Why Electronic Arts Makes Me So Mad


(This is another edition of </RANT>, a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)

Activision is an evil company, we all know that. I used to make a hobby out of seeing just how much I could hate Activision on any given day, pushing myself to new boundaries of pure, unbridled venom. This year, however, Activision has looked positively saintly when seated next to Electronic Arts (which they’re doing in court), a company that was once considered public enemy number one, started to earn good favor, and then deftly reclaimed its position as the arch nemesis of decent human beings everywhere. It’s somewhat amusing that EA has spent so many years trying to beat its rival publishers in various genres, but the only thing it’s “won” during that battle is a far greater level of resentment and animosity from gamers.

There are dozens of reasons to hate EA. Just this year, it has committed crimes both galling and trivial, both offensive and ridiculous. In 2011, it popularized the vile “Online Pass” practice to such a degree that it’ll likely become standard, it put subscription fees in Tetris, it barged into the “freemium” market with $60 Theme Park rides and $100 Need for Speed cars, and it introduced us to Origin, one of the most pointless services in the history of videogames. Those are just a few examples from this year alone. Somehow, even stood next to the Satanic corruption that is Activision, EA has managed to make itself look like the sleaziest publisher on the planet, and that’s an almost impressive feat.

I’ve not been shy about expressing my opinion that EA has gone completely f**king insane lately. In fact, some people have accused me of going on a crusade, but I can’t help it. My fury toward Electronic Arts is deeply entrenched and passionately fiery. I think I know why, too.

Because I used to really, really, really respect Electronic Arts.

I’m not talking about the Trip Hawkins days, either, when Electronic Arts was a name that truly meant electronic art. I’m talking as recently as 2007. Just four years ago, I thought very highly of the company and particularly admired its CEO, John Riccitiello. In Riccitiello, I believed EA had found a very honest leader, a man who was conscious of the reputation his company had earned and was willing to set things right. This was a man that criticized the game industry for being stagnant and lazy, promising instead to promote new IP and revitalize the industry. This was a man who stated, emphatically, that videogame prices were too high at $60, and that we needed to see cheaper games on the horizon. He came across as honest, open, and completely willing to make Electronic Arts a company that gamers could respect. Shame that it was complete f**king bullshit.

The company that wanted freshness turned to rushing out sequels so that Dragon Age 2 was full of assets and environments re-used from that very game. The company that wanted cheaper games set up its own digital distribution service where it could control 100% of the profits, and is still charging $60 a game. The company that admitted it “blew it” by buying up and breaking studios like Bullfrog has continued to buy and break studios. The grounded, humble John Riccitiello is completely at odds with the smug, showboating Electronic Arts that spends its time criticizing rival games rather than promoting its own. In short, everything I loved about EA in 2007 has been warped and mutated into something pestilent just a few short years later.

EA owes me nothing, I know this. Riccitiello didn’t sign a contract explicitly promising that Electronic Arts would never do anything dickish again. I can’t help but feel incredibly disappointed, though. To have a company so prepared to do the right thing, to attempt to fix past mistakes, and then go right back into being the epitome of the “dick corporation” stereotype is saddening, and frustrating. In 2007, EA looked positively angelic next to the exploitative, franchise-churning Activision. In 2011, Activision’s shenanigans are almost banal in comparison to the sheer scumminess of EA’s recent attitudes.

I dislike hating Electronic Arts. I know people who work there, and they’re wonderful, good-hearted folk. I love a significant number of EA’s games, and I think Visceral Studios is one of the finest developers this industry has to offer. I don’t want to be constantly furious at a company that does put out quality work and does have the potential to do good things in this industry. More importantly, I don’t want to be angry at a company I once deeply respected. With a company like Activision, the hatred comes out with not so much bitterness, because I never expected anything better. When it comes to Electronic Arts, I thought more highly of it. John Riccitiello made me believe the company was earnestly trying to be awesome again. Perhaps that was naivety on my part, but I couldn’t help it. A little humility goes a long way, and EA was humble as f**k in 2007.

So that’s why Electronic Arts makes me so mad. Bog-standard hate is one thing, but hate that’s come from love is some of the purest and most potent you can find. The fact I once held the company in high esteem is what makes my distaste for its behavior so volatile. EA makes me mad because it’s EA making me mad.

And that’s just maddening.

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20 Comments on Why Electronic Arts Makes Me So Mad

Jeremy

On December 22, 2011 at 2:10 pm

EA did license some of their titles to GoG though. Hopefully, GoG will accrue enough sales to show EA that you can make a profit off of selling DRM-free games

Tobbii Karlsson

On December 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Great read man, I could not agree more. I was a big EA defender a few years back, this year completely ripped that to shreds. I did not feel as betrayed as with Capcom though, but maybe that’s just me.

