IS ELECTRIC ARTS THE WORST COMPANY IN AMERICA? NO, BUT…
Times are tough at ELECTRONIC ARTS (EA) these days. CEO John Riccitiello, not what you would call a fan favorite out there in gamer land, ankled in March. The company is still without a CEO and, today, confirmed that it will be gifting an unspecified number of employees with pink slips.
In between those tragic bookends, EA also managed to get itself voted “Worst Company in America” in an online poll by Consumerist. This is the second year in a row the company has achieved this dubious distinction. Does EA deserve the “honor” bestowed upon them? Not really. In the grand scheme of things, there is no shortage of companies far more deserving of the crown. Just take a look at numbers 2 – 4 on the Consumerist list: Bank of America, Ticketmaster, and Comcast!
As a gamer who has owned an EA title or two, I can certainly understand why people have piled on. Personally, I’m a console guy who doesn’t venture into the world of PC gaming. Still, it doesn’t take a keyboard jockey to understand the epic fail that was the launch of SIMCITY last month.
The PC-based franchise re-launch was plagued by massive server issues that caused crashes, long load times and loss of saved game data. The requirement of an “always on” internet connection and prohibiting offline play, didn’t go over well either. On the list of “Top Ways To Royally Piss Off PC Gamers,” EA didn’t miss one. To make matters worse, the company seems incapable of learning from the mistakes of others. Similar problems plagued DIABLO III when it was released in May 2012.
EA continues to nickel and dime consumers at every turn, requiring in game purchases in order to enjoy a game fully. They also have a woeful track record of “been there, played that” development.
For example, I’m a sports fan and have owned installments of both the MADDEN NFL and TIGER WOODS PGA TOUR franchises. An exclusive licensing agreement with the NFL has convinced EA that they can release pretty much the same game year after year with only minor improvements in game play.
It’s a cynical mindset that assumes those who want the “true” NFL gaming experience will line up like lemmings and shell out $60 for the privilege. Well, this lemming stopped nibbling in 2010. That was the last year I purchased a MADDEN NFL title. Maybe if EA spent more time on game development and less time on silly contests to determine which player would make the cover of the game, I might consider purchasing again.
TIGER WOODS PGA TOUR 14 does offer some definite improvements in game play, such as the addition of the Masters Tournament, flashback play on historical courses and the ability to play as or against PGA legends like Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus. Of course, this being an EA product, getting to the good stuff still requires in game purchases of DLC to unlock courses, etc. Not only does this bring things to a grinding halt, it essentially drives the price of the game from $60 to north of $100 when all is said and done.
Botched launches and technical glitches are easier to forgive when you don’t feel like a company forces you into “highway robbery mode” in order to enjoy the most immersive levels of game play. This is the thing about EA that most gamers take issue with. I own many titles for my Xbox 360 and EA products are the only ones that consistently require additional in-game purchases in order to get a full experience. DLC on most titles is a stand alone enhancement which adds things like extra missions, levels, and avatar gear but, is not required in order to enjoy the game you purchased.
In his official resp0nse to the results of the Consumerist poll, Electronic Arts COO Peter Moore did acknowledge fumbling the release of SIMCITY and admitted the obvious: “We owe gamers better performance than this.”
Rather than stopping there, Moore couldn’t resist playing a few rounds of the blame game, pointing his fickle finger of “not our fault, theirs” at some interesting targets. His rebuttal listed everything from online mailing lists urging people to vote against EA because they disagreed with the choice of cover athlete on MADDEN NFL to a flurry of post cards and emails from hate groups protesting the ability to create LGBT characters in their games. While I don’t doubt things like this happened, I’m pretty sure these weren’t the reasons EA received the majority of votes in the Consumerist poll! CLICK HERE to see how Consumerist responded to Moore’s missive.
Continuing to ignore real problems, like releasing poorly developed games or use of blatant DLC money grabs, positions EA for a three-peat, with a return to the top of the worst list next year.
Here’s how the bracket style polling shook out. CLICK HERE or on the graphic below to read full coverage of the entire polling process from Consumerist.