Oh how the mighty have fallen.
I can remember a time when our gaming entrainment was brought to us by the letters “E” and “A.” These days, they seem to be moving their offices to the inside of Oscar the Grouch’s garbage can. Or at least, that’s the public perception. There’s definitely something to be said for a company who at one time in their history could do no wrong, yet now find themselves branded with a scarlet letter. While Electronic Arts certainly deserves to lie in the bed they’ve made for themselves, are they really the beast incarnate that they’ve been made out to be?
One legendary game designer doesn’t necessarily think so.
Peter Molyneux is someone many would consider a trusted name in the industry. While he’s known for blazing his own trails via his quirky (yet unique) design style, he also happens to have firsthand experience with EA. Molyneux worked under their oversight after a purchase in the mid-90’s. In a recent interview, he looks back on what it was like once he found himself under new management, and how things changed for the better. “When EA bought Bullfrog, they just wanted to make it nicer. They moved us to a nice office, where we couldn't shoot each other with BB guns in the corridors. We had an HR department because that was a nice proper professional thing to do…When any company is acquired, it's gonna change the company. Sometimes, that change can possibly make the company better. Lots of times it can make it worse.” He states.
However, that was then and this is now. EA deserves to be judged on the merits of what they are today, not what they once were.
While I agree with Molyneux when he says that EA is not the “evil empire” they’re made out to be, yet another “Worst Company in America” nomination came along for a reason. Actually, there are several reasons. First is the mishandling of key franchises. By all accounts, Battlefield 4 was certainly not the best example of how to roll-out and maintain a triple-A title (with glitches and issues still plaguing it to this day). You can also point to Star Wars: The Old Republic as another illustration, which was the albatross that not only garnered them this title last year, but continues to lose them huge sums of money. Actually, that might be putting it too nicely. More accurately, it crashed and burned so hard that the crater can still be seen from space. It would also seem that when the company isn’t dropping the ball on a few of its go-to licenses, it’s nickel and diming gamers to death. Micro-transactions are something that, if done correctly, can be used to enhance game play experiences in interesting ways. Yet EA apparently sees it as just another cash cow (which includes their online pass policies). Finally, the continued support of DRM is something that has alienated fans even further from the mother-ship. With them implementing antipiracy practices that do virtually nothing to stop copyright infringement (and everything to hinder gamers), is it any wonder people can’t wait to pull the lever in a resounding “you suck” vote?
I believe in giving credit where credit is due. I know many of us still have fond memories of that little EA logo plastered on our old game carts and PlayStation discs. In fact, I’m pretty sure that “…it’s in the game” slogan will never leave my psyche. However, I think our relationship with EA is a bit like a bad marriage at this point. You can watch dusty wedding videos and flip through the family album all you want, but reliving old memories of how things used to be won’t change the reality of who the company is today.
I’m sorry Electronic Arts, but I think we’ve decided to file for divorce. We’ll just chalk it up to “irreconcilable gaming differences”. You keep the house, we’ll get the car and let’s call it a day.