Hey, you. Yeah, you, the guy who's been clogging everybody's Twitter timeline with your #NHL15 votes.
Maybe it's you, @LAKings.
Kings (@LAKings) May 25, 2014
Or maybe you're just some guy with 200 Twitter followers.
Were your votes worthless?
Here's a snippet from the official contest rules for the NHL 15 cover vote. We've put the important part in bold.
3. How to Participate: During each Voting Period visit http://covervote.nhl.com (the “Site”) and follow the links and instructions to vote for the NHL player you want to be on the cover of the NHL 15 video game this year. Prior to voting, each participant must first have or register for an NHL.com account. Registration for an NHL.com account is free and may be made by following the applicable links and instructions on the Site to complete and submit the registration by providing the required contact information including user name, email address, country, zip/postal code, and the selection of a password . Multiple participants are not permitted to share the same email address. After the participant has registered for an NHL.com account the participant may vote. Participants may vote as many times as they want during each Voting Period. Sponsor will consider the voting results when choosing the NHL player to be featured on the cover of the NHL 15 video game, but Sponsor will not be obligated to abide by such results in making its decision.
Or, in plain English: the NHL and EA Sports will take your silly hashtags as free publicity for the video game and their league. They'll consider them. But they don't necessarily mean anything, nor do the actual votes that were cast via the NHL website. No matter what, it's the NHL's decision which player gets on the cover.
That's not to say the contest is definitely rigged, but if they want to throw out the fan vote, they totally have that power.
EA tells us that this is standard language that's included in all of these sorts of contests across the industry, and a comment below tells us that this is also the language used in MLB's All-Star Fan Voting contest. EA's representative says that the language is there to protect "the integrity of the fan vote" from people who might try to auto-generate votes using a computer, and they assure us that fans do have the final say in who gets on the cover.
But it still doesn't feel all that transparent. We asked EA Sports for a bit deeper of a glimpse into the process, but all they'll tell us is that the line is there in the official rules to protect that integrity of the vote, and that it's necessarily vague because they can't foresee all possibilities where the vote could be harmed.
But we still have some questions: How do they determine, for example, whether or not a vote is an auto-generated or real? What about when the St. Louis Blues were replying to every single person who used the #NHL15Oshie hashtag in a clear attempt to sway the voting? Does that count, or does that meddle with the integrity of the fan vote?
Allowing fans to vote for who gets on the cover is an awesome concept, and it's no doubt a brilliant marketing strategy for EA, but there's definitely a feeling among hockey fans that the process isn't completely transparent. We'll just have to take their word for it.
h/t Ian McLaren