would help, since the ToS cover this, this and many other instances...

Avatar image for Unfallen_Satan

EA would be pretty insane to respect anyone as a customer. It should only respect the money (or whatever other profitable function the Sims Social serves) these customers provide. I hope everyone who complained on the forums followed up with consequential action. Filing a lawsuit is probably beyond most players (they may not even be permitted to do that depending on the governing EULA). However, they could ask EA for refund if they spend any money or at least stop playing the game. If venting is the only consequence, then this event will have no effect on EA behavior and it will be repeated in the future.

Avatar image for SkySage7

Well what did you expect from EA? They never cared about gamers, nor about fixing major bugs in their products (which the gamers found, btw, NOT their so-called beta testers.. if they had any). For example, The Sims 3 has been out for 3 years now (released in 2009). Ever since World Adventures, an expansion pack for The Sims 3, was released in the same year, players complained about some major bugs - family tree disappearing for no reason, game crashing and freezing after coming home from an adventure, etc. Did EA do anything about it? Of course not. Another such title is FIFA. When I played FIFA 10, I was stunned to see the ref blowing an offside when I tried to pass the ball between two of my players with no opposing player standing in-between. FIFA 12 is already out and the bug is still present in the newer game.

Avatar image for Kayweg

Look...everyone who hasn't been off the planet in recent years knows this by now. They pull these stunts, and if the s**t storm rages bad enough they come out and offer minor compensations to those who pursue the issue. (well aware that many ppl won't even do that). I have no sympathy for EA, but if folks haven't wisened up to their business practices by now, then i struggle to feel much sympathy for them either.

Avatar image for cru3

It's their money, they can spend it on whatever they want.

Avatar image for BryanParksSuper

Yeeeahhhh people who dropped "Real $$$$$" on buying stuff in game this goes out to you: are u people dumb? Seriously why would u drop real $$$ on buying virtual stuff in a game? It's stupid to boot if you ask me. Mobile games have been doing this for years but you don't see the smart people fall for it and drop down there hard earned $$$ on in-game items.

Avatar image for protokyoto

Odd that they say the information for the item was incorrect when the people who beta tested the item beforehand said it worked exactly like they originally described. I know I felt kind of cheated when I finally got the award. I'm just glad I didn't speed things up with simcash. I feel sorry for all those that did and got really screwed.

Avatar image for Drakillion

EA, up to your no good tricks again. I'll never forgive you for ruining Command and Conquer.

Avatar image for packtop

Given money to EA is like dropping your wallet in the street and hoping someone will bring back your wallet with all the money in it. Sure it can happen someone will bring back the wallet with all the money in it, but the chance someone take some of the money or simply take all the money and drop the wallet in the street again is quite high.

Avatar image for MasterTheHero

Yea, EA has definitely been upping the shady business practices lately. I think they're trying a little too hard to try to steal customers away from Activision and are using every underhanded marketing play in the book to grab people. This is however, a little too extreme and they need to be careful that they don't earn back their reputation as an evil company, especially when that reputation hasn't completely subsided.

Avatar image for fatee

@xolivierx Black Box Games made need for speed, not EA. Black Box Games includes: needs for speed franchise, NHL franchise, and SSX franchise. EA bought them out and re named them EA Canada.

Avatar image for fatee

EA screwed people for money? this is new? hell I guess i'm in the same boat since my ass is still sore from the terrible terrible Mass effect 3 endings.

Avatar image for Zerot

ea after 2004 = Nazi money grubbing criminals inc. let them and microsoft dig them self into a hole of absolute spite.

Avatar image for dRuGGeRnaUt

without even fully noticing it, i have been boycotting EA for quite some time. The last EA game i bought was a copy of nhl 09 for $5 @ futureshop. Just happens to be that nothing they've been publishing for the past couple years has interested me much. - Boo to EA. Thing actually started looking better for you years ago with things like dead space etc, then like you usually do, completely switch and go back to ripping off your customers.(see i said customers because as of now, i dont know anyone that is an EA 'fan')

Avatar image for blue_francis14

*ancient aliens guy* "Electronic Arts"

Avatar image for xolivierx

EA used to be good, That was more than a deceny ago. Those were the days of quality games such as One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird ,Skate or Die! and Need for Speed 1 and 2.... Then EA came to the top as a third-party publisher, after years of publishing sports game(who the heck plays consoles for sport games anyways ??$$?????) and it's now a huge corporation.

Avatar image for James00715

EA also cut short the free Battlefield 3 with Mass Effect 3 preorder deal. There was no end date on this sale, so people thought they had a lot of time. It turned out EA shut it down after only a few days, because they sold too many for cheap. EA only cares about the money. They are not consumer friendly and pretty blatant about it.

Avatar image for emanwell

EA and Capcom are really craping up the game industry. Enough said

Avatar image for evilkenshin1

Just like the time EA promised battlefield 1943 for free with the ps3 version of battlefield 3 but then the day after launch admitted they were lying; only when people tried to take them to court did they cave in and actually give it out for free

Avatar image for GymFox

I really ****ing hate EA with all my heart.... Jesus, just go away you corporate bastards

Avatar image for Ultra_Taco

I don't understand why people would spend real money on Facebook games anyways.... :/

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