Back in the halcyon days of XBox Live, when it was still new and fresh, EA was not on board. Microsoft was providing a, mostly, peer-to-peer distributed online network with centralized, on Microsoft’s servers, messaging and match-making and friend management and this did not suit EA. A decentralized network meant that they could not gather the proper metrics or control their own online experiences to the degree that a large corporation as EA wanted. So for a while, in the early days, EA did not support XBox Live and many thought it doomed because of it (akin to their lack of support for the Dreamcast.)
Xbox Live, however, did not fail. As it grew in importance, EA’s lack of support became a hindrance to them as their biggest sports competitor at the time, 2K, was implementing online features that EA simply couldn’t do. So a deal was struck: third party servers and accounts were allowed on XBox Live, to a degree, and EA was on board. They could now allow people to play their games online (and sell them stuff directly) while still authenticating through a centralized EA account. Both parties were happy.
Customers, however, were a different story. Enter Battlefield 1943.
Having played Battlefield 2 a fair bit, and with my recent shooter binge (Team Fortress 2, occasional Halo 3 again), I was looking forward 1943. A new, but relatively light tactical shooter experience on XBox Live? And one that I can just download at home for a few dollars without having to deal with snooty EB Games employees? I was sold. So when I saw that it was available on Wednesday, I immediately logged in to XBox Live with the intention of buying it. EA had my money. It was theirs to lose.
And lose they did! As I checked the XBox Marketplace, I noticed that the game wasn’t showing up. Not in new arrivals, not in the directory, not anywhere. I checked back on Shacknews and, indeed, I did have the correct date. It was out. People were playing it. Where was it?
I checked XBox.com and noticed that it was there and available and the web interface allowed me the option to queue the download without having to turn on the XBox. I did that and turned on my XBox 360 and it was downloading. Weird, as it still wasn’t showing up in the Marketplace, but successful. I attributed it to a regional bug.
I launched it, sat through the barrage of logos, and upon hitting the main menu was greeted with a wonderful
Failed to connect to EA servers message. Oh. Try again: same result. And another time. So even though I was connected to XBox Live and online and even though I had the game and was ready to play (and pay for) it, I could not do anything because I couldn’t connect with EA’s third-party servers.
I tried again on Thursday afternoon, after the intial hub-bub died down, and was greeted with the exact same result. Though XBox Live was working flawlessly and pretty much every other game released on the console was online, I couldn’t play Battlefield 1943 because EA’s servers were overloaded.
So I remember those halcyon XBox Live days when third party servers were not allowed and I think: maybe they were on to something! But money changed that and along came EA introducing a new point of failure. My motivation to play Battlefield 1943 has now subsided.
And even if it is fixed, the blunt
EA MAY RETIRE THIS GAME AFTER 30 DAYS NOTICE POSTED ON www.ea.com warning that comes with Battlefield 1943 isn’t helping. Team Fortress 2 it is, then.