Industry News

Poorly Crafted EA Voucher Serves Everybody All-Inclusive Access to Games

Gamers around the world who have signed up with publisher Electronic Arts Games had the opportunity of their life last weekend: the possibility to get any game that’s $20 or less for free, with no limit on the number of orders.

The incident that will likely punch a big hole in the online publisher’s monthly bill for bandwidth was possible because of a flaw in the generation of a simple thank-you voucher for the Origin users who accepted to take part in an EA survey.

Most online vouchers work in a manner somewhat similar to software serial numbers: they are generated by an algorithm known by the issuer and are usually unique, so they can be inactivated after they have been used once.

The $20 coupon sent by EA to participants was identical for all recipients – something that did not go unnoticed by tech-savvy gamers who described a simple process to buy as many games as one would like. This, of course, resulted in massive purchases of games from the Origin platform, some gamers spending their whole night downloading.

“That was last night’s work, spent the night downloading all 90GB of that. I screen shot the serial keys just in case lol,” wrote a “happy customer” on the Overclock .net forums.

EA became aware of the abusive use of the coupon on Saturday and revoked the voucher. Even if not all abusive orders were processed by then, community manager Sam Houston said the company will honor all the “purchases.”

“The coupon code is now expired; we’ll honor all sales made with the coupon code over the weekend and hope fans enjoy their games,” he briefly wrote on the EA forum.

Since we’re talking about digital, replicable products, the company’s error was less costly than similar hiccups where physical goods such as plasma screens and high-end laptops ended up sold for change, but this week-end’s incident will still have consequences in the long run. The coupon code was rendered expired on Saturday morning, which made it impossible for legitimate participants to the survey to redeem it.

About the author


Bogdan Botezatu is living his second childhood at Bitdefender as senior e-threat analyst. When he is not documenting sophisticated strains of malware or writing removal tools, he teaches extreme sports such as surfing the web without protection or rodeo with wild Trojan horses. He believes that most things in life can be beat with strong heuristics and that antimalware research is like working for a secret agency: you need to stay focused at all times, but you get all the glory when you catch the bad guys.