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EA Shutting Down Video Game Servers Prematurely 341

Posted by Soulskill
from the sixty-dollar-yearly-fee dept.
Spacezilla writes "EA is dropping the bomb on a number of their video game servers, shutting down the online fun for many of their Xbox 360, PC and PlayStation 3 games. Not only is the inclusion of PS3 and Xbox 360 titles odd, the date the games were released is even more surprising. Yes, Madden 07 and 08 are included in the shutdown... but Madden 09 on all consoles as well?"
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EA Shutting Down Video Game Servers Prematurely

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  • I, for one (Score:5, Funny)

    by PakProtector (115173) <cevkiv&gmail,com> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @07:49AM (#30667884) Journal
    Find this maddening.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheSpoom (715771)

      It's enforced obsolescence. If you can't play the game you bought last year, it means you need the one they released this year.

      Simple marketing.

  • Madden 0x10 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Pikoro (844299) <init AT init DOT sh> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @07:56AM (#30667926) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps they will release the next version as Madden 0x10 so it will be good until 2016?
  • There's one thing i've never been that clear on with multiplayer gaming on consoles (only just got one, still avid PC gamer) - if you've 'friended' someone, eg on PSN or Live, are you still able to initiate a direct multiplayer game with that person? Or is an EA server still required to act as some sort of broker?

    From what I understand, I thought each of these games on consoles, that one of the players will be the 'server' - and that the role of the EA server is matchmaking etc, but clarification would
    • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @08:07AM (#30667998)

      From what I understand, I thought each of these games on consoles, that one of the players will be the 'server' - and that the role of the EA server is matchmaking etc, but clarification would be cool.

      I'm pretty certain that in all cases none of the consoles involved is acting as a server. If one was than that player could have a significant advantage due to relative latency issues. Also having a console act as a server means having to deal with NAT, firewalls and other routing/network issues - the only guaranteed way for all the consoles to see the server being if the server is public (i.e. not on a console on someone's home ISP connection) or for a public server to act as a relay for those that can't connect directly.

      • mmm - yeah, the NAT stuff does make sense - although the few broker multiplayer stuff i've played always had a 'host' player - who if they disconnected then the whole session terminated. But yeah what you're saying makes sense - probably depends on definition of 'server' - but yeah thinking about it, the EA server is probably routing the data, so in otherwords - totally screwed if your games on that list!
      • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @08:42AM (#30668214)

        Good points, and I guess that is why other game vendors (Valve) offer dedicated servers for download. You can install those on some rented server at an ISP which has a much better internet connection than at your home. This way, the game vendor has to support only the matchmaking service which is presumably much cheaper to run - Valve still supports Half-Life 1 under Steam which is 10 years old. The obvious downside is that you pay for the game server. But I still like this model better than having my games killed after a year.

        EA could do this too of course.

        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          "Good points, and I guess that is why other game vendors (Valve) offer dedicated servers for download. You can install those on some rented server at an ISP which has a much better internet connection than at your home. This way, the game vendor has to support only the matchmaking service which is presumably much cheaper to run - Valve still supports Half-Life 1 under Steam which is 10 years old. The obvious downside is that you pay for the game server. But I still like this model better than having my game
      • by Verunks (1000826) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @08:58AM (#30668328)

        From what I understand, I thought each of these games on consoles, that one of the players will be the 'server' - and that the role of the EA server is matchmaking etc, but clarification would be cool.

        I'm pretty certain that in all cases none of the consoles involved is acting as a server. If one was than that player could have a significant advantage due to relative latency issues. Also having a console act as a server means having to deal with NAT, firewalls and other routing/network issues - the only guaranteed way for all the consoles to see the server being if the server is public (i.e. not on a console on someone's home ISP connection) or for a public server to act as a relay for those that can't connect directly.

        you are wrong, most console games don't have dedicated servers, and you can host even if you are behind a nat, they probably use something like udp hole punching
        you probably missed the rage of pc call of duty players that now have to use the same matchmaking system(iwnet) as console players without dedicated servers

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by SilentChasm (998689)

      For most games on Xbox Live microsoft hosts the matchmaking servers and the friends thing as well. It means that you should be able to play the game online forever until microsoft shuts down the server.

      I know of one non-EA exception which only shut down part of the online component to a mech game that needed a special controller (very niche), and it was for the original xbox.