Red Menace

On December 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Preaching to the choir. I am having such a moral dilemma about buying SWTOR and giving EA money or not.

Keven

On December 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I could not agree more. I used to love EA for their great games and great services.. but now? They are acting like some though-ass-looking douchbags.

Daniel

On December 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Please tell me that pun at the end was intentional, it made my day.

Gravygamer

On December 22, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Frickin’ EA. I tell you, they are in need of a good ass-whippin’. I figure we can go wait behind their car, and when they come out from Dairy Queen we can jump them, give them the wedgie of their flipping lives, then smash their face into the ice cream cake they just bought.

Hopefully that cake wasn’t meant for us, but I’m willing to take the chance.

TheEggplant

On December 22, 2011 at 4:06 pm

What upsets me more is EA never stopped screwing over PC gamers. From shutting down servers, to dumbing down franchise releases, to cutting off the sports games because modders were doing a better job. When ever this was mentioned though people who game primarily on console simply said “LoL, PC gaming.” Hey thanks for the support now you know how much having things taken away hurts. This is why the widget manufacturers will forever be able to do what they do, because there is no solidarity.
@Jeremy
EA’s GoG releases have been hobbled. Most don’t include the expansion packs,and older ones are having problems just working.

Shikaka

On December 22, 2011 at 4:19 pm

What a load of utterly misguided and emotionally clouded vitriol. Origin is pointless? Why? Because you’re hooked on Steam and don’t want to have to register new accounts on other services any more?

Sure, Valve and Steam are great as long as they’re still considered independent and acting benevolent, but as consumers we shouldn’t have blind faith on that lasting forever.

The digital distribution space NEEDS competition and Origin is a reasonable start to that.

The “vile” online pass initiative is a response to the cannibalistic practices of brick and mortar stores selling second hand games at new prices.

I do agree on criticizing their surge into freemium games, as they’re all built on unethical adiction-preying business model, but that’s about it.

Despite a couple of lacklustre outputs (Dragon Age 2 and Need for Speed: The Run), The fact of the matter is that EA have had a pretty damn stellar line-up of well-polished titles in their stable this year — more substantial than any of their competitors — so they must be doing _something_ right.

Seriously, name another publisher that even comes close to the quantity of well-received games versus failures as EA this year (regardless of what you thought of those games personally)? You can’t.

JD

On December 22, 2011 at 4:26 pm

EA has been the scum for longer than that, starting before 2000 killing BUllfrog, Westwood and others. I remember fondly watching the rolling shapes logo of EA when they were good, now I won’t even buy EA games nevermind things that require that Origin nonsense.

Now they’re the bane of the industry and literally to many studios, milking everything they have while raping every customer possible.

EA is soulless no longer cares about anything but controll=money, just look at how they’re supporting SOPA as a nice way to round off 2011.

PAL-18

On December 22, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Dont forget about Maxis … After they bought them they totally turned the entire franchise into a joke with “The Sims # ___ Pack”.

PAL-18

On December 22, 2011 at 7:24 pm

EA is like a parasite. They swallow up other beings and then infect the crap out of them turning them into a morphed monster that’s barely a shadow of what it was before it was infected.

G.A.R.B.A.G.E.

On December 22, 2011 at 7:37 pm

@ Shikaka, open your eyes, there is plenty of Digital distribution competition for Steam.
Many times these places even sell EA titles cheaper than ORIGINS own web store dose. ORIGIN is a FAIL excuse for digital sales competition.
ORIGIN is more about control of their IP, user data collection, no more, no less.

http://www.deals4downloads.com/
Amazon
Beamdog
Direct2Drive/GameFly
DotEmu
EA Origin
GamersGate
GMG
GOG
Impulse/GameStop
Mac App Store
Steam (1530)
Desura
DLGamer
GameAgent
Gametap
Get Games
Mac Game Store
Matrix Games
Microsoft Marketplace
Microsoft Xbox Live
Sony PSN
Strategy First
Onlive

@ Jim Sterling, GG voicing your discontent, while still advertising for EA with that HUGE back and silver trademarked logo.

OverEZ

On December 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm

My thoughts exactly. EA used to be something special that made great products. Now it is clear they just see their customers as mindless walking wallets with no regard for taste but still their gaze is that of distrust. EA has lost its way and seems to be regressing into immaturity. I would like to think that if Riccitiello were fired things would get better but I have a feeling EA is comfortable in their ish ways and it would take more to get the company to wake up.

