Thursday 22 December 2011

SWTOR: the great subscription scam

From the official site:

You have 29 days of play time remaining. You must sign up for a recurring subscription plan or redeem a Game Time Code before you can play. If you sign up for a recurring subscription, you will be billed automatically at the end of your current remaining play time.

Let's check that again. I have 29 days of play time remaining. I can't actually play however. I can't play because even though it's in my free month I have to subscribe using a credit card or add game time using a game card.

It's a scam. I have a free month but I don't have a free month.

I don't quite frankly mind giving them my debit card number but sadly their site isn't working at the moment and I can't even get to the page where I would enter its details.

And of course anyone who pays by game cards must buy two months worth of game time even if you had only wanted to play your free month then decide later.

I'm sure whichever accountant thought this particular swindle up is chortling his way home with a fat Christmas bonus but these things always bite back in the long run. Blizzard leads the way in MMOs because people respect the name. EA is not adapting to its competitor's success.


  1. Don't all subscription MMOs do this?

  2. No, they all don't do this.

    BioWare didn't warn any one about this, and the website isn't even accessible to put in the subscription info if you wanted to. It's an epic fail on their part, they have done no communicating with the customers about this, are hiding, silent on Twitter, forums locked. It's like EA runs this game. Oh wait...

  3. ...Force you to pay in advance before even letting you play the first freebie weeks or trial? No.

    Usually you get asked to enter CC details after you had a chance to look at the game - or then there's no free trial at all at launch.

    What EA is doing here smells fishy and is definitely intransparent.

  4. Not force player to pay, but require them to enter payment information during account creation.

    Free trials without any purchase are different: companies usually don't ask for payment credentials. But when buying a box with 30 free days attached, I am having a hard time thinking of a game that says, "Nah, we don't need your CC until later."

  5. I will add that in those "CC Required" situations, the account isn't flagged as activated UNTIL the CC is entered. Thus the free 30 days don't start counting down.

  6. Well put! I can't believe this, can't play, can't pay, can't get any customer service. EPIC.FAIL.

  7. I added my subscription at the start, haven't tried to log in today. My friend was in early access (got in on Dec 15th) and he is not able to get in because he "doesn't have an active subscription".

    If you are subscribed with CC info can you log into the game?

  8. This is all insane... i thought i'm gonna play my free motnh, they buy a game time card... Fu BW and EA

  9. As others have mentioned -- I believe every single one of subscription MMOs with (vritual)box purchase that I've tried required me to either enter CC or game time code before it would let me play. Regardless of any theoretical 30 days 'free time'.

    I am kind of assuming that this has a good side as well -- raising barrier of entry for those less helpful to the game -- e.g. gold spammers and such. But I still don't like it.

  10. Every MMO I've ever played at launch (and that's just about all of them), has required CC details up front when you register your purchase. And every time one launches people gripe about having to do it. If you cancel within 30 days, your credit card will not be charged.

    Not having the ability to register, is another kettle of fish.

  11. Ok, upon further investigation I found the answer (via Official FAQ's):

    Please note that there are 30 days free game time included with your purchase, but you will have to choose a subscription plan in order to finalize setting up your game account (you will not be billed until the 30 free days are up).
    ===> If you do not wish to subscribe after the 30 free days, you can simply cancel your subscription and you will not be billed on your renewal date. <===

    So -basically- that's like any other MMO, (wow included IIRC).

    You MUST provide a credit card -or a prepaid card- if you want to activate your account.

  12. "If you do not wish to subscribe after the 30 free days, you can simply cancel your subscription and you will not be billed on your renewal date"

    How do you use a game card without being billed? Presumably you have to scratch the number off? And use it...

    To be honest it's been ages since I bought WoW new but my memory is that you didn't have to commit to payment during your free month for most MMOs.

    It's also caused a lot of us to be locked out today because we didn't read the small print.

  13. Erm, I'm pretty sure WoW asked me to do exactly that when I signed up for it back in 2006. It was particularly annoying since I didn't actually have a credit card at the time.

  14. No credit card = no play, that's true. But that's a general MMO rule, it's always been like that.

    What I find really disturbing is that your free time is running out while you can't play (queues). THAT's a weird way to steal money from people.

