EA responds to Code Wars criticism, promises changes

Publisher Electronic Arts has "no intention to own participant code" created during its Code Wars game jam, the company confirmed with Polygon today.

The statement follows recent criticism over the game jam's terms, which revealed that apparently all content created during the event by participating developers would become the company's property free of royalty fees. The FAQ has been taken down, which a representative from EA stated was due to it being unclear.

"The language on the Code Wars site was confusing and unfortunately was posted prematurely," the representative told Polygon. "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."

Earlier this week, EA announced its Code Wars event, a hackathon in which teams of up to five developers create mobile games or apps within a 14 hour time limit. The event, set to take place on Feb. 22, 2014 at EA's various studios worldwide — in Redwood City, Bucharest, Stockholm and Vancouver — has two parts: creating the main game and completing optional "side quests," mini challenges Code Wars organizers will introduce sporadically throughout the event.

According to the Code Wars website, the final product must include a working prototype and a three-minute presentation explaining how the app or game works. Grand prize winners will receive a trip to the EA studio of their choice, with hotel and airfare paid for by EA. The remaining runners-up will be gifted games and other swag.

"We have no intention to own participant code."

Shortly after the event details were posted, former Penny Arcade Report editor Ben Kuchera pointed out via Twitter that the contest's FAQ — which has since been removed by EA — stated all Code Wars submissions will become property of EA, with no royalties to be paid out to creators. Participating in the contest requires all developers to "consent to give [EA] a royalty-free, irrevocable, non-exclusive license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, create derivative works from, and display such submissions in whole or in part, on a worldwide basis, and to incorporate it into other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed, including for promotional or marketing purposes."

The FAQ also stated "physical copies of submissions become the property of [EA] and will not be returned." Furthermore, anything physically created during Code Wars could be licensed and used by its creators, but they will not earn anything from EA's use of their game or app. The FAQ notes that should EA be working on a similar app idea, creators will not be able to use or license it out due to existing EA patents.

In response to a tweet from Kuchera about the contest asking developers to "give their work for a studio tour," EA COO Peter Moore responded that the event's purpose is to "encourage young people to join our industry" and expressed confusion at Kuchera's statement.

"Could argue it's standard boilerplate, but anyone who comes up with something truly good has given up a ton in that agreement," Kuchera said, to which Moore "completely and utterly [disagreed]."

Moore also said in a response to a fan comment that the company looks at contests such as Code Wars as a way to identify up and coming developer talent.

It is not uncommon for independent developers to become successful with the games created or conceptualized during jams. Notable games include Vlambeer's Ludum Dare entry Nuclear Throne (first called Wasteland Kings), Deconstructeam's Gods Will Be Watching, IGF nominee Santa Ragione's MirrorMoon and Sportfriends games Hokra and Johann Sebastian Joust.

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