Last week, I realised that I had a problem. My Xbox Live Gamertag was tied to an EA Account that was not my primary EA Account. Worse yet, I no longer had access to the email associated with that EA Account. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for a Customer Service Experience.
An EA Account is a way of tracking and managing your games published by Electronic Arts across multiple platforms. Like the Rockstar Club or the Ubisoft Club, an EA Account is one of those weird required speed bumps on the video game superhighway, and as far as I can tell the EA Account functionally does nothing other than serve as an Origin login for PC and track my behaviour. Nevertheless, the games require it, and having it neatly stacked up in a row is both convenient and necessary.
The scenario that I described above, and will continue to describe below, is complicated. I know that it is complicated, and please be aware that I was as direct and clear as I could be at every single moment of communication that I am about to describe. Yet no matter how clear I wanted to be, or how carefully I worded my requests, things still took some strange twists and turns.
This story takes place over four days, beginning on a Sunday evening and ending on a Wednesday. This measurement of time will help orient us going forward.
I don’t quite know how I came to have two EA Accounts, and indeed, I didn’t know that I did until I tried to play my review copy of Battlefield V on my Xbox One last weekend. I installed the game, plopped down on the couch, and was greeted with a screen asking me for some information. The screen made it clear that my Gamertag was already associated with an EA Account, and it just wanted to know what I wanted my public profile name to be. That was a red flag, because I have an EA Account that I use all the time, and the account that my Xbox One was displaying to me was not that account.
I then realized something horrible. Apparently, sometime in 2010 or 2011, I had created an EA Account on my Xbox 360 with a throwaway email address. Since that time, I had not played an EA game on a Microsoft platform, so it had not mattered. But now I was in a pickle. My Gamertag was associated with an account that I did not use, and worse, I deleted the email address it was attached to several years ago.
Screenshot: EA Help
This is the full map of the situation:
- I have my primary EA Account with which I have been accessing Electronic Arts games on my Playstation 4 and PC for the past several years. I have access to the email attached to it, and I use it all the time. We will call this Account A.
- I have a secondary EA Account that I have not used in (possibly) seven years. It is associated with an email address that literally no longer exists. It is attached to my Xbox Gamertag. We will call this Account B.
- I want to merge these two accounts. To do so, I will need to gain access to Account B and then merge it with Account A, placing my Origin account, my PSN ID, and my Xbox Live Gamertag all under one friendly account roof.
Armed with this clear information, I contacted chat support on the EA Help website on Sunday evening. This was the easiest part of the entire process, and if I could have walked all the way through the process with this first EA Help Advisor (that’s their title), then I would have been fine.
The advisor helpfully explained to me that I would simply need to fill out a form to regain access to my account. The form would be used to ascertain if I was really me or if I was just some random person trying to gain access to my account. Once I did that, I could do all of the other things I wanted to do. Regaining access to Account B was the first step.
Remember, at the end of this, all I am trying to do is associate my Gamertag that I have had since 2009 with my primary EA Account. Please keep this in mind as you read the rest of this tale.
This is what live chat feels like. Image: Battlefield V (EA)
Filled with the hollow promise of account management on the internet being easy, I opened the form and began to type into it. The more I filled out the more that I, in turn, became filled with dread. Because I knew they were definitely not going to give me access to my damn account.
The questions were all about hyper-specific things that I did not know. The month and date of account creation? No idea. City I was in when I made the account? No clue. IP addresses that could be associated with the account? Nope. Billing address or last four digits of credit card? I created this account more than half a decade ago, in a tumultuous time, because I wanted to play Mass Effect. I wasn’t signing up for a terrible game of 20 Questions.
I sent it in, and a few hours later I got a reply: “Unfortunately, we couldn’t grant you access to this account based on the info provided.” I wasn’t surprised, but in the intervening time I had remembered some more details (and come to some others due to process of elimination). Cruelly, the rejection email specifically said that I could send additional info, so bolstered by my new facts I fired off an update.
And then I received what appeared to be an automatic rejection with the exact same wording. Despite saying I could submit more information, it did not seem that The System would allow me to do so. When I resubmitted, thinking that some kind of mistake had been made, I got another. So then I started tweeting.
Hey @EAHelp, you keep kicking back my request to regain control of an account with "we're sorry," but I would love to talk to an actual human being about my specific and odd problem.
— cmrn knzlmn (@ckunzelman) 12 November 2018
There’s a lot of information you can gain about where I was mentally during this stressful time. As you can see, I am tweeting at a video game company’s tech support at 10:55 PM. This is only something that someone who believes he has nothing left to lose would do.