  15. Can I just join the chorus saying that I don't remember ever playing a subscription MMO that didn't work this way?

  16. Can I add that even if some games did do this in the past, it's still a scam.

    In their defence, having looked at the box and read the print it does say on both front and back that this is a requirement.

  17. Just to clarify, I'm assuming that you can enter a credit card and immediately cancel the recurring subscription? Scam or no, this is what most mandatory-subscription MMO I'm familiar with does, though now that I think about it there may be some that allow time card customers to enter their time cards later.

    Personally, I take this as a "friendly" reminder that, however good the underlying game is, my relationship with the game's publisher is adversarial.

  18. I had to sign up with my CC info to get my free month of Netflix. I'm pretty sure I had to create an account with CC info for Warhammer Online, not to mention WoW.

    It is not a scam if it is in the fine print.

  19. Well it's a scam if they encourage the belief anywhere that you get an unconditional free month. I gained that impression from the gaming press. Did Bioware have a duty to ask those press sites to correct such misleading information? Probably.

    I'm not the only person annoyed:

    "BioWare made us a promise prior to launch – that everyone who purchased Star Wars the Old Republic would be given a whole month’s game time to for free, side stepping the first 30 day’s subscription fee. Though this still holds true, apparently the 30 days is inaccessible unless you also purchase and activate your account, adding some legitimate game time."

    @GA I didn't dare experiment with cancelling it after it took me 2 hours of reloading the page to get it to accept my card details.

  20. @ Stabs

    I see your point and I understand why you're angry. But you have to separate what-is-legit from what-is-annoying.

    It's annoying that you can't login (queues). It's legit that you're asked to add a valid CC.

    As they stated in the official FAQ, you can simply add +1 month and cancel it. Your CC wont be charged and after your initial 30 days ... bye bye.

  21. I reserve my right to use the word "scam" to describe marketing behaviour that is deceptive and manipulative even if not actually illegal.

    The point is they don't need my credit card to confirm purchase, there was a code inside the box that I have activated. The only reason for taking people's credit card numbers is the expectation that some will forget to cancel, that more people will be inclined to leave a recurrent charge rolling where if the game suddenly shut down they might not bother to re-sub. That's manipulative.

  22. @ Stabs

    Yes I completely agree. But my point is that you're not witnessing something new: it's been like this forever, given few exceptions.

  23. I think you're perpetuating a bit of false information here. They have been very communicative about whats going on. Check the Q N A Threads they have. THey've explained it all in detail why you can't get on the site, its not a mystery when over 1 million people preorderd that a sites bandwidth fills quickly.

  24. > its not a mystery when over 1
    > million people preorderd that
    > a sites bandwidth fills quickly.

    I don't think that's a reasonable answer. People paid for it and they deserve to play. If not 10 seconds after the launch, at least few hours later. There are players who simply cannot camp the computer and wait 10 hours in a row, repeatedly attempting to login and/or refresh the page.

    Let me also add this: even a dead cat already knew that half the world was waiting for this game. If they don't want to invest in more server/hardware that's none of our business, they MUST provide a solution, in a way or another.

    Simply saying "hey we've got too many customers giving us money and cramming at the entrance, sorry it's your fault and now wait".

    If anything, additional free days should be mandatory. But that would not solve the frustration of those who paid and can't play.

  25. this is why it must be a pain to work in that industry,
    you make a great game and someone other depatment can screw your customers over:

    Full servers, billing issues and communication disasters can cripple the start of a great game and if it doenst get its money back due to such dissasters, guess who losses his job....

  26. Pruned some posts.

    Basic houserules:

    1) be polite

    2) don't talk about illegal workarounds here.

    Thanks all!

  27. Presumably "debit card" in the blog was a slip of the pen. Unwise to use a debit card online, particularly considering the recent Rift hack.

    I don't think EA/Bioware are really doing anything wrong - just taking advantage of the fact that after people have mentally committed to a subscription they are less likely to cancel it, than if they have to do it after the first "free" period. Reckon I'd do the same if it was my business.

