Electronic Arts throwing kill switch on iOS Rock Band [U]

Reverses course, now says message was 'in error'

Update: Electronic Arts has now issued a statement saying that "Rock Band for iOS will remain live -- the in-app message users received yesterday were sent in error. We apologize for the confusion this caused," and added that it will share additional information "as soon as possible." EA had in fact put up a notice on its website that it was suspending support of Rock Band as of May 31st, and users received a message that the game would no longer be playable (see picture, below). The company has offered no explanation for how both errors occurred, but now says the game will remain playable, at least in single-player mode.

Discovered earlier today by Reddit users, publisher Electronic Arts is remotely deactivating all iOS Rock Band installs on May 31. The developer of the game, Harmonix Music Systems, says it is unaware of the reasoning behind Electronic Arts' shutdown of the game, which relies on no external server support to function. A different version of Rock Band, Rock Band Reloaded, released in December of 2010, is unaffected by the discontinuation of the original title.

Rock Band isn't the first title Electronic Arts has orphaned, but it is the first it has terminated. The original iOS release of Sim City was discontinued, but was allowed to continue functioning. Tetris was yanked off the iTunes App Store in favor of a completely new version that customers would have to repurchase for further upgrades. The original Rock Band title released in 2009 is the first application outright terminated by Electronic Arts. Older console titles are periodically affected by permanent server shutdowns, but the single-player component of those titles continue to function past the server shutdown.

Electronic Arts has a clause in their end user license agreement that states "the term of your License shall commence on the date that you install or otherwise use the Application, and shall end on the earlier of the date that you dispose of - the Application; or EA's termination of this License." Just about every other software package has similar wording, but complete remote termination of an application is uncommon. As of this writing, the original Rock Band application has no official mention of the discontinuation and termination of the title. Reviews by users posted today do address the shutdown.

Harmonix Music Systems was founded in 1995, and developed Frequency, Amplitude, Karaoke Revolution, Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero II, the Rock Band series, and Phase. Electronic Arts was founded in 1982 and has grown into the number one game publisher in the United States with a 16 percent market share. In recent years, Electronic Arts has come under fire for some perceived anti-consumer moves, including the addition of a $10 online pass to some titles. While the online pass is free to initial purchasers, purchasers of used copies or renters must pay $10 to access the online components of some console titles.

  1. Makosuke 05/02, 06:34pm

    EA is sort of the Microsoft of the '90s of the game industry--doing everything they can to make their customers hate them.

    Assuming here that this was a paid title that does not require any online interaction to function, this is about the single most insulting thing a company could possibly do with software. It's like when Amazon surreptitiously deleted everybody's 1984, but worse, since there was no illegality involved.

    If I were Apple, I would go as far as specifically crafting wording in the App Store dev terms that prohibit this behavior, if for no other reason than TREMENDOUSLY bad press--"App Store apps you bought can get deleted by the company for no reason when they want to force you to upgrade!" Keeping in mind, additionally, that a lot of users don't make a clear distinction between something an App Store developer like EA does and something Apple itself does--a look at the number of "Fix this Apple" complaints makes that clear enough.

    For sure, that'd be enough to make sure I never buy another EA app again, and it'd make me think twice about paying more than a buck for anything. And anything that makes people think twice about buying stuff on the App Store is bad for Apple, even if it weren't so disastrously bad for the consumer.

    Heck, if I were Tim Cook, I'd also shut down EA's developer account for making me look bad.

  1. ebeyer 05/02, 06:50pm

    If EA was remotely killing software that was installed on desktop computers people would rightly be crying bloody murder. As a user, I think it's outrageous that a software company would demand this kind of power over its customers. It's as though Sears discontinued a line of washing machines, so they send guys out to your house to uninstall it, even after you paid for the thing.

    Outrageous, you say? Read the fine print, the guys from Sears say.

  1. BigJohn11 05/02, 07:16pm

    I don't care what the Eula says. If I bought it legitimately don't deactivate it on me. Very simple. If you do I will NEVER buy your product again. EVER!!

    Comment buried. Show
  1. ElectroTech 05/02, 07:44pm

    Many jailbreakers may have stolen the app from sites like Cydia and EA might be shutting them down. They sure deserve to lose any stolen apps and be fined in the process too.

  1. HostMyApple 05/02, 11:26pm

    Cydia does not have or promote copyright infringement. Please get your facts straight. The jailbreak Devs and Cydia Devs are against this sort of behavior.

  1. Bengt77 05/03, 11:19am

    EA has changed its stance concerning this. Rock Band will continue to work after May 31 after all. See here: http://i.imgur.com/r9nyo.jpg

  1. Makosuke 05/03, 02:07pm

    I'm perfectly willing to accept that they are planning on turning off an online component on the 31st, but the pushed-out error message mistakenly stated that it would stop working entirely.

    But given that this is EA we're talking about here, I also would be willing to accept that the backlash from a greedy, customer-hostile, boneheaded management decision was so catastrophic that they immediately changed course and are now going to pretend that it was just an accident.

    We'll probably never know which, but I didn't trust EA before and this hardly helps.

  1. tc17 05/03, 02:19pm

    Just another company trying to steal from their customers. And yes, it is stealing.

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