EA ‘Can Do Better,’ Starting With Peter Moore’s Letter
Moore raises other outwardly dumb arguments against his company — like Internet users voting for EA because they dislike the choice of athlete on the cover of the latest Madden game — and in so doing, suggests that these have more weight in the poll than they actually might. Yes, these are dumb reasons to be mad at EA, and the company is right to not only support same-sex characters and inclusive policies for its games, but to stand behind those policies when threatened. That’s commendable.
But Moore manages to completely gloss over the real reasons EA is hated by so many, and it’s not just because of the missteps surrounding SimCity, which he mentions. In fact, SimCity is another strawman argument, because by owning up to launch issues (and nothing else), Moore is able to point to a situation that is easily fixable and claim that EA made a genuine mistake and is doing what’s necessary to make it right. But that doesn’t get to the core of what EA’s doing wrong: It continues to implement features and execute strategies with the full and complete knowledge that its customers don’t like them. The company is willfully blind to what its customers want, and that’s to say nothing of the fact that it continually implements ideas that actively make gaming worse for its core group of customers.
Let’s take SimCity as an example, for a start. SimCity has a deep fan base that has been with the series since its inception, and there are certain things that those fans love about those games. SimCity also has always been a single-player experience. There’s something to be said for trying to bring innovation to bear on a game, but SimCity players are single-player gamers. They want the ability to play alone, as they always have. The latest release of SimCity crams always-on DRM down the player’s throat and forces them to play socially.
When SimCity’s launch turned into a burning train wreck, players were not angry with EA and Maxis because they didn’t have enough servers to cover the game — they were angry because the game was broken by features the most loyal players never wanted in the first place.
We’ve already discussed the problems with EA’s Origin platform, and Moore props it up as an example of gamers responding positively to EA’s outlook. That’s willfully delusional at best, openly deceitful at worst. Origin has “48 million registered users,” according to Moore, but those are players who 1. may have registered any EA game in the past, specifically when using online passes, before Origin existed, and 2. are forced to use Origin to play almost any EA game on PC. Moore points to 48 million registered users on Origin, but the truth is more akin to 48 million Origin hostages. These are not people who looked at Steam and at Origin and said, “Origin is for me,” they are people with no other choice but to register for Origin in order to play EA games. We can debate the merits of Origin (or lack thereof), but the simple fact is that the numbers are another smokescreen to allow Moore to avoid dealing with the larger issues.
While Moore’s goal with his post obviously is to soften EA’s image, there are some very real, very troubling practices that go on with the company. Customers routinely are made to feel as though they are the enemy, with EA enacting policies that often feel directed both at punishing fans as the company chases the elusive “casual gamer,” and at squeezing every dime possible out of a captive audience. It’s these practices, and not who’s on the cover of Madden or letter-writing campaigns from old, likely non-gaming conservatives, that push EA into the running on Consumerist’s lists. The buying and streamlining of beloved game franchises with more mediocre and generic sequels, the prevalence of micro-transactions and Day One DLC that can developers actively design games to be worse in order to sell more content, the rushing of games in order to hit launch dates and sales targets, the willful lack of quality customer service, the inclusion of unwanted features aimed at non-loyal, occasional customers — these are the things that EA has repeatedly forced on players and the reason people dislike it so intensely.
The fact that Moore doesn’t even acknowledge the real issues of how gamers feel they are treated by his company shows the continued problems of EA: an unwillingness to listen to its closest and most important customers, and an unwillingness to care about the experiences of those customers.
We love that EA is progressive in its corporate policies regarding LGBT employees and characters. We’re glad that EA tried to make its bobbled SimCity launch right by offering free games to customers. But we’re still waiting to see if EA cares to actually be a leader in the gaming community, rather than just the company most willing to try new things at the expense of the people who have been loyal to it the longest. Moore likes to say that the tallest tree catches the most wind — but it’s no coincidence the wind blows so fiercely in EA’s direction.