  28. EA wanting your credit card information sucks, but it seems to be one of those industry "worst practices".

    EA wanting your credit card information, not letting you into the game until you tell them, and ALSO counting down your free "game time" (which is not game time if they lock you out from their game) is bad taste, and close enough to deceptive business practices that they actually might lose a court case if it ever came to one, depending on country and judge.

    I would expect them to give you the free days you lose due to this as a "bonus" (to make it sound like they're doing you a favor). Then again, it's EA, who are we kidding?

  29. Subs are prone to this sort of nonsense. It's almost like another layer of DRM, only this layer can be mined, hacked and sold.

    These companies don't just want to sell a product. They want to keep taking in the money. This is no surprise in the subscription model.

    It's one of the reasons that I detest the model. I just want to buy and play games, not play games with the companies.

  30. listen, if u a brokeass, dont play online games thats all, MMO is a luxury, if you that poor, go play some facebooks games...anyway the first month, THEY DONT CHARGE YOU, THEY CHARGE YOU ONLY IF YOU CONTINUE PLAYING AFTER THE FREE TRIAL...geez is every gamer broke round here???!!

  31. actually EVE does this :)

  32. I am 16, and just spent the last scrap of money on this game. Parents never give out credit details. basicly i am f*cked.

  33. I am new to MMO's. Do you have to spend £50 on buying thje game and THEN subscribe monthly to be allowd to play?

  34. I was pissed off to learn, after installing the game, that my $60 only bought me 30 days to play (fine print at the bottom of the game jacket that I failed to see) and that I needed to enter my CC info in order to actually play my first 30 days. I said, "forget this sh*t!" and returned it to Walmart. They normally don't take back games, but I convinced them to do so. I got my $60 back and cancelled my SWTOR account. I will never buy another subscription game again!

  35. @ Spinbowli Yes, you have to buy the game then activate a subscription before you can play. You can activate a sub with a credit/debit card or a game card. If you use a credit/debit card you can choose to cancel before they take money from the card.

  36. @ Ashton buy a game card.

    For example:

  37. Now, this isn't a problem, if you have a CC. You can always cancel before the 30 days end. However, if your plan is to play with game time cards, this means you actually DO have to pay an extra two months to activate the game. And THAT I'd call a scam.

  38. I had this same problem, and I sent a ticket (the second in a day) and It becames more than a simple ticket. The main article in this site was the same problem than the mine, so I think is right to paste it. This is it:

    "Okay, I did wait too much time, I tried to sub too many times and the site just says

    "We're sorry, but we can't perform transactions to this credit card. Please load a different one."

    And is not what you are thinking, my bank allows me to do transactions, there is no problem with my bank, and yes, I HAVE MONEY in my card.

    This is my second ticket today, and Im tired, I will wait untill tomorrow, because today is late here in Spain. Maybe we are a lesser race for EA, but we have money too. Im only playing to have fun with my friends, not to be a great player, and you BW and EA are pissing me off. I was angry few moments ago with the site, but now im tired. I was trying to post in the forums this problem and I had privileges to do it, why?

    Why a big mmo with tons of marketing and sponsors, money and support working on it has so many lacks, fails a stupid problems? This is more than weird, this is absurd, bizarre and chaotic. I only want to play with friends, I was playing wow and it hasnt ANY FUCKIN PROBLEM WITH MY CARD, steam also, korean games the same, even buying a fuckin washmachine was a kids game compared to this.

    This ticket is long, but understand it, Im really tired, I just want to say how much I hate this, its near of 1AM here and I started to try this probably at 22, or even before, I dont remember. I did call two friends that I was trying to login and play to do a flashpoint and almost one hour later I call one of them to say that the game does not allow me to play. Im not having too much time to play, and less to solve stupid problems. I can tell you loudly, but no clearer, I PAY, SO, YOU WORK, Im not gonna try this more than tomorrow, if then I havent this solved, I will want my money back (you know the 15€ for the digital deluxe edition), and if it not happen, its simple, I will not buy an EA or Bioware product never again, and of course I will make a complaint to the legal services.

    Well, solve it, I have nothing more to say. Bye"