EA were voted the worst company in America by the public two years in a row. Now in an interview with MCV, Patrick Soderlund now says the company just wants to be loved. "I don’t believe for a second that we are the worst company in America, but I do believe when something like that happens, you have to sit down and ask yourselves 'Why are people saying these things?'"
Why? Why oh why oh why oh why.
Soderlund went on to advertise EA's next-generation games (the reason he was talking), and promise that the company could do better. First, "We don’t want to be bad, we have no desire to be voted the worst company in America. On the contrary we want to be voted the best." And then, "My goal is to be seen as the best in the business. I want people to recognise us for the games we make rather than anything else. Whether that is the Worst Company in America or whatever people don’t like. We need to be remembered and respected for the games we make."
First, let me say that I agree that Electronic Arts are clearly not the worst company in America. They do not, as far as I know, manufacture their games in sweatshops, or hold canned food drives for their poorly paid employees while turning over billions of dollars in profits. They make games. They often make great games. I have written many positive things about EA.
Peter Moore also partly got it right when he said that some people were arguably voting for disagreeable reasons, like protesting the appearance of LGBT characters in EA (read: BioWare) games. There's a lot of undeserving scorn heaped on EA.
All of that out of the way, there's also a lot of legitimate reasons to dislike the company, stretching as far back as the destruction of companies like Origin and Bullfrog and as recently as SimCity's always online requirement.
So let's try this. Why do you dislike EA? Put it in the comments, and I'll update this post later with expanded thoughts on the most common reasons. Let's talk it out, friends, and start the healing process.
Update: 353 comments is probably enough, so let's draw a line there. Thank you to all who commented, both for taking the time and for expressing yourselves both civilly and eloquently.
There were probably about a dozen complaints that came up again and again. I've read everything and pulled out what I think is a representative sample, and I've grouped similar complaints together as best I can. The two things to note are:
i) Most people didn't have just a single reason for disliking EA to express. Most had five, six or seven reasons to hand in response to the question.
ii) I don't agree with all of the complaints that came up. This list shouldn't be thought of as necessarily being true, but as a summary of where EA's reputation comes from, rightly or wrongly.
Anyway, thanks again to all who commented. Maybe we should do Ubisoft and Activision sometime, eh?
They bought and in some way diminished a number of beloved game studios.
I think this came up more than anything else, and far more than I was expecting. It seems that no one has forgiven EA for what they did with Origin, Bullfrog, Westwood and more.
"I got into gaming because of the C&C series, so the way EA treated the IP after taking over Westwood upsets me deeply. And I’m fully aware that they’ve done similar to other beloved franchises."
"I am 29 years old. Growing up, I loved videogaming, during the severely restricted hours that I was allowed to play. I adored it, revered my games. With some games in particular, the experience was almost holy. Wing Commander. Dungeon Keeper. Theme Park. Command and Conquer.
EA is becoming the Wal-Mart of gaming (I’m Irish, so I’ve never been to a Wal-Mart. Anything I know about their business ethics is from reading and research). They bought Bullfrog, Origin, and Westwood, regurgitated some horribly pale imitations of their most loved games, and then buried them, killing all three companies with little hesitation after transforming their games into mangled parodies of what they were."
From Evil Pancakes:
"First of all, EA always manage to buy great developers and run them into the ground. Origin, Bullfrog, Westwood, Pandemic.
Then there are the studios they bought that are still around but are a shadow of their former selves: DICE (remember when they made stuff other than just battlefield?), Bioware (last proper RPG they made was DA:O, while technically an EA game, it was mostly developed prior to their acquisition by EA.) Criterion (Burnout 3 and revenge were damn near perfect, now they just make above average NfS games, I want Burnout back dammit!).
Granted, none of the games developed by these studios are particularly bad, but they lost that something which made them special in the first place, making their games rather bland. Not to mention the great franchises EA bought and ruined."
They put profits above all else to the detriment of games and customers.
As many of you pointed out, all companies - especially those with shareholders - will pursue profits. But almost everyone brought up DLC, yearly franchises, Origin pricing, a focus on multiplayer and on microtransactions, as examples of how EA's sole motivation is all too obvious.
"They destroyed many good companies, they sit on IPs either doing nothing with them, or doing horrible things with them (Hello, mobile Dungeon Keeper!). They nickel and dime their customers, and their methods of doing that have been getting more and more nefarious over the years. "
"Their bloodlust for PROFIT over quality. (Microtransactions is a great example). Many a studio have proven that a quality game will create the profits. Simcity is a great example. Released amazingly broken game. Lack of features, and clearly a lot left to desire... Another is Plants vs Zombies. V1. Highest selling mobile game ever. v2 So many Microtransactions its a joke!"
They don't take enough creative risks.
People respect EA for the initiative they took in 2007 in creating games like Mirror's Edge, Dead Space and Skate. They want the company to endeavour to provide more new experiences..
"Madden is a perfect example of their unwillingness to do new things. After they got the exclusive NFL license after meeting competition from 2K5, they proceeded to do nothing of value. In fact, it took them several years just to “add” (aka copy) features from 2K5. Why? Because no one was going to go buy a different football game."
"They don’t make games anymore, they only make DLC.
Yeah, pretty bold statement? No it isn’t. It is absolutely true. Everything they release now from FIFA to Battlefield is essentially an addon from the last game they made. And the thing that makes that worse is they don’t really progress anything because for every major feature they add, something from the last version gets removed. Therefore never allowing them to make a perfect game. Because if you make a perfect game, then how are you going to sell the next game and get the shareholders their money?"
From Evil Pancakes:
"I remember back in 2007-2008 when they announced games like Dead Space, Mirror’s Edge and Skate that I thought they may finally be getting back to producing something interesting again. But then a few years later they fall back into the usual pattern of regurgitating the same old things again and again."
They treat their employees poorly.
I expected this to come up a lot more, given the EA_Spouse controversy from a while back. I wonder if there's a sense that this problem is industry-wide, rather than EA-specific.
From Ninja Dodo:
"A good reason to hate them is the EA spouse thing (treatment of employees), while it’s not clear to what extent they’ve really improved in that area, they are very much NOT alone in this behaviour, so any hate should go equally to many (most) other publishers and studios."
They fail to admit mistakes.
"I don’t hate EA, but there’s one particular thing that I hate about them and many other big companies – bullshit a.k.a. sugar-coating of unpopular decisions in hope that their customers are dumb sheep.
The latest example – the Sim-City fiasco. To anyone with half a brain it was obvious that the always-online requirement was there for one purpose only – to fight piracy. I think that big companies should not be afraid to defend their reasoning for doing such things, instead of lying and being caught afterwards.
Find the guts, EA."
In some cases, PC is not their top priority.
This came up less than I was expecting, and I think less than it would have done five years ago. I imagine that services like Origin and games like SimCity mean that gamers feel that they're getting attention, even if it's not the kind they'd prefer:
"Though so far no one has mentioned that for some reason they seem to think it’s okay to release completely different versions of FIFA on consoles to the PC. I don’t think anyone believes the BS about not being able to use the latest engine for the PC version as the userbase don’t have PCs powerful enough to run it."