SimCity Launch Problems – Post Mortem and apology
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Hello CJS Fans!
Well, this week has possibly been one of the busiest weeks in the history of CJS since Black Ops 2. The amazing new game SimCity was released today, and our pre-order figures were higher than we ever anticipated. For this, thank you. We really appreciate your support. However, the launch of the game and dispatching of keys went wrong. Please accept our apologies for this situation. We didn’t mean it to be like this.
We’ve decided to take the time to make this post, to explain the situation in great detail, explain what caused the problem, explain what we’re going to do to resolve the situation, but most of all, apologise for the mess.
What was promised?
CJS CD Keys want to be an honest company, and we want to confirm exactly what we promised, what we failed on, and what we’re going to do to resolve the situation.
When we listed SimCity for pre-order back in November time, we had placed a pre-order of 500 keys with our main distributor, who sourced the keys from EA in Hungary. This is an official distributor who is the next step down from EA themselves. That means that the game boxes go from EA Factory in Hungary -> Our distributor in another country -> Us.
We pre-ordered 500 SimCity EU Multi-language Limited Edition codes from our distributor. They confirmed the order, we paid up front for it (EA always want payment up front for game pre-orders), and we were promised delivery on 6th March.
During the period waiting up to 6th March, we passed these promises onto our customers. That is, we promised our customers would receive:
- Limited Edition SimCity
- Full multi-Language region free keys
- Delivery on 6th March
Everything was going great. Pre-orders were coming in fast, and by the night of 5th march, we’d logged 450 pre-orders. We’d sold our entire pre-order stock before the game was even released. This was great for us, and we were very happy with the results. Everything looked to be on plan.
As we’re based in the UK, shipping a pallet of games to our own warehouse would take a very long time indeed. To save time, we ask our distributor to scan the codes and send them to us digitally. Everything was planned that we’d receive the keys on morning of 6th March. We made clear to our distributor that the delivery date was extremely important, and this 6th march date was promised to us personally by the CEO of our distributor company.
When morning dawned on 6th March, we were notified by our distributor that scanning had commenced and keys would be with us shortly. By about mid-day, we’d received the keys via Email. All 500 of them. We were really happy.
Now bear in mind at this point that we were aware the keys were from Hungary. This means that as far as we knew, there was absolutely no way that the keys would be region locked and we were absolutely confident that the keys would be multi-language. Everyone in the whole CD Key business knew this – it was obvious. All games from Hungary are always Region Free and Multi-Language.
We were so happy that everything had gone to plan. We uploaded 500 keys to Autokey, and watched our customers collect them within seconds of each-other.
Suddenly, the CEO of CJS got notifications from support staff about many complaints of language locks. We thought to ourselves – how can it be true? These keys are surely region free. That’s when we noticed.. We tested one of our keys on Origin, and were absolutely bemused to discover that the keys were LOCKED to ONLY Russian, Polish, and Hungarian Languages. We couldn’t believe our eyes. How could this be possible?
In the 4 years that CJS CD Keys have been running, we’ve NEVER seen anything like it. Origin keys are never language locked. The only time that Origin keys are usually language locked are when they are from Russia. That means that any key not from russia is always Region free and Multi-Language. We didn’t understand why, or how this happened.
We immediately got in contact with our Distributor, who had apparently noticed the problem at the same time.
We immediately took the codes out of Autokey. Unfortunately, 200 keys had already been sent and activated by customers. That means that we had 200 useless keys that activated, and 300 unused keys which were useless due to language lock.
Having 200 angry customers and 300 waiting customers is not a fun situation to be in. We had to think fast to get the problem solved. We immediately placed an emergency order with our other Distributor for stock that was from a different country from Hungary. We sourced keys from all over the globe in an effort to find which keys are language locked and which aren’t. Luckily, only Polish and Hungarian keys seemed to have been locked.
The problem is that to get replacement EU keys in would mean waiting another 2 days. Courier delivery always takes 1 days and by this time, 1pm had passed and our distributor doesn’t dispatch games via Courier after 1pm. That means that we’d have to wait at least 2 days before we could get EU codes in stock.
We noted that russian copies of Battlefield 3 have a similar language lock in place. We also noticed that the file structure of the language packs are almost identical. We decided that it could be possible to make a temporary fix for the SimCity language lock by distributing the english language files to our customers. Customers would then be able to download the English language pack, install and play.
We bought a UK key from our local retailer and activated it to our own account, in order to get hold of the multi-language files. We downloaded the game and we were so happy! We had the language files. We tested the method and it worked fine on our EU key. We could easily swap the language files around and the game would change between our selected languages. We were really happy to have found a solution. We quickly packaged them up and distributed the language files to customers.
Suddenly, yet again we started getting angry customers fire support tickets at us. It seemed that while the language fix worked fine on an EU copy of the game, the langauge fix wasn’t working with the hungarian version of the game! While battlefield 3 language fix works fine, it seems that the SimCity game would trigger an ‘invalid product key’ error if an english language pack was installed. We collaborated with many other CD Key shops in an effort to fix the language, but we simply couldn’t get it to work. It seems that a language fix simply wouldn’t be possible for this game. Back to square 1.
At this point, we had 200 customers with useless langauge locked keys, 300 waiting customers, and 300 unused langauge locked keys that we’d withdrawn from Autokey.
