EA ‘Can Do Better,’ Starting With Peter Moore’s Letter
Electronic Arts isn’t the worst company in America, but don’t tell that to the Internet.
For the second year in a row, EA was named Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America,” through a March Madness-style run-off that’s determined by popular vote. EA “won” the battle last year on the back of issues such as Day One DLC, the ending of Mass Effect 3, and the rise of micro-transactions. That was against a field of companies such as Bank of America and other U.S. financial institutions, some of which were shown by investigators to have been foreclosing on the homes of people who hadn’t actually defaulted on their mortgages. Yes, you read that right — EA was voted worse than banks who were taking people’s homes away.
EA has won the “award” again this year, and despite the fact that the voting is obviously flawed and the poll obviously meaningless, the whole controversy is doing well to draw attention away from real issues concerning Electronic Arts and its customers. In response to EA hitting the “finals” last week — as the poll is again being dominated by angry people on the Internet, and not by a real debate over which companies are actually worth chastising — EA Chief Operating Officer Peter Moore wrote a blog post for the company with the title, “We Can Do Better.” The apparent mea culpa on EA’s practices drew a lot of positive comments from the gaming industry, including from developers and journalists.
The trouble here is that Moore’s letter is a bait-and-switch of feel-good language that hides EA’s greater issues while pretending to own up to them. Sure, EA is not the worst company in America, but Moore’s letter is a distraction meant to take the heat off. Even the subheader of the post, “The tallest tree catches the most wind,” serves to take EA off the hook for its practices. Obviously, being awesome and huge, EA will get (undue) scrutiny, Moore implies.
The post itself is sure to dodge the bullet proposed by its headline, first and foremost: it never commits to saying what EA is doing wrong, or what it means to do to “be better,” and only owns up to the botched launch of SimCity as a problem for the company. Instead, Moore spends the bulk of his time propping up a few strawmen that he can knock down, the biggest and most troublesome of which is the idea that the people voting EA as worst company are doing so because they hate gay people:
“In the past year, we have received thousands of emails and postcards protesting against EA for allowing players to create LGBT characters in our games. This week, we’re seeing posts on conservative web sites urging people to protest our LGBT policy by voting EA the Worst Company in America.
“That last one is particularly telling. If that’s what makes us the worst company, bring it on. Because we’re not caving on that.”
EA has caught flak, as have developers such as BioWare, over issues of same-sex politics such as this one, but I think it’s entirely facetious for EA to equate the reasons why gamers dislike the company with some political campaign waged by conservatives, many (possibly most, maybe all) of whom are not EA’s core customers. After all, a similar attack was aimed by conservatives at JC Penney over images in its catalogs, and that company didn’t end up a finalist on Consumerist’s poll. In a story from Polygon, Consumerist’s Chris Morran addresses this issue directly:
“If there is such a campaign, the people involved in it have not reached out to us, nor have we seen evidence of this traffic to our pages,” Morran wrote. “EA received hundreds of nominations from Consumerist readers this year, by far the most of any contender in the bracket, but not a single one mentioned anything about sexual orientation.”