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[Update] EA Code Wars Hackathon Competition A Lesson In Reading The Fine Print

by Mike Futter on Dec 17, 2013 at 05:52 AM

Update #2: EA has responded to our request for comment. "The language on the Code Wars site was confusing and unfortunately was posted prematurely," an EA representative told us via email. "Most importantly, we have no intention to own participant code.  We appreciate our fans bringing their concerns to our attention so we can address them, and that's why the site was brought down. We'll share more information soon and look forward to a fun developer event in February."

Our Take (Amended)
To be clear, the problem with the rules as they were written had nothing to do with ownership. It was about EA's demand for a royalty-free, irrevocable license. This statement does nothing to assuage the concerns posed by the initial post. Additionally, EA has previously used the "premature" excuse when confronted with a bad public relations situation. The last time was when the publisher blamed Sony for the problems its games were having on PlayStation 4.  


Update #1: EA has removed the FAQ and rules for the Code Wars event. We have screenshots of what was available when we first published this story.



Click to enlarge both images.


Original Story:

EA is holding a competition for teams of up to five to create an iOS, Android, or Windows game or app in a limited time. The event is taking place at four EA studio locations around the world (Vancouver, Stockholm, Bucharest, and Redwood City).

There are two parts to the event: the creation of the game or app and “side quests” that will be introduced during the event and are optional. Except for the grand prize, winners will get games and swag. The grand prize winning team will get a trip to the EA studio of its choice (hotel and airfare provided).

In order to participate, the team of no more than five must register and be accepted. At the event, participants will have 14 hours to create an app or game and a three-minute presentation. There must be a working prototype.

Before you register, read the fine print. There is a lot of legal language of which you should be aware. While your creation remains your property, any physical submissions become the property of EA. Furthermore, anything you create during the Code Wars event can be used by EA under a royalty-free, irrevocable, but non-exclusive license.

In other words, if you come up with the next great game mechanic or monetization scheme, EA can use it throughout its portfolio without paying the creator a thing. You can license it to others and use it yourself without a problem, but you also wouldn’t be able to collect fees from EA’s use of your idea.

Additionally, EA cautions that its own studios might already be working on something similar. There is a chance that your great idea might not be that unique, in which case you might not even be able to license it out because of EA patent filings. 

You can read up on Code Wars on the official site. You should also peruse the FAQs and Rules page for all of the legal details.

[Source: EA (1), (2)]


Our Take
Putting aside EA’s assertion that it is the “best company in the world” (as stated in the FAQ), let me suggest that you do not need EA. At all.

The publisher is providing designers and programmers absolutely nothing by way of tools, nor are the prizes worth giving away your opportunity to monetize your concept. The worst part is that participants are being thrown into a crunch environment with the contest organizers throwing curve balls at the teams. In other words, EA is going to be simulating what crunch is like in one of its studios.

If you want to make a game and get noticed, you can do that right now. If you have a laptop to bring to Code Wars, you can just as easily use it at home. If you have a team, you can work together just about anywhere else. If you have an idea, nurture it and you can reap the fruits of your labor without ceding some of them to a publisher that has done nothing for you.

This looks like a raw deal for participants. EA has no skin in the game, and it just feels wrong.