We spoke to our distributor and said that we cannot accept the keys, as they were language locked. We referred back to the fact that we were specifically promised by the CEO of our distributor that the keys would be totally region free and multi-language. As they broke this promise, we demanded a refund on the unused keys.
It’s common practice in the CD Key business that distributors will NOT accept refunds on used keys. Of course, once a CD Key is activated, there is no way that the item can be de-activated or re-sold.
Since we’d already sold 200 keys, we accepted that we had no choice but to take the hit. That means that 200 keys for which should have been EU keys, and weren’t – at the fault of our supplier – we were the ones who had to front the money for them and take the £6,400 GBP loss.
We accepted the fact that they couldn’t refund the used keys, but we argued hard with our distributor to accept the unused keys back and replace them with EU unlocked versions. They refused. No matter how hard we tried, they simply refused to refund. The reason for this is not technically our distributors fault. EA are the culprits. EA language locked the keys, and EA refuse to refund any pre-orders.
As our distributor had no way of getting a refund or replacements from EA on the 500 keys, they passed this terrible policy onto us. Being a company that deals with the public, CJS CD Keys couldn’t simply ‘refuse to refund’ like EA have.. We have no choice but to replace or refund our customers out of our own pockets. Total loss – £16,000 GBP – all because of EA’s no-refund policy, and tricking us. EA / distributor had promised the keys would be region free, yet they weren’t.
A glimmer of hope
At this point, we were in serious trouble. We had lost money on 500 keys, we had 500 dis-satisfied customers, and we had no way of getting replacement keys within a short time-frame due to the time it takes for courier shipments to process.
Suddenly, our distributor contacted us and said they had received some inside information. Apparently, due to the enormous pressure that people were putting on EA for the strict language locking of the game, EA executives had an emergency meeting, to discuss about unlocking the game. It was possible that by the evening of 6th March, the game would be unlocked and made to be fully region free and multi-language.
We never did hear about the outcome of that meeting, but it obviously was denied, as the keys are still language locked as of today.
At this point, we gave up on the Hungary keys and focused all of our efforts onto sourcing Multi-language stock. During the whole fiasco, we’d already been ordering some backup stock from our other suppliers all over the globe, in an effort to get the game.
The problem is with SimCity limited edition is that it’s just that – very limited.
EA allow distributors to place an unlimited quantity pre-order. Then after release date, you cannot pre-order more. That means that already stock was extremely limited on the market. No wholesaler was willing to give up their stock. We had to scrimp and scrape from suppliers all over the globe in order to get 500 EU keys in stock.
We managed to place enough orders, but only very few orders would be arriving to us on the 7th (since that’s only 12 hours later). Most orders would get here on the Friday 8th March date.
We tried our best to get as much emergency stock that we could. Prices were crazy.
The whole CD Key market was in big trouble, as everyone in the business has pre-ordered this hungarian stock, and never anticipated this strange language lock. As a result, there was very little EU stock on the market. It was a nightmare for everyone to get the stock.
Because every CD Key shop in the world was desperate for EU stock, our suppliers prices raised to record highs. Some of our stock cost nearly £43 per key. Everything was absolutely sold out and anything that was in stock cost a fortune. The only cheap stock available wouldn’t arrive until Friday. We placed the order and hoped for the best,
Friday mornnig, and we received notification that one of our larger deliveries was ‘out for delivery’ by the courier. We were really happy to realise that the courier delivery was on time and everything was good. We finally received the shipment about 2pm, scanned them, and uploaded them.
We couldn’t leave our customers with hungary keys, so we deleted all of the 200 keys from Autokey that had been dispatched, which means that the affected customers could collect a brand new key from Autokey again as a free replacement.
Throughout the day we received deliveries, and uploaded them to Autokey. The day was a good success, we fulfilled some 300 orders. We still have 200 customers left waiting, but 300 undelivered keys are due to arrive in stock on Saturday morning according to our delivery schedule and courier tracking.
This means that on Saturday all deliveries of SimCity should arrive and we’ll get all the orders fulfilled.
We hope you have enjoyed reading the in-depth story about our SimCity situation. We’d like to apologise for the situation, and we are going to make sure that it won’t happen again.
We want to make sure our customers know that anyone who is not willing to wait is more than welcome to a refund. You have a number of options available to you:
- Wait until Saturday mornnig. We’ll get all orders fulfilled by then.
- You can get a refund to Store Credit and buy an instant version of SimCity with the credit (We have some expensive EU stock available now) – but you’ll need to pay the difference. We know it seems offensive but it’s just an option for our customers. We’re putting full priorities on the situation at hand and if you don’t want to pay the difference then just hold tight and we’ll get your key delivered ASAP for you.
- Request a refund – We’re more than happy to refund anyone who doesn’t want to wait.
Thank you again for reading, and we are very sorry about this situation. If we had it our way, we’d have received EU multi-language keys in the first place and had everyone’s orders fulfilled. We want to stress that your patience is much apprecaited. Complaining or flooding our Ticket system only slows us down. If you want a refund we’re happy to give it, or if you’re happy to wait then please be patient. But waiting and complaining at the same time is only causing problems for our other customers who are getting delayed responses due to a lot of spam being posted in our ticket system.
Thank you, and once again, apologies for this situation.
CJS CD Keys