EA’s “Worst Company” Award is Wrong

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A Consumerist poll recently ranked Electronic Arts as the “Worst Company in America,” beating out Bank of America in the final round. Looking past the obvious absurdity of giving a company whose fingerprints have been on every major Wall Street scandal a silver medal behind the guys who ripped you off with “Madden,” I think EA is being pinned to the wall unfairly here.

Look I don’t love Electronic Arts, but we’re being unreasonable, people. Let me tell you why I think they are not only not the worst company in America, but not even the worst video game company in America.

 

1. Mass Effect 3 is Not Their Fault. One of the accusations leveled against them is that they “have a habit of buying beloved gaming companies and either summarily executing them, or corrupting them to the point where they’re almost unrecognizable,” according to Forbes Magazine. The author doesn’t name what companies he’s talking about, but elephant in the room, let’s assume he means Bioware, and thus “Mass Effect 3″ and its dreaded ending. Even if he doesn’t, you’re all thinking it.

There is no proof that ME3′s ending is in any way EA’s fault. They didn’t swoop in with a bag of money and corrupt the franchise in the third act, in fact quite the opposite: they have owned Bioware since 2007, when the original “Mass Effect” came out. And they were there from the beginning for “Mass Effect 2,” which was by most accounts a better and more polished game.

ME3′s ending is a cop out, and we all know it, but it’s a failure on a creative level, and by most accounts its origin is the creative team at Bioware. Handing EA the smoking gun is speculative at best, and lazy groupthink at worst.

2. They Have Produced A Lot of Quality. Let’s go back to that “buying companies and ruining beloved games” thing. I would like to submit several arguments to the contrary:

-”SSX,” which was recently rebooted with enormous success under EA’s watchful eye;

-”Need for Speed,” which EA brilliantly handed to Criterion for the “Hot Pursuit” reboot, while also producing the superbly made if slightly superfluous “Shift” series (let’s ignore “The Run”);

-”Dead Space,” a brand-new IP that was brought to life by EA and produced two very outstanding games;

-”FIFA,” which by all accounts just achieved its masterpiece with “FIFA 12;”

-”Skate,” a consistently well-made skateboarding franchise that worked hard and tried new things while Activision flushed “Tony Hawk” down the toilet;

-”Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning,” a very well-received MMO adaptation of the classic “Warhammer” franchise, one of the most consistently neglected or manhandled IPs in gaming;

-”Burnout: Paradise,” a franchise EA adopted from Acclaim and not only didn’t ruin, but exhaustively supported with wave upon wave of DLC, much of it free;

-”Battlefield,” which EA brought successfully to the consoles with “Bad Company 2″ and “Battlefield 1943.” And while it’s true that “Battlefield 3″ has some flaws, none of them are EA’s fault; as much as I love those Swedes, their ambition has always gotten the better of them. Besides, BF3 is still an amazing game.

-”Crysis,” which is awesome, and was brought to consoles very successfully without compromising the PC version;

-”Command and Conquer,” to which EA added the “Generals” series and “Red Alert 3,” both of which were unique and well-received;

-”Rock Band,” which, like “Battlefield” and “Skate,” competed directly with an established franchise by offering better, more innovative game design.

These are all quality franchises, either created or inherited by EA with a great deal of artistic integrity and commercial success. Especially in recent history, even vocal opponents of EA like John Carmack have come back with glowing reports of working with them. They’re not perfect, but they’re not the Devil in Hell, either.

3. Madden Is Your Fault. Yes, it is crass how EA pumps out “Madden” every year, but two points in rebuttal: firstly, Activision does that with almost everything they own, whereas EA just does it with a few of their sports brands. Second, why do they do it with the sports games in the first place? Because you buy them. You walk into the store, pull out your wallet, and you buy them. If it’s so terrible, then stop creating demand for it. You’re like a fat guy blaming McDonalds for your heart condition.

