The Coast is Toast and Other Disaster StoriesSeptember 18, 2008
(anyone remember that famous tagline to the very blah Tommy Lee Jones film Volcano? just me? okay.)
It has to be something big to tear me away from prime time evening scenario RvR play, but in the midst of launch fever (for more cowbell), bad has clashed with good, and only Batman can sort them out.
Disclaimer: for the most part, I think launch has gone reasonably well, particularly considering the numbers and factors involved. I’ve had little problems with queues, had all my codes entered and validated, and enjoyed 85% of the time I wanted to play (the other 15% is due to either server downtime or my internet cutting out last night). Mythic gets praise where it’s due, but there’s some issues that have popped up that can’t be overlooked:
1. EA Screws Up Shipping Orders.
Considering that, y’know, EA is the publisher and all, you think that buying from their online store would’ve offered you the most secure, unfettered access to your purchase possible. But I guess not. Customers who ordered digital downloads aren’t getting the keys necessary, and some folks aren’t getting their products for days or even weeks from now. One EA Store customer posted this form letter they received:
Thank you for purchasing Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Collector’s Edition through the EA Store. Due to issues with our inventory management system, you received an email alert about a possible delay in shipping the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Collector’s Edition. We have since resolved the issue and orders are now being processed for shipment to the majority of our preorder customers. A small percentage of our customers have been affected by the delay. If you fall within that group, you will receive a second notice to explain how we intend to compensate you and give you access to the game until your Collector’s Edition arrives. We apologize for the inconvenience.
2. Best Buy Puts Pre-Ordered CE Boxes On Store Shelves.
I’ve read this story and it was also verified by a friend of mine, who told me they went to Best Buy to pick up their pre-order, only to discover that the store had put them on the shelves instead of holding them. How many copies did the store have? 6. Happily, they got their pre-orders, but they had a long talk with the manager and found out that the store hadn’t received the special instructions to hold pre-orders before the 18th.
3. Gamestop Sells Warhammer Early.
Most game stores get their shipments in on Tuesday, so I suppose you can’t blame Gamestop too much for jumping the gun and selling WAR a day early. I got my copy on Wednesday, so no complaints from me. But this did put immediate pressure on Mythic to allow customers to enter in their codes — which Mythic had firmly stated was only to be after 12:01 AM on Sept 18. Apparently they relented a bit, because I was able to enter my code in on the evening of the 17th.
4. Mythic Announces That Your Retail Code Must Be Entered In By 7:00 AM Friday the 19th, or Your Access To WAR Will Be Put On Hold.
You can read the Herald announcement here. Two things pop out at me from this announcement: one, that it will deny access to thousands of pre-orders or beta testers who haven’t yet entered their codes a mere day after launch, and two, that they’re going ahead with this even though many EA Store customers haven’t received their codes yet. Mythic tries to downplay this with a humorous slant:
Think of it as a good time to stand up, have a stretch, and go out to greet that bright, giant, hot thing in the sky. Don’t forget your shades!
This does seem to go against what Mythic previously posted in their Pre-Order FAQ on 3/26/08:
While we encourage you to get your WAR product key as soon as possible, we will provide a reasonable grace period for players to get a hold of their copies and have uninterrupted service following the Live Game Head Start.
Puzzlement, anger and sputtering has washed over forums and community fansites — mostly because Mythic previously stated that there would be a substantial grace period (Update: a link to a screenshot with a Sept 22nd grace date put forth by Mythic) to enter the codes, and now they’ve backed down from that. What gives?
Mark Jacobs posted a lengthy response to this and some of the other issues, which you can read here, but here are the salient points:
- Mythic claims retailers gave out “thousands” of CE/SE pre-order codes to people who did not pay for them or actually pre-order anything (nevermind pick up a box copy). Mythic doesn’t want “thousands and thousands” of people playing for free for weeks.
- He claims that the number of people affected by the shortened grace period (of one day) is small.
- They’re not doing this to be greedy or gain more money.
I have to say, with all respect, that Mythic is wrong in this situation, and is blindly deluding themselves that everyone but a “small” percentage of customers will have received their ordered copies by Friday at 7:00 AM to guarantee uninterrupted service. This is a game rollout on a massive scale, and like it or not, the world’s not perfect. The post office delays packages or loses them, customers are sometimes unavailable to get to their mail, and stores do drop the ball. Not to mention those who can’t get their boxes due to Hurricane Ike. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow, but unless that “small” percentage is infinitesimal, Mythic’s going to be hearing from some very grumpy customers.
This all comes off that Mythic is far more concerned about non-customers playing the game for free — like a trial version! — than paying customers getting in on time. It really does. Mythic’s footed the bill for server time of non-paying customers for months and months now — wouldn’t the risk of a non-playing customer using the game for a week be worth it to show goodwill to real customers who can’t get in and need the peace of mind that a grace period offers? One day isn’t a grace period, it’s a hard deadline. And it seems to go against just how well Mythic’s been handling customer purchase situations in the past.
One of my guildies has the theory that this is a preemptive move on Mythic’s part to deny the influx of gold sellers, who are actually spamming chat and whisper channels on day one (I’ve heard of two reports so far).
Oh, and this apparently only applies to North America — Europe will go forward as normal.
Update: Robert Mull posts on the delay — apparently, Amazon is working “as fast as they can” to get the orders out.
5. Lengthy Server Downtime On Launch Day Plus One.
Perhaps not as great of an issue as these others, but it is eyebrow-raising that Mythic’s taking all the servers offline for a good chunk of Friday — you know, the day after launch, when hundreds of thousands of players will continue to be trying to access the game for the first time.
As I said before, I think this was a really good launch day for WAR — but rocky and discomforting to several players as well. Let’s hope Mythic can sort some of these issues out and make for a smooth ride next week.