As an aside, my tweets of despair didn’t really work. While the helpful account managers over on the official EA Help Twitter were communicative with me, we never managed to have a significant conversation, and they tended to respond well after I tweeted. I basically burned my Monday by playing wait and see with the account, and I actually missed some communication from them. It just wasn’t meant to be, and I’m not sure how good Twitter is for actual tech support. Go with the live chat.
On Tuesday morning, determined to get access to an account that was attached to my Gamertag, I dove back into live chat.
Hey @EAHelp, what's up? Just sitting here listening to Matchbox20 and thinking about if I'll get an answer today!
— cmrn knzlmn (@ckunzelman) 12 November 2018
If I had the capability to do so, I would paste all of my live chats in this article, but literally days after the fact the EA Help page associated with my problem still says it is “requesting my chat transcript,” which doesn’t fill me with a lot of hope of ever seeing it. I’ll have to reconstruct it for you.
Just as before, I began this live chat by accurately stating my problem. I need to gain access to Account B, and I am doing so because I want to take the Gamertag attached to Account B and instead associate it with Account A.
Despite being rejected and then auto-rejected with my information the previous day, this advisor was able to help me. By way of several different forms of confirmation, I was guided through a process by which I was given access to Account B. I changed the email, logged into the account, and felt like I was ready to move to the next serious task of moving my Gamertag over.
It was like cresting a snow-blown mountain top to see an idyllic valley below. It felt very good to get this simple time-consuming problem solved. But just like Rahul on The Great British Baking Show says, “as soon as something good happens, something bad just comes behind it.”
I could have been playing Battlefield V instead of talking to people on live chat.
After I gained access to Account B, we moved onto the process of merging the two accounts together. I could tell that this was maybe taking a little too long for the advisor, who I am sure has quotas of problems to solve during their shift, and a lot of different options were presented to me.
I was told that, in order to merge two accounts, I would have to accept the fact that I would lose account progress in my EA games. The examples given were things like customised soldiers in Battlefield games, and with a little bit of regret, I consented to that loss. I was also told that there was a chance I might lose some purchased content on my account like games or DLC. I wasn’t sure why that might happen, but I also agreed to this. I have few enough EA games that I would be able to know exactly what was missing if something happened.
The advisor explained that this work of merging Account A and Account B might take up to 72 hours. It was another late night with live chat, and I was ready to stop thinking about it for the day, so I logged off live chat believing that my problems had been solved.
My problems were not solved. Welcome to Wednesday. This was day four of my struggle with EA Help.
Early in the day, I logged into Account A to see if my Gamertag from Account B had been associated with it yet. Not only was it not associated, but my Playstation ID was nowhere to be seen either. This meant something bad had happened. It was reverse progress. With the world’s deepest sigh, so deep that it rumbled the very foundations of the planet like Loki writhing in his bonds, I signed back onto live chat.
I was greeted with a dual problem. The first was that the advisor who had been so helpful the night before had done the exact opposite of the thing I asked to have done. Now both my Playstation ID and my Xbox Live Gamertag were both associated with Account B, the account that I had spent the past two days trying to gain control over and then merge with Account A.
The second problem was that because both my hardware-specific IDs had been moved to Account B, there was no way to merge Accounts A and B any longer. From my perspective, I have no idea why that would be the case, and yet it was.
Consumed by the ennui of live chat. Image: Battlefield V (EA)
My only response was to stubbornly assert that it could not be the truth. Full of consternation, I simply would not accept this reality. Going full Morpheus, I willed the universe into the shape that I needed it to be in. After all, the people who are supposed to fix this were the people who got us in this predicament in the first place.
My incredulity must have been too much for this advisor, because we were mysteriously disconnected shortly after my impassioned pleas for justice.It was at this point that a new customer service advisor logged on.
From the depths I cry to thee, and all that stuff, but this person really did save my bacon because they patiently explained that the only way of truly unifying my accounts would be to manually add all of my Origin games to Account B, destroy Account A, and then simply change the email address for Account B to the one that was originally associated with Account A.
It was complicated, and it would take time on the EA Help end, but it would solve all my problems. I said yes.
At this point, I had spent something like 10 hours doing various things involved with wrangling accounts, with six of those hours devoted to live chat. I was happy to have my situation resolved, and EA Help offered me a game or some DLC as compensation for my time. In my glee and delirium, I asked for a copy of Battlefield: Hardline. I don’t know why I did that. I was under duress.
This concludes my tale of woe. It took four days and a lot of hours, but my two-account problem was resolved. I salute all of the EA Help advisors who helped me along the way, and I have nothing but respect for them. After all, they are definitely expected to absolutely crank through these help requests, and this was a complicated scenario with many parts that was eventually only solved through some luck and hitting the right advisors who knew exactly what to do.
Learn a lesson from me, kids: never create an EA Account in 2011 with a throwaway email address. It’s only going to come back to bite you in the ass later.