      EA forces online games to use their servers for matchmaking rather than the general ones. It means that at any time EA can stop provid

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @07:57AM (#30667944) Homepage
    That's like a mugger leaving a card thanking you for your custom and asking you to use his services again.
    • That's like a mugger leaving a card thanking you for your custom and asking you to use his services again.

      It's more like if he offered to sell you a new wallet, while politely reminding you that he'd probably be back to steal it again at the same time next year.

  • So which EA executive is a recent hire from Apple?

    Also, what kind of traffic are these titles currently generating on EA's servers?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by crossmr (957846)

      and here is the real issue.
      If it is "a lot" then they risk upsetting a lot of customers, bad pr, etc.

      if it is not "a lot" then you'd have to wonder what is the rush. If its a tiny amount, amalgamate, etc.

  • by pecosdave (536896) * on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @08:04AM (#30667982) Homepage Journal

    but my buddy who is still semi-involved in the BNET-D [wikipedia.org] legal debacle can use this type of thing in that court case.

    I for one think the whole company run server idea is a good one, but I think they should release code for every game as well for this very reason. Custom servers were half the fun of old Unreal Tournament games, and I know a lot of people who are into custom Enemy Territory servers.

    Remember, the reason BNET-D started to begin with is Bizzards servers sucked back in the day, as far as I'm concerned this sort of bull shit justifies that sort of thing.

    • by trawg (308495) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @08:41AM (#30668192) Homepage

      Our company has provided commercial game server management services for almost 10 years for a large ISP client in Australia. We have watched games rise and fall over this entire time. And the games with dedicated server software - games like Quake, which came out in 1996 - are still just as playable today as they were back then (often more so thanks to enhanced community-created features).

      There are a few exceptions to that - AvP2 ran into problems recently when they shut down the master server/s. But a community project has worked around this.

      We recently published a guide - the Mammoth Dedicated Server Guide [mammothmedia.com.au] - for game developers and publishers trying to explain to them why they should release dedicated server software (inspired in no small part by Modern Warfare 2's lack of dedicated server). We're hoping to make more people aware of it, and more importantly, more gamers aware of the issues surrounding games without dedicated servers (such as this story!!!!), so that when they're choosing what games to spend money on, they can show more discrimination.

    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @08:42AM (#30668204) Homepage Journal

      Pee on code, we don't want the code, we want the specs. Give us the specifications of how the client and server communicate and we'll do the rest... when it's worth it. Besides, the code is theirs, but it's reasonable for the specs to be ours (perhaps charging a reasonable cost for distribution.)

  • What Happened? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mrpacmanjel (38218) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @08:11AM (#30668026)

    I remember back in the early eighties EA used to release some great games.

    Anyone remember Skyfox, Pinball Construction Set, The Bard's Tale series and Racing Destruction Set?

    All they seem to do now is publish endless sports titles and I imagine the licensing fees must be huge.

    Maybe it is a "Good Thing" they are shutting down the services for these titles - one less reason to buy them.

    The decision seems to be mainly the Sports Division of EA hopefully this decision won't start affecting other games genres.

    Games affected:

    February 2, 2010 Online Service Shutdown

            * UEFA Champions League 07 PC and x360
            * Facebreaker x360 and PS3
            * Fantasy Football 09 x360 and PS3
            * FIFA 07 PSP, PS2, PC
            * Fight Night Round 3 PS2
            * Madden 08 Wii
            * Madden 08 PC
            * Madden 09 Xbox1
            * Madden 09 Wii and PSP
            * March Madness 07 x360
            * NBA 07 PSP, x360
            * NBA 08 PS2, PSP, Wii
            * NBA 09 Wii - Europe only
            * NBA Street (2007) PS3 and x360
            * NCAA Football 08 PS2
            * NCAA Football 09 PS2
            * NASCAR 08 PS2
            * NASCAR 09 PS2
            * NASCAR 09 PS3 and x360 - Europe Only
            * NFL Tour PS3 and x360
            * NHL 07 PSP and x360
            * NHL 08 PC
            * Tiger Woods 07 PC
            * Madden 09 x360 and PS3
            * Madden 07 Xbox 360

    • So the rule is (Score:2, Insightful)

      by EdgeyEdgey (1172665)
      Never by anything from EA that has a date in the title

      Or called Facebreaker
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Maybe this is EAs plan to stop their endless sports cycle and get back to great games. Madden 10 will be the last Madden till it is deemed necessary for an update?

