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Without exaggerating the recent Warhammer Online billing snafu since - let's face it - recurring billing problems are pretty rare, both players and devs can learn a few things to protect themselves should something like this ever happen again. Those tips, plus thoughts on what Mythic should do above and beyond reversing the charges, in today's Loading... Subscriber Beware.
are today's top 5 Pulse results:
- Vanguard: Saga of Heroes (UP 6)
of Conan (down 2)
& Dragons Online (down 1)
movers this week:
Agenda (release date)
size="-1"> - Star
Trek Online (release date)
2: Sentinel's Fate (expansion)
Oath of the
Rangers (content update)
Legends (iMMOG - release date)
2010 - href="http://www.cityofheroes.com/news/game_updates/issue_17/issue_17_overview.html?utm_source=COHemail&utm_medium=US&utm_campaign=banner">City
of Heroes - Issue 17: Dark Mirror
- style="font-weight: bold;">Spring 2010 - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1801">Mytheon
2010 - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/998">APB
2010 - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/2079">Final
style="font-weight: bold;">Spring 2011 -
style="font-weight: bold;">4/17 - 4/18 -
style="font-weight: bold;">6/15 -
6/17 - E3
style="font-weight: bold;">6/25 -
6/27 - Looking
- style="font-weight: bold;">7/22 - 7/25 - href="http://www.comic-con.org/">Comic-Con International
style="font-weight: bold;">8/5 -
8/8 - href="http://events.station.sony.com/fanfaire/">SOE
Fan Faire 2010
style="font-weight: bold;">9/3 -
9/6 - DragonCon
style="font-weight: bold;">10/22 -
10/23 - href="http://us.blizzard.com/blizzcon/?rhtml=y">BlizzCon
Prior to writing today's Loading..., I did a quick count of how many monthly and multiple-month subscriptions I have to my name. I have 12, and I suppose that's 12 times the risk of the average player, but (knock on wood) I've never had a overbilling problem like those currently experienced by a substantial number of Warhammer Online players. My heart goes out to those affected, because anyone who's had overbilling or credit theft problems knows of the multi-month nightmare that could potentially follow. Such problems are (thankfully) pretty rare, generally speaking, so I want to put this in perspective. But that doesn't mean that this fiasco doesn't warrant comment, and devs and players can even learn a few things from the fallout.
First and foremost, did Mythic do enough to correct this issue? I can't say, because I don't know how they're responding individually to those affected. I will say this, though: reversing the charges isn't enough. These errors range in the hundreds of dollars and are reportedly impacting credit scores at a time when lots of folks in the US are taking advantage of tax credits to buy houses, and the least Mythic can do is offer some free game time.
Some want the name of the recurring billing vendor to actively persuade EA not to use the same vendor for Star Wars: The Old Republic. But contracts between recurring billing vendor and a company on the scale of EA are no doubt thick and full of magically mitigating legalese that covers just such an incident as this. Short of naming names, however, I'd hope that Mythic at least takes steps to separate themselves from this vendor and find a new one. A Google search for "recurring billing vendor" yields dozens - doubtless they could find another once they extricate themselves from their current arrangment.
This issue is something that Ten Ton Hammer has struggled with as a company, too. With regards to our annual Premium Member plans, Ten Ton Hammer doesn't auto-renew. It was a conscious decision on our part; we'd rather try to actively win your monetary trust not just every billing cycle, but every week with the good stuff that goes out in our Premium Member newsletter each weekend. That, and it's extremely complex to set up a recurring billing payment. For one, you have to store credit card info (extremely scary) or pay someone to assume the security and liability for storing credit card info (expensive, still scary, and involving a thick contract - the cheaper the thicker), then secure permission to bill someone a particular amount without their direct authorization each period. It's much more complicated than it looks, consumer-side.
Can development companies take steps to minimize the damage, should something like this ever happen again? Certainly, here's four:
- Unlike service provides like Audible, Netflix, or (dare we say) pr0n sites, MMOGs have a deeply connected community, and problems and rumors of problems spread like wildfire. We know this, you know this, so maybe areas which impact customers directly - customer support and billing among them - shouldn't automatically go to the lowest bidder.
- Someone with the authority to contact the vendor and freeze billing should be keeping an eye on those overnight settlement reports you get daily from your vendor and comparing them to real-time subscriber numbers. If there's a spike that doesn't correspond to an serious uptick in the numbers, you should be on the phone asking for clarification.
- If there's a problem, for goodness' sake, freeze billing until it's resolved. If SirRobin's reports are true (and we really don't have any reason to believe they're not), one subscriber was overbilled 40 plus times over the course of 3 days, and these problems had come to light days before the first overcharge. It's far cheaper, in terms of money and PR damage, to fix these problems while they're small.
- Send out monthly billing reminders. If there's one thing for certain, it's that your players will let you know when a problem crops up. I respect CCP for letting me know when they're billing me and for how much, and I'm saddened that more companies don't practice this. "Buyer beware" might be the rule of the day for most MMOG subscription plans, and who among us hasn't been billed for a month in which we didn't play the game. But milking a quick buck probably makes players far, less likely to re-up my subscription when I finally do cancel it. On the other hand, I've re-started my (three) EVE Online accounts multiple times, and no crying orcs or simpering surveys to sour the experience.
Can players take steps to protect themselves? Absolutely.
- Move your subscriptions onto a credit card, not debit cards or a Paypal account tied into your funds. Make it a point to do this before you log in to your games tonight. Most financial gurus I've heard discourage using your debit card online anyway, since there's no buffer between your actual real hard-earned money and thieves / mistakes.
- It might seem like setting up recurring billing and making a one-time payment take nearly the same steps, but these are very different billing procedures on the backend. Be aware of your options, and if you're the type that favors control over convenience, call customer service (most top-tier games offer this) and ask for a one-time billing option for a multi-month subscription, even if it's not listed on the website. If enough players ask for this, maybe we'll begin to see it offered as a subscription option.
- Alternatively, you could consider buying game cards and take online billing out of the equation completely.
So what's your take? Is this another nail in the coffin for subscription MMOGs? Is reversing the charges enough, or should Mythic offer bonuses and send the bill to their vendor? Have any other good sense advice to keep such problems from affecting you? Your opinion is welcome in the Loading... forum!
Shayalyn's Epic Thread of
From our WAR: News & Announcements forum
Warhammer Botched Billing Reversed But...
now you may have heard of the billing errors Mythic Entertainment and,
more to the point, their customers, have endured over the past several
days. (Hopefully you haven't experienced them first hand.) Some
subscribers were billed multiple times for their monthly subscription
with charges reaching into the hundreds of dollars. We're keeping you
up to date on the latest news and commiserating with one of our members
who was hit hard by the billing debacle. Join in.
Awesome Quotes from the
"You should get a free lifetime sub for the hassle. I hope
something like this never happens to me. My wife would make me stop
playing subscription games all together. "
Have you spotted an Epic Thread on our forums? Tell
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