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SimCity scores "unfair play" award after launch dramas

Consumer watchdog Choice has given EA Games a less-than-coveted Shonky Award over the high charges on its SimCity helpline.

Now in its eighth year, the Shonky Awards, from consumer watchdog Choice, "name and shame the shonkiest products and companies taking advantage of Australian consumers".

A still from Choice's video on the award. (Screenshot by Nic Healey/CNET Australia)

This year saw a number of companies and products get called out, including Qantas, Kleenex and even EA Games.

EA's SimCity scored the Shonky Award for unfair play — but not necessarily for the reason you might expect. While Choice notes that the launch "was plagued with server issues that made it almost unplayable", it's the high charges for Australians wanting to use the EA helpline that really clinched the award.

Australian gamers, however, were even more unhappy when they discovered that the telephone support line was a 1900 number attracting an AU$2.48 per-minute fee. That's right — after forking out up to AU$100 for the game, you're then expected to cough up for after-sales support that's normally free — as it should be. And this shonkosity is even worse when you consider it's their fault you're ringing in the first place!

Choice points out that the helpline was free for people in the US and calls the charges an example of the "Australia Tax" that locals "pay on many things IT related, including hardware, software and electronic downloads". In the short video Choice produced about the unfair play award, it states that its own call to the helpline was AU$14.32 for five minutes and 29 seconds.

This isn't the first award that EA has scored for less-than-salubrious reasons: back in April, it was given the Consumerist's Golden Poo award for being the Worst Company in America. It was EA's second consecutive win.