In 2012 and 2013, EA won back to back awards for being the worst corporation in America, period. Worse than the folks responsible for BP oil spill, worse than the Bank Of America and worse still than Satan’s maintenance team, Time Warner Cable. That surprises me, but not because EA is necessarily a good company. EA is one of the poorest excuses for a video game company we have seen over the past decade, and while our priorities of the people who vote in these awards may be somewhat skewed, the voices are telling: EA’s customers do not approve of the purchasing of smaller companies only to close them in record time, the slapdash tech support, the “no-we-swear-you’ll-love-this-feature-you-never-wanted” mindset, and the arrogance of the people that put forward the products of a company that stopped caring years ago.
Of course, this was an idea I have held for several years. It has only been until recently I have seen the error of my ways. Truly these are joyous days that tide themselves upon us, those of the reign of EA as the pioneers of our craft. So when I heard through gaming news websites that their latest venture, the MOBA Dawngate, was being canceled in closed beta, it was a curious sensation. Where once I would have felt vitriol for the company I use to hate, now I feel as though a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. After all, if I had invested time and effort into a new IP and had almost nothing to show for it, I’d want to run damage control on that too. After all, they are a company after all. How else are they going to produce and fund the quality titles that we know and love, like the latest sports title of your choosing, or maybe a refurbishing of something old to better fit into practices we know and love today?
Take a minute to listen to the good word, child.
But Doc, say the haters; all EA do nowadays is produce the same game year after year, earning millions of dollars on regurgitating the game titles over and over again? Once again, I am enlightened. As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect. They have had ten years of FIFA, Madden, NFL, college football and even snowboarding simulation titles under their belts. With every successive iterations come new players, better graphics, enhanced gameplay and most importantly, fans that are looking for the best and most up-to-date experience? Would it be better for us to simply foster support for less iterative game titles? Maybe on our workers, it would be a tad easier, but we simply adore taking the same engine and making another pass at it, working out the kinks and making sure that the money that you invest in the latest iteration is money, once again, well spent.
Now, you may also be wondering about EA’s continual habit of ‘taking over’ smaller and less fortunate companies and riding the success of specific IPs, only to put them out to pasture like Old Yeller. Surely that is in itself a deplorable business practice that strips away the layers of independent game developers and amalgamating them into the monopoly of triple-A game companies? Well, far be it from me to take away the products of those successes by giving them access to funds they could never have dreamed of having. Games like the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront, the Burnout franchise or even my own beloved Need For Speed franchise would never have survived without the cultivation of the benevolent EA. It is a shame that the closing of these studios occurred, but such is progress, right? You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette after all, and cutbacks, while regrettable, make every dollar spent worthwhile for our customers in the long term.
My defense does not stop here, for like a Christian born anew I will sing hosanna forever more in the name of this magnificent developer. We return to the aforementioned canceling of Dawngate, which to many will seem like throwing the baby out with the bathwater somewhat. People with better memory than I will also remember the cancellation of the resurrected Command And Conquer, and perhaps even further back still the renovation of the latest iteration of SimCity. Many will argue that these cancellations came off the back of criticism of the customers; that it wasn’t working as well as it could have, or perhaps some of these additions could have been detrimental to the game as a whole. How dare we neanderthals direct criticism toward the work of a company with such prestige? Surely these legends of their craft know what is best for the video game industry: they have been in this business far longer than we have. What we see as good may actually be killing our games. For us to be confident in the people that make these games is to trust in their business practices enough to see that these changes, however deplorable they may seem, are acts of generosity. They just want what’s best for their consumers.
All of this leads me to question how I could have been so blind. After all, all EA wants is what’s best for us, right? The consumers. You know, the ones that give them money. Us. We give EA the money to do these things.
ITS JUST LIKE THE GYPSY WOMAN SAID
I honestly tried to see the logic in the cancellation of a fully functional game in its closed beta stage. I have attempted to rationalize the continual carnal sins that make up EA’s business practices, to which even the former CEO, John Riccitiello, faced the music and admitted that EA was “boring people to death”, and proclaiming that “for the most part, the industry has been rinse-and-repeat”. At the same time, I have spent sleepless nights wondering why I even consider them within my spectrum of things worth talking about when I can look at my Origin account and see, in dollar value, the amount of money I have given them. EA is to video games what the corporation FIFA is to sports: the level of sheer moneymongering disgusts people, but it always falls on deaf ears when they hold the crystal meth of FIFA 16, Madden 16 or, worse still, a new Mass Effect game, over our heads and demand that we jump. And jump we do – a practice that is more and more troubling when you take into consideration that, despite being the worst at it, EA are far from the only culprits.
Perhaps I am being overly cynical in my sarcasm and facetiousness towards EA. Such is the power of a monopoly, when all is said and done. It has always bothered me that companies with passion and heart can produce low budget gems like Papers, Please, Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons, or anything created by Edward McMillian can invoke raw emotion in a player, and yet all of them pale in comparison to the grey gelatinous behemoth that is EA, swallowing companies under its rolls and occasionally spitting out derivative titles for no other reason other than to suck money out of wallets to keep the cycle of revenue flowing in and keep the coffers of their investors nice and taunt. I fear that I may even by oversimplifying the matter, but it never escapes my mind that, like every triple-A game publisher, they are a business at the end of the day. All the stuff I accuse EA of doing, Activision do as well, Ubisoft are getting very good at, and several other big name companies are not far behind.
34 games, 11 years. Just saying.
The simple notion that I can be so accepting of the cancellation of Dawngate makes me both apoplectic and defeatist at the same time. It all boils down to the same consumers either not getting or not caring about the practices that surround the production of their games. Most see the game in an isolated state, as a product that is purchased like a novel or a bagel, and fewer still consider what is to follow from the production of the game. While we sit in idleness or ignorance of the video game landscape, there will be always be companies like EA that seek to exploit that, offering repetitive and creatively void titles that will never fail in pulling the twenties out of a young consumers wallet. When the only way to fix the problem is to stop the money flow, and the money flow is tied to the problem existing, we have ourselves a situation that, for now, seems nigh impossible to solve.