For the second year in a row, the intelligent and scientific minds of the internet have named Electronic Arts the worst company in America. There isn't any doubting that EA has done some unpopular things: SimCity's launch was a gigantic disappointment; EA closed Pandemic studios; and it introduced online passes for used games. Surely these things mean EA is the worst publisher in gaming, right?
Let’s start looking at some of EA’s common criticisms by first addressing the closure of Pandemic Studios. They became known for their work on games such as Star Wars: Battlefront, Destroy All Humans, and Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction. Ultimately, having joined with BioWare in 2005, they became a part of EA in October of 2007 when Electronic Arts purchased the RPG behemoth. EA would later cut 1,500 employees in November of 2009; this cut included the closing of Pandemic Studios and the laying off of 228 of the company’s employees. 35 employees, however, would be retained by EA to help finish The Saboteur, a somewhat ambitious open-world game released in 2009. Despite its unique visual presentation and exploration of Nazi-occupied Paris, the game didn’t light the world on fire. Combine that with the somewhat disappointing Mercenaries 2, and you have to wonder if EA closed Pandemic due to performance.
Other common criticisms against the publisher include their former practice of picking up other smaller studios, such as Pandemic, purely for the rights to their intellectual properties. Another big sticking point has been the inclusion of online passes with EA’s games (a measure implemented to combat the loss of profits from used-game sales). While, yes, these tactics are a bit scumbag-ish, they’re fairly normal business practices. Remember, publishers want to make money; EA is not the only company in the world who has acquired the smaller guy; they also aren’t the only company that uses online passes.
Another issue with EA is the use of Day One DLC, a sticking point to help them win “Worst Company in America” back in 2012. Yet, EA is not the only publisher to use Day One DLC. With EA, you can at least say that the content isn’t locked away on the disc, unlike a certain other company. While it sucks that we have to pay for a Prothean party member in Mass Effect 3, it was nice that BioWare was able to have it available the second we picked the game up. Would it have been better if EA forced BioWare to wait on releasing finished content to avoid controversy?
While my subtle jabs against Capcom have a point, they also have one flaw: Capcom isn’t an American company. So while I can talk all day about how Capcom may be a worse publisher, they won’t win me any arguments in the “Worst Company in America” debate. So let’s instead turn our attention to the former lighting rod of gamer hate: Activision. Activision is known for Call of Duty, Skylanders, and movie tie-ins. Seriously, that’s it. Just go look at its released 2012 games:
- Men In Black: Alien Crisis
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- Prototype 2
- Angry Birds Trilogy
- Wipeout 3
- Ice Age: Continental Drift – Arctic Games
- Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
- 007 Legends
- Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2013
- Cabela’s Hunting Expeditions
- Transformers Prime
- Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse
- Wreck-It Ralph
- Skylanders Giants
- Call of Duty: Black Ops II
- Diablo III (Blizzard)
- World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (Blizzard)
Okay, so Prototype 2 isn’t exactly a movie game or Call of Duty. It also did respectable with critics and was the top selling game for April 2012. Surely that means—oh wait, Activision states that the game “did not find a broad commercial audience” and laid off members at the game’s developer, Radical Entertainment.
Also, did you forget Activision acquired Blizzard? TeamLiquid.net user D3xter put together an interesting timeline concerning Activision Blizzard. The timeline reminded me of that one time Activision dropped Brütal Legend. Gee, I wonder who ended up publishing that?
Oh yea, Electronic Arts did.
Now that I think about it, it was Electronic Arts who, along with MTV, published the Harmonix developed Rock Band after Activision bought Red Octane.
I’m not trying to say that EA is a perfect company. EA’s former working hours were harsh, the fact that it won’t let its games on Steam stinks (even though the company’s reasoning makes perfect sense), and its handling of the free-to-play mobile market is embarrassing. Yes, I’m looking at you Real Racing 3. However, EA is not the first company to use despised tactics such as putting in micro-transactions for games like Dead Space 3; they’re not the only business to find ways to make profits against the used game market; and they’re not the only publisher to purchase smaller developers.
Is EA gaming’s worst publisher? Hardly. They’re just like all of the other ones: trying to make a profit the best way that they can.
Date: May 13, 2013