(This is another edition of , 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.