The world’s third largest developer of video games has been slapped on the wrist by the Australian competition watchdog for potentially misleading customers about their right to a refund. Electronic Arts, which runs the Origin video game distribution platform, has acknowledged its representations to consumers about refunds may have breached Australian consumer law. From January 2012, EA said in its terms and conditions and through customer support representatives that Australians were not entitled to any refunds for digitally downloaded video games purchased through Origin. As a result of action from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, EA has agreed to amend its terms and conditions and will implement a compliance program with risk assessment measures put in place along with staff training. In addition, the company has provided a court enforceable undertaking to the competition watchdog promising not to tell customers it has a ‘no refunds’ policy. ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement businesses selling downloadable goods should not avoid their legal responsibilities. “It is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law for businesses to state that customers are not entitled to refunds under any circumstances,” he said. “Where a product has a major failure, consumers can insist on a refund or replacement at their choice. Representations that this right has or can be excluded, restricted or modified are false or misleading.” Last financial year Electronic Arts earned more than $US3.5 billion in net revenue, up 27% from the previous corresponding period. A spokesperson for EA Games Australia says the company is pleased to have worked cooperatively with the ACCC to resovle its concerns and ensure its players in Australia "have the best possible experience when purchasing and playing EA games". "In addition to rights available to our players under the Australian Consumer Law, we are also proud to offer our global, industry-leading Great Game Guarantee for digital returns within certain timeframes if anyone is not satisfied with a digitally-downloaded game from EA," the spokesperson says. Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The new Gmail app, Inbox, is not just an email app, according to its developers. Inbox is being released as an invite-only system that works on the Chrome browser, Android phones, and iPhones. It’s still a Gmail app, but instead of giving its users the traditional lists of emails, it tries to intelligently give you more information so you don’t even have to open them. Google Now-style information cards appear in line with the message list and include things like flight times, package tracking and photos. It also tries to bundle emails into groups that you can quickly dismiss. Former EA CEO takes over at Unity Unity founder and chief executive officer David Helgason is stepping aside to let former Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello take over the job, VentureBeat reports. Unity is a company that makes game-creation tools for developers. Helgason says not much will change at Unity and he believes Riccitiello is the right person for the job. “I will be heavily involved in the company’s direction,” Helgason says. “(Riccitiello) is the right person to help guide the company to the mission that we set ourselves over a decade ago: democratize game development. “John completely agrees with our vision and our strategy. If anything it means that we’ll be more focused than ever about making sure everyone has access to the best technology and services.” Twitter releases new developer toolkit Twitter has unveiled Fabric, a new developer toolkit with software products to help build better third-party apps. Fabric was showcased by Twitter executives in San Francisco at the social media giant’s first mobile developers conference, Flight. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average down 153.49 to 16,461.32. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.
Nine years of hard work will soon pay off for a Melbourne-based entrepreneur who is on track to launch a racing simulator in early 2015. KartSim is an online kart racing game for PC, Xbox and PlayStation 4. Founder Zach Griffin told StartupSmart he has always had an interest in racing games, but is more interested in the development side rather than playing them. “I was always a fan of Formula One growing up,” he says. “In 2004 I started racing karts at a professional level at the same time as commencing a degree on game development. One of the projects was to create your own game. It merged the two interests I had and KartSim came out of it.” However, the journey hasn’t been an easy one. Griffin says go-karts are far more difficult to simulate than race cars, which is why there aren’t many go-kart games. “The physics around them is immensely difficult,” he says. “If you look at any other racing game out there like Gran Turismo or Forza, their core value proposition is to allow a player to drive a car they wouldn’t necessarily experience in real life. However, the actual racing experience is quite bland. You have a corner perhaps every ten seconds, where in KartSim it is a lot more intense – you are flying through a corner every 2-3 seconds and driving at speeds of up to 150 kilometres an hour just 18 millimetres off the ground.” In a show of extreme patience and dedication, it has taken Griffin two years to get the physics behind KartSim just right. In that time he had to read countless academic white papers on the physics of tyres and engines and apply those equations in a real-time gaming environment. “Resilience and persistence pays off,” he says. “I think really it’s about learning how to work with yourself and it’s incredibly import that whenever you have a small victory you celebrate and psych yourself up for the next bit.” Griffin founded his own game development company, Black Delta, in 2012. He says the startup ecosystem in Melbourne – particular for the gaming sector – is growing. “Melbourne has always been a hub for the development of racing games,” he says. “The studio environment in Melbourne is beginning to grow again after it took a hit from the GFC.” In 2011 Melbourne-based independent gaming company Firemonkeys Studios was bought by Electronic Arts for an undisclosed amount. Since then it has gone on to develop successful racing games such as Real Racing 3. “It is a tight knit group and people are very supportive,” says Griffin. “It’s good to see that startup mentality and spirit that America has always had moving towards Melbourne.” Last month Griffin’s business won the people’s choice award at an event called The Big Pitch in Melbourne, beating 250 other applicants. “It was great to connect with other people and entrepreneurs that were there,” he says. Griffin is the sole founder and points out that in his experience, it is critical entrepreneurs who are going it alone speak to other people who are going through the same thing. “Go reach out,” he says. “Entrepreneurship is by its nature reasonably isolating. It’s not a path where everyone else around you understands why you are doing it.” Griffin is currently in discussions with potential investors and says he expects the game to be released in March next year.
A new mobile games accelerator has launched in Brisbane and is now open for applications, with successful teams set to receive up to $50,000 each in addition to office space and mentorship.
Entertainment giant Electronic Arts is merging Melbourne-based games studios Firemint and IronMonkey to form Firemonkeys, one year after EA acquired Firemint for an undisclosed sum.
Local payment service provider ocash has received a majority investment from Southeast Asian internet giant MOL Global, which will use ocash as a foray into Australia and New Zealand.
The founders of Blue Tongue Entertainment have formed a new Melbourne-based games company, Twiitch, and are preparing for the launch of their first game Coco Loco in March.
The maker of mobile phone game Angry Birds is in talks with a major entertainment company about an investment that would propel its worth to $1.3 billion, according to reports.
To help reassure those unhappy about the "Wild West" nature of the internet, a British entrepreneur has come up with software called Crisp, which polices cyber bullying and online content.
James Packer is reportedly planning to pour $40 million into daily deals and group buying site Catch of the Day, suggesting tech companies are the current flavour for large investors.
Melbourne-based tech start-up Firemint has been acquired by entertainment giant Electronic Arts for an undisclosed sum.