Customer support experience with Madden NFL Mobile by Electronic Arts

As an entrepreneur I always pay close attention to how companies I interact with value their customers and how they create this magical experience that brings people closer and closer to the brand. I always thought highly of Electronic Arts, I’ve enjoyed their games since I was a little kid, but my recent experience with the brand leaves a lot to be desired. To be honest, I’ll probably never spend a dollar on their products again. Why? I’m not entirely sure ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The story begins with me preparing to join an amateur football team. Since I have to wait a couple of months for the tryouts for the team I can only do prep workouts at the gym and watch some games. This gets boring quickly, so why not download a game to learn some basic plays and strategy?

I ended up downloading Madden NFL Mobile from the Play Store, since it’s by far the most popular game. After a few minutes of getting through the menus I was able to play as Patriots and even score a couple of touchdowns! So far so good! I was really excited to start figuring out different plays, but I had a lot of work to get done so I had to wait till the evening before fully indulging myself in the game.

So the evening comes and along with it comes first major disappointment. The game won’t even start, it keeps giving me an “unknown error” and tells me to try again later. Waited a bit, tried again, same thing… As an optimist I shrugged it off and patiently waited to try again the next day.

The next day comes and things aren’t looking better. Still the same error and nothing else. Now this is odd for a major game like this, so the fault must be somewhere on my side, right? Reinstalled the game. Nada. Googled the error. No luck. Maybe my router is acting up? I turned off WiFi on my phone and tried again with mobile data. And to my great surprise I see this:

Now what have I done to deserve a ban? I was baffled, but I guess these things are done by algorithms and they sometimes do false positives… I’ll just clear things up with EA and all will be great… right? Wrong.

First I decided to use their phone support since there was no wait time and I was hoping to resolve this quickly. After talking with their support with 3 different people (they kept switching me over to different teams) they said they have no access to this stuff and told me to email their ToS team. At this point I was slightly irritated, but still hopeful. Ok, let’s look up their email address…

Turns out it takes them 5 business days to respond to emails. Since I had no choice… Well at least my whole experience with the game lasted about 1 day, so there wasn’t much to write about. I shot them a quick email asking to see what’s wrong and tell me what have I done to deserve the mighty ban hammer.

As promised, 5 days later I receive an email from them. To be honest, I’d be ashamed to have someone wait 5 days for this kind of response. It’s the holy grail of non-response responses. Basically they told me what I already knew — they think I violated their ToS and they banned me. Ahem guys, I already know that, that’s why I’m asking for help! Well here’s the full email, so see for yourself:

Thank you for contacting us regarding the action that was taken on your account.
The action pertains to the following violation:
“Promote, encourage or take part in any activity involving hacking, cracking, phishing, taking advantage of exploits or cheats and/or distribution of counterfeit software and/or virtual currency/items.”
After thoroughly investigating your account and concern, we found that your account was actioned correctly and will not remove this sanction from your account.
Thank you,
EA Terms of Service

This has easily made my top 10 lamest responses from customer service ever. Not only was their response utterly useless, it was close ended— there’s no way to take this issue further, no way to find out what went wrong and how to avoid this in the future. Well, my WiFi’s IP address was banned too, so as much as I enjoy getting banned for no reason I don’t think I’ll get another opportunity any time soon.

Obviously I can try again and resubmit my inquiry, but what are the odds they’ll change their mind? Judging by their response they didn’t even care to actually take a closer look at the account. This is an auto-responder level response, not something that should ever come from a human customer support rep. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d banned my email address as well (how dare I demand justice!).

The rule they’ve quoted is both vague and seems irrelevant. Not only have I used the official game from the Play Store, I haven’t used anything that could potentially interrupt the game. My phone is not rooted. No side-loaded apps. No beta OS. Nothing that could have triggered any anti-cheating systems. I’ve never ever been banned from a game before, EA or otherwise.

Anyways, I’ll just vote with my dollars. I will avoid giving money to a company that has little respect for their customers. Their dubious business model only makes this easier.

EA just proved to me they deserved the “Worst Company In America” award they had won twice so far. They can definitely count on me rooting for them next year.

Update:

An good-hearted employee of EA helped me out with the issue outside of official channels. Turns out the ban was incorrect, though they could not disclose any details, so the whole thing remains a mystery.