      Heres hoping?

    • Re:What Happened? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Sleepy (4551) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @01:36PM (#30671984) Homepage

      EA was never great, even back then. What made EA huge is they were simply "good" games, and they could raise enough money to buy out all of their competition.

      This gave EA yet more leverage with retail... and when all the indie retail shops and smaller chains folded leaving pretty much just GameSpot... well, that pretty much killed off everything else in the ecosystem. Trip Hawkins was a total douche, and set the stage for who EA is today.

      EA is like a corporate amoeba, with all the powers of Microsoft and Monsanto rolled into one. I'm honestly curious why EA hasn't just put out their own hardware platform, but the answer is probably because they don't "need" to, and they're much more powerful controlling all of the platforms from behind the scenes.

      EA is pretty much the reason I have AVOIDED consoles, and always stuck with PC games, where you have many more choices. I did get a PS3, mainly for Blu-Ray and as a media center.

      Someone gave me a steering wheel and pedal set as a gift, so I bought NASCAR 09 for the PS3.

      Here's what I expect of any game: that it will be frozen in time, and obviously not contain 2010 players cars, or information.
      Putting the "year" in the title should simply designate what year or version I bought... just like say Microsoft Word or Gentoo versions.

      What I did NOT expect is that EA had a remote doomsday switch for these games, so they can kill off the old version.
      If that's the case (and it looks like NASCAR 09 is scheduled for termination in Europe) I'm seriously fucking pissed.

      We all say "boycott XXX" and "I'll never buy from XXX", but when a cool game comes out memories get short.
      But if you shell out a ton of money for a game, it's YOURS.

      They can call it "taking down the servers", but I call it theft and when my game stops working, EA will have burned me in a way that I can't EVER forget.

  • ...to only buy versions of their games every few years, despite the fact that EA traditionally only makes cosmetic and superficial changes to yearly release games, yet of course charges full price for them. When you think about it, it's damn near like stealing.

    At least we know the good people at EA are continuing to find innovative and new ways to be evil.

    • by Svartalf (2997)

      Yeah... But this shutdown is mild in comparison to some [penny-arcade.com] of the things they've done

  • Gamestop (Score:5, Informative)

    by Culture20 (968837) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @08:21AM (#30668088)
    Suddenly, a lot of used games just lost some value.
  • Box (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @08:34AM (#30668156)

    The back of the box clearly states(in small print) that the online service is only provided for 1 year from release date. The fact that they've lasted this long is just a bonus. I could understand if people were bitching and there was no warning, but there is.

    • by Bert64 (520050)

      People very rarely read the small print, or a lot of products currently on the market would not sell at all.

      Hopefully being screwed over a few times will teach people to actually read the small print!

      I bought quake (the original) many years ago, i have always been able to play it online, the sourcecode to the game was released a few years ago so i am able to play modernised versions (so i'm not even restricted to dosbox as with many older games).

      • by IBBoard (1128019)

        So true. If only people could get stung by DRM more as well, but alas they don't.

        As for the dropping of Madden '09, well, EA do have Madden '10 out, so they've got to get people buying it somehow!

    • It sounds like EA is trying to reposition their brand. Perhaps they should go the whole way and rebrand entirely.

      EA (Electronic Arts) becomes BO (Built-in Obsolescence).

      From 'EA Sports, it's in the game' to 'BO Sports, the contents of this box stink'.

  • No surprise there (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @08:36AM (#30668166) Homepage
    If I may defend EA on one point, they do actually make it very clear they will shut down the service anytime they feel like it. In fact I think it's on the back of the game boxes as well. This isn't a surprise. They did this with their PC versions for some time.

    This why people shouldn't buy their games. There is no need for EA to be the middle man in online gaming but they do it purely to have control. They don't need you playing Madden 08 year after year. They need you to buy every version. Quite frankly I'm surprised they don't shut the servers down for the previous version the day the new version is released. It probably will get to that point.
    • by Dan541 (1032000)

      Consumers need to demand the ability to run private game servers. Then boycott. If your going to boycott something you should tell they company why you are doing so, I would encourage everyone who is pissed of about this to contact EA prior to the boycott.

