Gam­ing gi­ant blocks ser­vices to Myan­mar

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse - RJ VOGT rj.vogt@mm­

GAMERS in Myan­mar are see­ing red af­ter at­tempts to ac­cess bough­tand-paid-for ser­vices have been blocked by one of the in­dus­try’s lead­ing de­vel­op­ers.

EA Games, which pro­duces glob­ally beloved fran­chises such as FIFA, Need for Speed and Bat­tle­field, ap­pears to have blocked its trade­mark on­line gam­ing ser­vices plat­form from Myan­mar in the last month, with no no­tice de­liv­ered to pay­ing cus­tomers who can no longer play the games they nor­mally would.

The plat­form, known as Ori­gin, en­ables users to pur­chase games on the in­ter­net for PC and mo­bile pat­forms. It’s ideal for coun­tries such as Myan­mar, where more peo­ple can ac­cess games on com­put­ers or smart­phones than tra­di­tional gam­ing plat­forms like Xboxs and Playsta­tions.

But over the week­end ac­cess was blocked for one Tyler Roy, a res­i­dent in Yangon who pur­chased Ori­gin ac­cess be­fore he moved to Myan­mar about a year ago. He did some re­search on­line and even­tu­ally dis­cov­ered that ac­cess to Ori­gin from Myan­mar had been blocked along­side coun­tries such as Iran and N Korea.

“I was fu­ri­ous at first – I mean, I paid for this soft­ware, and they dis­abled my ac­cess be­cause of where I live, when they hap­pily took money from peo­ple from Myan­mar be­fore,” he said.

He quickly posted more in­for­ma­tion on Red­dit, where the is­sue be­came the lead­ing topic on the site on Oc­to­ber 30. Gamers from around the world weighed in, with most crit­i­cis­ing the mas­sive de­vel­oper for se­cretly ter­mi­nat­ing ser­vices with­out warn­ing – and for a rea­son that doesn’t make sense.

Ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle from early yes­ter­day morn­ing on, an Ori­gin rep­re­sen­ta­tive ac­knowl­edged the blocked ser­vices in a Red­dit post.

“The short an­swer here is that this oc­curred due to the US gov­ern­ment trade em­bargo on Myan­mar,” the source said. “In ac­cor­dance with US law, EA is legally re­quired to re­strict on­line ser­vices to res­i­dents of coun­tries that are em­bar­goed. This isn’t an EA-spe­cific is­sue – it’s an is­sue that im­pacts all com­pa­nies of­fer­ing ser­vices that are cov­ered by trade em­bar­goes.”

As Roy and other Myan­mar gamers have been quick to point out, the US trade em­bar­goes were lifted on Oc­to­ber 7, so any re­stric­tions should have been lifted con­cur­rently.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives have in­di­cated that EA Games is ex­am­in­ing the mat­ter in­ter­nally, but for Roy and other Myan­mar fans of the com­pany’s games, it re­mains to be seen whether they will be re­im­bursed for pur­chases made and not de­liv­ered.

“The most be­wil­der­ing part for me is that they said that they were ‘forced’ to shut down the ser­vice be­cause of US law,” Roy said. “This is un­true – even if the sanc­tions were still valid, they would only ap­ply to the in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions on the SDN list. EA just saw Myan­mar as dis­pos­able and hoped that peo­ple here wouldn’t raise too much of a fuss.”

He noted other Myan­mar gamers alerted EA to the Ori­gin ac­cess prob­lems as early as Septem­ber, but that the com­pany re­fused to con­duct an in­ter­nal re­view un­til his post on Red­dit be­gan gen­er­at­ing an in­ter­na­tional re­sponse.

“For years ... con­spir­acy peo­ple have been say­ing that dig­i­tal dis­tri­bu­tion com­pa­nies like iTunes, Ori­gin, and Steam have the power to take away what we’ve pur­chased,” he said. “Un­for­tu­nately, they were right, and we’ve fi­nally run into a sit­u­a­tion where a large me­dia dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany has re­voked ac­cess to what we’ve paid for.”

Photo: Aung Khant

The Project K dance group took sec­ond at the K-Pop In­ter­na­tional Cover Dance com­pe­ti­tion ear­lier this month.

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