EA's Origin is easy to hate
By Thom McGrath on
Steam has made digital gaming so easy, that taking them on means your service must be phenomenal. The big difference between Steam and Origin is simple actually. Steam is a gaming community developed by a company who truly wants to push PC gaming forward. Origin is a downloader tool developed by a company who simply wants your cash.
But this isn't about Steam vs Origin, though the topic will come up. No, this is simply about Origin being a horrific tool. What follows is my desperate attempt to pre-order Battlefield 4.
First of all, Battlefield 4's pre-order bonuses suck. They pretty much gave me no reason to want to pre-order. My only desire in doing so is to make sure it was already bought and paid for ahead of release. I didn't want to be caught off-guard due to my wife spending too much or some other unexpected issue.
Oh, but Origin won't charge the card until release anyway. It makes sense, and is standard practice, but defeats my reason for pre-ordering. Another piece of this story is I offered to buy my brother-in-law a copy in exchange for some help with the fall yardwork. Here's another area Origin falls short: no gifting.
Ok, so let's look into alternatives. Origin has an "EA Wallet" feature, so you can load funds into your account. This should have been perfect, but has a few major problems. First, you can't do it digitally. You have to go to one of only a few retailers and buy a card. Ok, not the end of the world. But those cards only come in $20. Not increments of $20, literally just $20. So to get enough cards for 2 copies of BF4 with premium, I'd need to go to a GameStop and buy 12 of these damn things. That's an experience I didn't want to go through. I looked at ordering them online, but Best Buy only allows 3 per order, and I was unable to find the cards listed at any other of the supposedly supported retailers. So EA Wallet wasn't going to work, it was too much of a hassle. As you'll see by the end of this story, I should have taken this option despite the hassle.
I decided to go with a Visa gift card. This was quick and painless. I bought one for myself and one for Jimmy. They were activated perfectly, all was well. But when I went to place my order, after pressing the final "Place Order" button, I was simply returned to the shopping cart. No error, no nothing. After trying a couple more times, I gave up and got on EA's "live chat" system to figure out what might be going on, because their site obviously wasn't going to help me.
The person on the other end, Tamara, was completely clueless. She suggested my Windows system files were corrupt. I told her that was impossible, as I was using a Mac. Besides, even on a PC, that doesn't make any sense at all. I opted to receive a call from them instead.
This is where things started to get better. A tech called me back in under a minute. He was very helpful, and definitely knew his stuff. Unfortunately, I don't have his name. He looked at my account, we tried a few things, but no luck. Although he was unable to resolve my issue, he was going to escalate the case again and I should hear back the following morning. It was already late in the day, so I wasn't going to complain.
While waiting for the response, I decided to get on the phone with the gift card issuer. This is where everything began to make sense. EA was trying to setup a recurring payment with only a single occurrence. They would authorize $1 to make sure the card was valid, then setup the recurring. The authorize would succeed, but the recurring would not. This is because the gift card cannot be reloaded, so all recurring payments are declined automatically. This is perfectly logical. EA's store couldn't understand why the authorize would succeed, but the recurring would not. So my plan at that point was to just wait until release. I already had the gift card, the money is out of my account, no big deal.
That is until EA dropped more stupid on me. I got an e-mail back as expected that was completely unhelpful. Roberto told me to wait 24 hours and try again. This was AFTER I had already updated my case online and explained the problem. Here I am trying to help EA improve their checkout process, and yet it doesn't seem like anybody reads anything but their scripts over there.
I decided to jump on live chat again, because Roberto made some comment in his e-mail that my payment had been "flagged" and I wanted to clear that up. This time I got a person named Mohd who kept calling me friend. Once again, he never read my case. After explaining everything to him, he suggested my problem was my anti-virus. Yes, seriously. He asked me what type of payment I was using, I told him a Visa gift card. The very next question was "Is it a visa card?" At that point I asked to speak to somebody else, but he was insistent he could help. I should have given up then, but I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. He informed me that even after release, the gift card would not work. I told him I didn't believe him and come the 29th, I'd find out who was right. That was the end of my conversation with him, and he closed my case.
But I don't like taking my chances, so I decided to try something else. Origin accepts PayPal. So I linked my gift card to PayPal - something they officially support - and let PayPal be the processor in that case. Right away, the Origin transaction failed with a one word response: FRAUD. Yep, in all caps. Great, so for some reason, my Origin account is flagged.
So I jump back on the live chat. This time, Vijit tried to help me. I told him this was a PayPal transaction, but yet he still had to ask me questions like "was the card issued in your country". He was obviously reading a script. He was very, very insistent that there was no such fraud flag that could be set on my account, and that my account was fine. After wearing him down, I was able to get him to admit that he couldn't help me. Once again, I escalated this to phone support. And once again, the person on the phone was awesome.
He very quickly diagnosed the problem and sure enough, Vijit was wrong. There is such a flag, and my account was flagged. I answered the obligatory questions, and he sent off the request to have the flag removed. He apologized, but said only their anti-fraud team could handle it, and that team works in a queue. It should be lifted tomorrow.
None of this really resolves my problem though. But I found a way: Amazon. Amazon allows me to pre-order an Origin activation code for the game. Plus, I don't pay tax on it, as I would through Origin. And even better, both BF4 and the premium add-on come with a $5 Amazon gift card each. So I used my Visa gift card to order an Amazon gift card of the same amount, applied the balance to my Amazon account, and placed my orders (can't buy them in one cart for some reason) all in about 5 minutes. I used the Amazon gift balance because I'm certain they do a similar "don't charge until release" kind of thing, and I was confident it would get declined if I tried to pre-order on the gift card directly.
All I wanted to do was give EA money. Granted, I made some decisions that made my life more difficult, but even then, this did not have to be so hard. Their tech support could have been much better. Their website could have better error messages. Their EA Wallet system could be WAY better. There are so many ways this could have gone better, and Origin blew it completely. Amazon came through very quickly. I don't know what Amazon's cut is, but I guarantee it isn't enough.