Electronic Arts (EA) has apparently misprinted the serial numbers needed for activation. The proper code should be 20 characters long, but it accidentally printed codes 19 characters long. The good news is that it managed to accidentally drop the last character in the string.
EA is working cooperatively with its customers by offering replacement codes if you are willing to photograph your current serial number and email it in. If you are not able, or unwilling, to photograph your serial and mail it, EA suggests you try ‘guessing’ the last character of your product code since there are only 36 possible entries to try – 0 to 9 and A to Z. This is what EA originally suggested on their support page.
“There is currently a work around that may allow you to bypass this issue. Since you have the first 19 characters of the code already, you can basically try "guessing" the last character. To do this, simply enter your existing code, and then for the last character, try the letters A-Z, and then the numbers 0-9. You should eventually get the right combination, and be able to play the game.”
The above quote has since been removed, but still available through Google’s cache feature. The EA support page now reads the following:
“If you are trying to install Command and Conquer Red Alert 3 and the code is only 19 characters long, then it is missing the last letter or number. This was due to a misprint on a small number of manuals and we apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.
Even though guessing 36 characters is not a big task, it poses a huge problem. What if your original key was to end with ‘8’ and someone else had the same key, but ending in ‘0’. Oops! This is probably part of the reason why EA has removed their original suggestion from their site.