EA's mishaps: Where it went wrong for America's worst company

by Gaetano Prestia Featured 9 Comments 15 Votes 6981 Views 10/04/2013 Back to Articles

So you probably heard the news: Electronic Arts sucks as a company ... at least in the minds of gamers.

For the second year running the publisher of Dead Space 3 and SimCity has been voted the worst company in America in a poll conducted by the Consumerist, trumping the folk at Bank of America.

Putting aside the typical anti-capitalism sentiment probably steaming from anyone that voted in the poll, let's consider for a second that, at the very least, Electronic Arts is a bad -- but not necessarily the worst -- video game publisher in the world: where has it gone wrong?

Online passes

Video game publishers don't receive a cent from used game sales, which led to the creation of EA's online pass, a one-off fee needed to unlocked a used game's features. The pass is free for people that buy a title brand new, but anyone buying a used version will need to purchase the pass from within the game.

Should we really care?

The issue with used games is a double-edged sword. On one side we have a retail sector basically leeching off consumers on games with high consumer awareness: they buy back a fairly new game at well below the price they eventually re-sell it for. Sure, places like EB Games are essentially making a profit on a game sale thanks to a publisher's marketing budget, but they're well within their right to sell used products.

On the other hand, publishers are losing out big time ... but are we really supposed to care about that? Why do game publishers feel they're more entitled to benefit from a used game sale then, say, a car manufacturer? Used cars are big business.

Publishers appear to be actively trying to bury the used games market, while crippling the retail sector at the same time ... yet they rely on retailers to sell the hardware their games are played on.


EA uses microtransactions — in-game sales for new features and skills — in all of its mobile games and some of its blockbuster console games, the most recent being Dead Space 3. Gamers hit out at the company after retro classic Theme Park was rebooted with expensive in-game purchases, including $60 virtual theme park rides.

Should we really care?

When microtransactions work, they work well. League of Legends is a good example. When they work bad, they really, really screw over the player, and can potentially ruin the experience.

Dead Space 3, for example, has a tediously complicated weapon crafting system that makes the game's in-game microtransactions seem like a viable alternative to the grind; they make you feel like you need to make the transaction, or that the transaction is better than the grind.

tl;dr summary

We should care when publishers actively seek to make an in-game transaction seem like the only viable option for progression in a game that wasn't free to begin with.

Bagging out competitors

In an attempt to trump Activision's dominating Call of Duty franchise, EA upped its marketing budget for 2011's Battlefield 3. It also hit out at its competitor, with ex-CEO John Riccitiello calling Call of Duty "rotten to the core" before saying Battlefield 3 was the more "authentic product". Gamers and critics disagreed.

Should we really care?

If you're going to throw dirt in someone's face, you have to be prepared for it to be thrown back at you. In the case of EA's "mudslinging" and total disregard for gamer intelligence, consumers were made to feel like fools when the self-proclaimed prophecy that was Battlefield 3 was released to solid acclaim but was ultimately, as expected, trumped by Call of Duty on all fronts.

The ugly rhetoric was not good for gamers: and it wouldn't have done well to win over players that were looking for a Call of Duty alternative. There's mocking your competitor — we all saw that with the "Sega does what Nintendon't" era — and then there's straight-up "mudslinging".

tl;dr summary

If you're going to talk your game up and throw dirt at your competitor, you better hope you have something to show for it.

Game price hypocrisy

In 2007 ex-CEO John Riccitiello said "drastic measures" needed to be taken to save the company, including making their games less expensive. The company experimented with different pricing models — microtransactions led the way — but its blockbuster games like Dead Space 3 cost more on its digital retail service Origin then they do in stores.

Should we really care?

I've been a long-time advocate of digital distribution. I understand that parts of the world are not up to scratch with their internet — Australia included — but that's not the only thing holding it back: there is a distinctive lack of competitiveness in that sector of the industry.

EA entered the fold with Origin, only problem is the service is garbage. People don't see it as a distribution service or as a community for their games, and only use it if they dare play an EA game on their PC because it won't be available anywhere else.

The company clearly takes advantage of their digital monopoly, and jack up their digital prices to counter this. To suggest that you'll be dropping game prices, only to have games charged on your own service for more than retail cost is sheer hilarity.

tl;dr summary

We need game prices to be competitive online. Hopefully the PS4 will lead the way in this regard for console gamers, but Valve succeeds for a reason. EA clearly has no clue what its customers want.

Always-on controversy

SimCity launched in March to promising reviews, but gamers were scathing after crippling server issues rendered it unplayable. At the core of the disastrous launch was an anti-piracy measure —"always on" digital rights management — that requires the game be connected to the internet to play.

Should we really care?

Anti-piracy measures are especially controversial at the moment. Ubisoft plans to drop DRM from all of its future games, but EA seems intent on maintaining things like its online pass and "always on" DRM measures.

If rumours of Microsoft's next Xbox requiring an "always on" internet connection, EA certainly isn't alone in their implementation of the measure. However, it clearly hurt the launch of SimCity.

That said we all quickly moved on from that debacle, and now we can all enjoy the worst SimCity game yet without internet issues.

Just remember: none of the cities are yours.

tl;dr summary

Always on DRM sucks.

That ending

Mass Effect 3 was blasted by gamers because of its disappointing ending. EA released free downloadable content (DLC) shortly after the game's release, which some believe was damage control to stem gamer criticisms. The game's developer refuted this claim, with BioWare's Michael Gamble saying in a statement the DLC was always going to be free.

Should we really care?

While gamer entitlement was on display with the outcry over the ending — which was OK, not bad, but not great — the whole debacle was admittedly quite a kick in the butt for longtime fans and players of the series.

It's not that the ending was terrible: it just didn't even come remotely close to living up to a series that takes about, oh, I don't know, 100 hours to complete! Understandably, that pissed a lot of people off.

tl;dr summary

The ending of Mass Effect 3 hardly epitomises EA's problems, but you can't ignore the gamer backlash.

By Gaetano Prestia

What do you think about EA's "win"? Do you think it's the worst American company?

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EA's mishaps: Where it went wrong for America's worst company Comments

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no matter how you look at it they don't deserve it since buying a game is optional. EA hasn't harmed the consumer sure you might lose like a few hours of fun or lose a little bit of money for a game you don't want anymore still it doesn't negatively impact the life of the consumer. im sure in america there are worse companies that are over shadowed by the hate for EA
We should all go outside their studio with pitch forks.

Viper593 said: We should all go outside their studio with pitch forks.

Or, like, not buy their games :P
People just like to hate on massive companies.

Happens with Activison as well just because they're the biggest.

They do stupid stuff -- yes all these things are ridiculous -- but it's hardly worst company ever type stuff. It's just trying to maximise profit.
they give me great games that i love to play and have given me hours of fun, so i dont hate tham at all, and im so looking forward to Battlefield 4 and hopefully Crysis 4 :)

Gryllis said: People just like to hate on massive companies.
Happens with Activison as well just because they're the biggest.
They do stupid stuff -- yes all these things are ridiculous -- but it's hardly worst company ever type stuff. It's just trying to maximise profit.

Jimquisition said it best:

People hate Activision less because of EA.
Love the tl;dr bits of the article EAs mishaps: Where it went wrong for Americas worst company

Guyver said: Love the tl;dr bits of the article

nah.... even those were too long
In the end they haven't done anything illegal, and as it has been said it is optional to buy the game, but it is so blatantly obvious when they are trying to steal your money, and they succeed because you don't feel like you got the full game when you look all of the dlc or can't access multiplayer so you spend your money which is morally wrong.

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