4. Accusations of “Lack of Innovation” are Wrong. Again, it may hold somewhat true in the sports franchises, but that is not the entire picture. We’ve already covered “Battlefield 3″ and it’s stunning Frostbite technology, which EA has supported for years, but let’s not forget the hundreds of millions EA sank into “The Old Republic” so Bioware could attempt a new breed of MMO. Did it succeed? Hard to say, but they did try. “Burnout: Paradise” was the first entry in the franchise to try an open-world approach, and that was thanks to EA; “Mass Effect 3″ introduced multiplayer and it actually worked; “Rock Band” pioneered the multi-instrument music game; “Mirror’s Edge” was one of the ballsiest gambles on a new IP in the last decade, the list goes on. They’re not Valve or anything, but saying there’s zero innovation coming from EA is unfair.

5. Overworking Employees Has Been Addressed…Kind Of. Even that blog of (justifiably) angry wives has admitted that since their initial complaints, EA has taken major steps to try and rectify the problem. But let’s be real, this is like catching Bill Belichick spying on the Jets: it’s inexcusable, but it’s likely a comment on the whole industry more than this one company. Believing EA is the only company guilty of this is like pretending Enron fudged their numbers all by themselves.

6. Accusations of Overpriced DLC are Exaggerated. First of all, these guys co-published “The Orange Box,” one of the best values in gaming. They also released “Battlefield 1943″ at an incredibly affordable price, and (as mentioned before) they practically drowned “Burnout: Paradise” in free or moderately priced DLC.

I’ll grant you two claims against EA I can’t refute: their DRM practices have occasionally been obnoxious, and they’ve pulled some stupid stunts in their advertising that leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. But taken in measure with their positive attributes, I can’t see EA adding up to a “Worst” anything. They over-worked their employees, hid some shady DRM on “Spore,” and even shoved Take-Two on the playground and tried to take their milk money. But they also gave us some of the best games of the last decade.

Call it a draw.

_AA

shouldn’t be back at your place, just being patient with your feet up

 

 

 

  • http://avgjoegeek.net/ avgjoegeek

    I think it is fair to give EA worst company of the year award. I’ve known people who have worked directly for them (no I won’t mention names) and I can tell you that the internal politics and work ethics are all about the dollar. Not about innovation or creating the best game. Just creating the game with enough changes to get it to sell.

    Plus I have a personal grudge against EA for ruining Ultima Online and closing Origin many years ago lol.If you look at half the games you mentioned?Mass Effect 3 – just trying to ride the wave from last years Mass Effect 2.Need For Speed – They have been crapping out new games ever 6 months and although the last game featured the Frostbite 2 engine – the “Live Action” scenes ruined the game.Madden – Hasn’t been that great in years as teams keep pulling out of the game and it keeps getting dumbed down.Battlefield 3 – It’s just Battlefield 2 with a shiny new wrapper – and is about 10 years too late. (Though people love playing it)Rock Band – riding on the coat tails of Guitar Hero – but I’ll give em that one. It’s a fun game to play.C&C – When if ever are we going to see a new game from this franchise.The only game I am looking forward to from EA is Sim City. And that is only because they give pretty much free reign to MAXIS.The only other company that I think is starting to deserve this title now is Activision.But the issue is that both of these “Game Companies” have turned into Publishers who only really think of their investors and their stock portfolios. They are monster companies that have moved away from creating great video games and are just trying to create games that sell a ton of units.I am tending to lean more toward independent game companies like Mojang who strive to create excellent games first and worry about the money being made second.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

      Well, if you have insider info about working conditions, I won’t argue with that. It’s never okay to treat your employees poorly. 

      Still, I do need to refute a couple of your points in the second paragraph:

      Need for Speed–”The Run” was whatever, but “Hot Pursuit,” “Shift” and “Shift 2″ were all very well made games that were not simply “crapped out” every six months.

      Battlefield 3–is most certainly not just BF2 with a new wrapper. It’s similar in play-style perhaps, but the thing runs on a brand new engine, and it does feature a ton of new weapons, vehicles, and maps, so I think it deserves credit for that. 