      They will listen when they see the market drop. Just because they ignore complaint emails now doesn't mean they will continue to do so when they notice their falling profit line..

  • by DrXym (126579) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @08:42AM (#30668206)
    Surely it is not beyond the resources of EA to buy a server farm and run virtualized instances of game servers on demand. If a game becomes less popular, the VMs timeout and shutdown. If it's very popular more instances get spawned. I don't see any reason that they have to physically decommission or repurpose anything in this day & age.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CFBMoo1 (157453)
      "I don't see any reason that they have to physically decommission or repurpose anything in this day & age."

      Money.
      • by DrXym (126579)
        Money.

        From an administrative & hardware standpoint I'd say you save money by virtualizing. No need to have dedicated machines any more since you can run a fixed amount of hardware and spawn instances on demand.

        From a marketing perspective they may make more money by shutting down servers but it could easily be counterproductive too. If people become aware that they get maybe 12-18 months tops and their their game is deliberately crippled they might avoid EA titles.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by natehoy (1608657)

          "Money" as in "people shell out $60 for the 2010 version".

          And they will. Make no mistake. Any backlash on this will be minimal. EA has been selling the annual series of these games for years now, and only guarantee server access for one year, after which you either multiplay locally, set up your own server somewhere, or shell out the bucks for the next version. They're just a couple of years behind in their server shutdown schedule. EA is also the only one licensed to do games with real names and logos

        • Now (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AlpineR (32307)

          Money. Now.

          Organizations commonly become short-sighted. They become so worried about increasing profits this quarter that they really stop caring about the distant future.

          The Daily Show interviewed a legislator in some state with budget shortfalls. Her plan was to sell the government buildings to a private company and then lease them back for twenty years. That would let them fill a $20 million gap in the year that the buildings were sold. When asked how the state would ever pay the rent in following years

  • Luckily for us (Score:3, Interesting)

    by santax (1541065) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @08:45AM (#30668232)
    We can set up dedicated servers for the games we love. Oh wait... Hard to believe that you pay for 60 euro's for a game and 1 or 2 years later you can't play it anymore. Now what should I do. Buy the new Madden, or buy a modchip...
  • ...in the first place.

    They do not care at all if you have fun, or got anything from it.
    They only care, if you give them the money. The only reason they are not selling empty boxes, is because they try to steer clear of getting a class action lawsuit for fraud. But they try to get as close as possible to that magic line, as long as it means more money.

    And what do you expect from a company that basically works like a ancient galley, or a gulag... powered by mindless slaves, and controlled by someone who would

    • by Jaysyn (203771)

      Hint: If you bought a couple of multiplayer EA games, that includes you. But at least you got a chance. ^^

      TFTFY

  • by NoPantsJim (1149003) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @08:47AM (#30668252) Homepage
    "Yes, Madden 07 and 08 are included in the shutdown... but Madden 09 on all consoles as well"

    The economy blows, so to the average guy, is it really worth $50 to upgrade to 10 or is 09 good enough as it is?

    It just boils down to money. Plain and simple. Not even the cost of running the servers, but forcing everyone that thought Madden 09 was just fine for their needs to go out and pickup Madden 10.
    • by _PimpDaddy7_ (415866) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @09:31AM (#30668590)

      I was going to mod you and the previous poster higher but I HAD to respond.

      This PISSES me off. I've owned every Madden since 06 on the Xbox360 and a few on the GameCube.

      Year after year the manuals have been reduced to 4 page leaflets. My 04 Madden on the Gamecube came with a superb manual. It was excellent and showed they somewhat cared about making a polished game.

      I can certainly understand the need to close say a 06 server, even an 07 and 08. But to close the 09? That's ridiculous.

      You are correct it's all about money. I don't know the numbers but I guarentee Madden 10 sold less than 09. 09 was good, 10 less so. I despise EA and I will not buy another sports game from them. Sadly they have bought up other companies whose games I really enjoy. It just SICKENS me what they have done to this industry! The fact that there are no other football alternatives is pretty gross.

      This is a direct message to EA I will never buy another sports game from you.

      • I remember getting a madden (I think 98) for Playstation and they crammed a THICK manual into a CD jewel case along with a poster with all of the plays. That used to be standard. Now it's a pathetic controller diagram (if that) and that's it.

