Last night the BBC aired a segment on consumer rights telly programme Watchdog about FIFA 13 and the prevalence of game-ruining bugs in it. EA since issued a formal response.
Two FIFA 13 owners interviewed for Watchdog complained about crashes, invisible players, balls, the loss of paid-for footballers when playing FIFA Ultimate Team and being ignored. (Eurogamer staff witnessed the invisible ball glitch yesterday playing FIFA 13 at lunch.)
EA said it was "constantly" listening to "fans" (do you mean customers?) on social media and forums and so on, and that the game had already been "significantly improved" via patches and will continue to be. But it is a "constant" battle balanced with the need and desire to add new content as well.
"Our commitment is to not only address issues and necessary fixes to improve the FIFA experience as quickly and effectively as possible, but deliver new services and new content all season long," EA wrote.
"The process of improving the game experience for our fans is a constant one, and our team continues to work on additional improvements that we will implement and communicate in the coming days and weeks ahead. We know that we have significantly improved the FIFA experience for our fans in recent days, and we fully expect that to continue as we develop and implement additional improvements and fixes.
"We understand that some fans may wonder why we can't fix all the known issues at once. That's a fair question and the answer isn't quite as simple. We are delivering improvements and fixes in such a way to ensure the millions of people playing FIFA 13 do not experience undue or overly lengthy network/server outages, that title updates and other improvements are done to a high quality, and that we're confident the changes will improve the FIFA 13 experience for everyone."
Could another "fair question" be why there are any bugs at all - have studios become too reliant on post-release fixes, particularly those games with annual deadlines? Or is a bug-free game an impossibility today when so many have such huge online components to balance as well as the solo modes?
EA made the point that with 1 million online game sessions on any given day, and the varying online conditions each person connects with, "there will be some circumstances where fans experience challenges or issues". There are bound to be problems, in other words.
Regarding the specific bugs highlighted by Watchdog: FIFA Ultimate Team issues are being "actively addressed", and since a patch was released on 19th October, reported game crashes have apparently been halved. As for the disappearing balls and players: "We have received reports from our fans of rare occurrences where the ball in the game does not appear. Our team continues to investigate these rare events and we will communicate directly with our fans once we have more information."
The full open letter to Watchdog is on EA's website.