      Rock Band–there is nothing “riding the coat tails” about “Rock Band.” “Guitar Hero” was stagnating, just pumping out re-hashes, and then RB pushed the envelope by adding drums/vocals/bass, which forced GH to scramble to catch up. 

      C and C–they actually have announced a new C and C, it’s being made by Bioware Victory. I think we covered it on this site, actually. 

    • bcorcoran

       Battlefield 3 10 years too late? Uh, that’s when 1942 came out…

  • http://www.blackxino.blogspot.com Xino

    they deserve the prize!

    wtf!? why is it every of EA’s game I play online I ALWAYS get disconnected!?
    what the hell is this!?

    this was reported to BBC Watchdog, people complaining they get disconnected in FIFA 12, worst is that it is not only in fifa 12, it is ALL of EA’s damn games!

    you deserve the noble prize for the best trash garbage company EA Games!

    • bcorcoran

      And what of all the people who don’t get disconnected from their servers? I’ve personally never had an issue connecting to their servers, except when they are actually down (usually maintenance).

      I’m going to clue you in on why you might be getting disconnected… try to keep up:

      EA’s servers are set up to have an aggressive TTL (time to live) on connections. Essentially, this makes it so that if your connection is really slow or lossy, you get disconnected. What it ALSO does, is save them tons of networking overhead. They’re not waiting for 90 seconds or more for connections to time out before dropping them. This leads to an overall better experience (less lag, faster connections, mainly) for those who don’t have poor quality internet connections.

      • http://www.blackxino.blogspot.com Xino

        ok thanks for explaining.
        do you live in the UK?

        tell me why I should keep buying their game if they are not going to spend more time in improving their servers for people who gets disconnected?

        makes no sense if you ask me. When a customer is unhappy, you rectify the problem! You don’t say “4/10 are having problems with connection issue, i’ll leave them like that to manage”

        • bcorcoran

          I don’t live in the UK, but I agree with you to an extent.

          They do have European servers — maybe it is possible that you are not connecting to them? If you go to origin.com and look at your EA profile settings. You might not have a country set which can cause all sorts of issues, like getting matched up with people outside your region.

          Anyway, the overall point here is that EA is not the “Worst company in America” based on any real measuring of data. It’s based on the votes of people on the internet… many of whom are probably angry/ill-informed gamers. I’d suspect that many of the votes came from the same people who got their panties in a bunch over Mass Effect 3′s ending…

  • Eric Robbins

    Here’s my issue: the competition came down to EA and Bank of America.  Say what you will about EA’s practices, but BoA ruined people’s LIVES with the decisions they’ve made in the last few years.  Last I checked, EA never sold a game that resulted in people being kicked from their homes.

  • Erika

    Please, like EA is the only company whose chief concern is making a profit. I’m not saying its a great company by any means, but having been a long time customer of both EA and BoA, EA is not even close to deserving of this “prize.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/mitesh.ghanekar Mitesh Ghanekar

    Basically this is damage control by EA. they have paid this site to put a positive spin on it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

      Dude I wish we were big enough that EA cared what we wrote about them.

      Also, the “Hot Pursuit” remake was an outstanding game. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/mitesh.ghanekar Mitesh Ghanekar

    with fifa, before it became incredibly popular, they used to just use the same engine from other games (NHL), tweak it lightly and brand as a whole new thing.  They started going big with it since fifa 06, when they got exclusive rights to the fifa franchise, cuz lets face it, the license represents an investment they have to recover.

    And as for NFS, the last good NFS game was most wanted. After that all of them have been trash!!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/W7USLGELXDU4DKTHWQ2UGX2OOE DarkAngel

    Dude you’r article fails at every point. It’s clear that you’r EA’s bitch.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

      And your comment fails in basic English. “Your” isn’t spelled with an apostrophe, genius. 

      • Tom Gaarder

        It’s not “Your” either, it’s you’re.

  • Jordan cain

    Don’t even bring up Warhammer. That game was amazing, and I still love it, but EA ruined it like everything. They may start strong, but they bleed things for everything they’re worth and leave them to die. They don’t even have the decency to make Warhammer f2p..