        However, I do have to disagree that the reason manuals (across the board on most games) have become thinner is that in game training is taking it's place. With it being easier to produce interactive training, why bother making print media. With the first madden that

      • by AndrewNeo (979708)

        Since you own the 09 version, can you tell us how many people are playing right now? I'm willing to bet with the 2010 version out, the number is so insignificant that it's not worth keeping the servers running anymore..

    • I'm not a big sports game player, but if a company shut down a major feature of the previous year's version that I bought so they could push this year's new version on me, I'd seriously reconsider ever buying from them again. So you pay them $50 for Madden 10 and then what? You get 12 months or so of play before they shut that down to push Madden 11? I can't see this working to increase sales that much. Instead, I think it will tarnish EA's reputation which will lead to reduced sales in the long run.

  • Odd? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CodingHero (1545185)
    "Not only is the inclusion of PS3 and Xbox 360 titles odd . . ." Why is it odd to include PS3 and Xbox 360 and not-so-odd to shut down servers for PC gamers?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wolrahnaes (632574)

      I'm not sure why they find the PS3 shutdown odd, but the general understanding of the 360's online capability was that the multiplayer servers were part of the Xbox Live network and would last as long as Live does.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @09:26AM (#30668542) Homepage Journal

    Some weeks ago, there were some heated discussions here and elsewhere about COD4 Modern Warfare 2 and the decision NOT to include the capability to create dedicated servers for online play. There was a great deal of anger from some COD4 fans who had found that the LAN play was the most exciting part of the COD4 experience.

    The reaction from the MW2 fanboy community was "What could possibly go wrong?".

    Well, here's your answer.

    • Absolutely. It use to be great that I could load up games that were over 5 years old, like Medal of Honor, and still find people playing servers. I hate the thought of not being able to do that in the future. Sure, it might cost a few bucks to put together a dedicated server but I'd still be willing to play Half Life 1 deathmatch. Good times, good times.
    • by jfinke (68409)

      Not to defend IW or anything, because I think that they killed a lot of aspects of the game. But, I believe that in this case, the individuals are hosting the game vs. IW hosting it. Now, to what degree Steam / IW are involved in matchmaking I don't know.

      Now, I have been surprised that the setup works at all. But, it does work, for now. But man, if something goes wrong, everyone in your party has to leave, you have to send invites out, etc.... It would have been much simpler to just included dedicat

    • by MrMickS (568778)

      This would be the case if the publishers of COD4 had the same attitude as EA. EA ruthlessly release yearly versions of games and drop the previous years. In the store at the weekend I noticed that I could still buy a new COD4 for the Xbox 360. There is no incentive to drop support for COD4 as they can still make money from downloadable maps on Xbox live. Likewise the same will be true for MW2.

      EA's entire sports business model is based on the fact that people will spend money to buy essentially the same game

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) <(mojo) (at) (world3.net)> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @09:28AM (#30668568) Homepage

    This is probably just a ploy to kill off the second hand and discounted games market. Only people who pay full price for the latest update get to play online.

  • ...the whole concept of 'renting' software (as the Forces of Evil would describe it) that needs validation from a company server, is bullshit.

    You sell me a game at $50-$60 price point, I want to own it forever, and have the media to install it when I want without requiring some crappy check-in procedure. You claim I'm only 'renting' it? Then 'rent' it to me at a rental price-point, like $10.

  • some needs to make there own PC NFL and NHL game and let the courts take up the lock in to ea games.

    There are not makeing a pc game so there may be a way under the law to have a pc NFL game.

    • 1. The NFL licensing regime is 100% legal.

      2. EA paid a king's ransom several years ago to gain full control of the NFL games license.

      So, in order to do what you're suggesting, a company would have to be prepared to go to war with the NFL over established law. Not to mention, if the NFL backed down, they would then be sued by EA for breach of contract.

      And yeah, the consumer loses. God knows Madden is one of the most stale NFL franchises out there. And the NFL 2K games were just starting to peak when EA

  • by swordgeek (112599) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @01:08PM (#30671568) Journal

    A few days ago there was a link to an article about the most 'tarnished' tech companies. I suggested EA, because they used to be the very best of the best, and now they're...this.

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