Shikaka

On December 22, 2011 at 10:37 pm

@G.A.R.B.A.G.E: Kidding yourself if you think any of them is a reasonable competitor to Steam. They’re either not in the same league or they’re not in the same market.

Most of the people I converse with that hate on Origin are the same people that hated the hell out of Steam in its early days. Hilariously hypocritically most of these people are also perfectly fine with StarCraft 2 and Diablo 3 requiring battle.net.

EA’s problem at the moment doesn’t lie in their general business direction, it’s a series of PR misshaps that they just haven’t made a big enough push to offer repartition for.

Do you think people are losing access to their Origin games because they were banned from the EA forums is an actual concious business decision? Not way in hell. There is no reason that any business-minded person would possible think that’s a good idea and pursue that course intentionally.

It’s clearly just a silly technical oversight born of the monumental task of unifying their login systems and a solution is just taking a long time to run through the bureaucratic chain of command of a massive multinational company.

I’m not a one-eyed EA supporter. I don’t think they’re the best publisher out there and I’m happy to acknowledge that there’s plenty of areas where they are doing things wrong, but nothing in this article hits those marks. It’s just misguided keyboard warrior ventilation and doesn’t get to the heart of the issues.

So there are things you don’t agree with. Look further into them and try to understand why they are as they are.

Icyicy

On December 23, 2011 at 4:18 am

Actually the reason most people hate Origin but don’t mind Battle.net is because EA is notorious for bundling spyware with their games (Origin being spyware as well) and also notorious for shutting down online services in a rush.

The reason every gamer hates EA with a passion is not because of “PR misshaps”. The only “PR misshap” is the fact that EA hasn’t been able to change the overwhelmingly negative opinion everyone has against them using paid articles like they usually do (see the recent paid article against Zynga of all companies that TechCrunch founder discovered).
The reason why everyone has a negative opinion on EA is because they are a truly evil company that is destroying developer after developer, franchise after franchise, while turning the gaming industry into an even worse place day by day.

And no PR can fix that.

Brandon J. Clark

On December 23, 2011 at 7:33 am

@Shikaka – I know it sucks to admit it, but EA’s Origin IS pointless. You either bought into it without checking public opinion and now you’re pissed because people hate it or you work for EA in some respect.

I’m guessing it’s the former. You blindly bought into Origin because you just had to have BF3 and now that people are coming up with good reason to hate it you’re pissed because in your mind it makes you seem less smart about the video game industry.

Relax, if you bought games through Origin you’re like many others. In fact, there are probably MUCH less people who realize how crappy and evil it is and refuse to buy from it.

Wait, that’s going to sound elitist and then you’ll REALLY have a complex!

G.A.R.B.A.G.E.

On December 23, 2011 at 8:04 am

@ Shikaka, Yes I find that that other digital retailers are reasonable competitors to Steam regarding the pricing, sales etc. I’ve bought games from many retailers in that list above. Just not EA games.

Where it becomes unfair advantage with Steam, STEAMWORKS, theres no competition regardless of price, if the game that is bought at say, Amazon, D2D, GamersGate or other, and that game still requires you to use Steam for the DRM. But that scheme is better than ORIGIN imo.

“So there are things you don’t agree with. Look further into them and try to understand why they are as they are.”

I think we already know why.
Bad studio acquisition and management practices over the years?
Bad treatment of employees and overtime lawsuits in the past?
Bad game quality. (and running franchies like MOH in to the ground? imo)
Exclusive EA Sports rights deals?
Breaking Anti-trust laws?
Shady ORIGIN EULA agreements and its piss poor DRM scheme?
Banning people from their paid games? (for as little as posting youtube BF3 game play with cursing, when the game curses itself?)
Sexism and ageism in their advertising?

They are, because EA are a truly company when looking into further.

Or is it’s clearly just silly technical oversights born of the monumental task of unifying their system and a solution is just taking a long, long, long, long, long, time to run through the bureaucratic chain of command of a massive multinational company?

Gericlox

On December 28, 2011 at 7:51 am

ONLY $60 for a game? Try forking out $110 for a new release AAA title like we do in Australia. It sucks big time, I scored BF3 for $70 on sale…

JimboBillyBob Justice

On January 3, 2012 at 8:26 am

@Gerilox
Damn you Aussies really get the $h!t end of the stick.
Delayed release dates
Higher initial cost
Laggy connections to MMO servers in the US or Europe.

PKD

On March 10, 2012 at 8:14 am

@Shikaka

Anything you said: tl;dr