We all complain when a company takes an action that is not in a customer's best interest, so I think it's important to take a moment and point out when a company goes the extra mile to make things right even when it doesn't have to do so. I was cleaning out my media closet this morning and found my old copy of The SimCity Box from Electronic Arts which includes a bundle of classic SimCity games and expansion packs for PC spanning up to 2007's SimCity Societies. I never got around to installing Societies on my old Windows Vista PC, so I decided to try my luck and install it on my modern Windows 8 PC. It went about as well as you can imagine. The installer tried to trigger old Windows XP/Vista functions, launched web links to long-dead EA websites, encouraged me to register my software by dial-up modem or fax machine, and, as a final insult, refused to take a software update patch. So here I am with an old PC game, a valid product key, and nothing to show for it.
Sometimes it's possible to load old product keys into the Steam marketplace and activate a digital version of a classic game. SimCity Societies isn't available on Steam, but it is on EA's own Origin service. Once again feeling lucky, I typed the product key into Origin and clicked the submit button. Of course, Origin didn't recognize the key. Still feeling hopelessly optimistic, I decided to try the last resort: EA's technical support. Everyone has a tech support nightmare to share and here I was volunteering to add another negative experience to my own collection. Perhaps if I asked nicely, EA could swap out my old product key for a valid Origin code. It is the season of giving, after all.
I connected through live chat to a customer service agent who, as a one-time courtesy, agreed to try and issue an Origin code. Unfortunately, the code he generated didn't work either. I ended up having to put the new code into one of EA's registration systems to trigger an update in Origin that added the game to my account. It was a very roundabout way to make it happen, but it worked in the end. All that the agent asked for in return is that I send EA a photo of my old product key and DVD along with a handwritten note with today's date and my customer service case number. I'd imagine the agents deal with people using cracked or fake keys to try and trade for a valid Origin code all the time. I wasn't surprised that EA wanted proof of my situation, so I sent the photo while the agent remained on the chat line. What I found curious about all of this was that the agent seemed surprised that my story checked out. I wonder if most people in this situation just close the chat window once they have what they want because they either don't really have a valid key or just don't want to bother. EA worked with me, so I was happy to work with them to finish the exchange.
I know that EA and Origin take a lot of heat in the gaming community, but when I needed help today, EA came through. Thanks for your help, EA. It's things like this that make me a happy customer. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to play SimCity Societies.