Mar 13

EA: Defining New Levels of Terrible

EA, god of deathAugust 28th, 2008 EA’s stock was $48.81, having held consistently in the $40s for nearly six years, they were about to see what happens when your ass drops out from under you. By December 26th of 2008 EA’s stock bottomed out at $15.31, a drop of over 68%!

Call it justice, call it inevitable, call it too merciful, but unfortunately by this time many fan favorite companies had already fallen to the bloated behemoth known as EA. Even worse still, their rampage and destruction of the gaming world didn’t come to an end, it seems to have only encouraged it…

Just two years prior to the great EA crash, they had managed to swallow up some very popular gaming studios. Mythic, Bioware, and DICE found themselves under EA’s pestilent parasol. In the beginning as the companies finished their work on titles that had been in progress since before the buyout, Gamers got one last taste of their favorite companies. For DICE: Mirrors Edge and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. For Bioware: Mass Effect and Dragon Age: Origins. Mythic had it a little tougher than most, EA had clearly not been accustomed to the cost of MMOs, nor did they seem to have the patience to wait for a return on their investment. Despite all the reassurance that the constant cuts, including four cities, duels, and four classes from the final game wasn’t due to EA, but were instead the choices of the mythic staff. Most gamers could see through the non-sense as the MMO they so desperately waited for fell apart right in front of their eyes.

The bromance of ten thousand gamers cried out in pain and died.In the following years, as the final games of popular studios released with much fanfare and enjoyment, we saw instead what happens when EA has it’s fingers in the pot from day one. Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age 2 had seen a severe cut in the depth and complexity of the game and even worse the beloved characters find themselves with no decent writing, leading players to care little about them or the overall story. But still, there was a hint of the company we had come to love and know underneath the dumbed down corporate swill.  There was still a shred of hope that the bygone days of decent stories and deep gameplay would return. That EA would recognize their failure and let the companies be themselves again.

Only that wasn’t the case. In the latest iterations of games, baring the old seal of companies long since dead, the depth and soul of the games now completely gutted and stuffed instead with cheap writing, shallow controls, and bought reviews. Like a macabre marionette EA jiggled the strings of the old studios in hopes that their old fan base would see their name instead of EA’s. It would be difficult to call yourself a gamer without having knowledge of one of the biggest gaming flops of all time, dubbed the Tortanic. SWTOR was released with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The game EA promised to be one of the best turned out to be one of the worst. Quickly finding itself shoved onto the free to play market where it continues to writhe even today. Though you’ll find if you look at all of EA’s recent releases, a similar situation. Mass Effect 3 was so eviscerated that it prompted gamers to bombard Metacritic with bad reviews. All the choices you had made, choices touted as meaningful and deep through the first two iterations, culminated in three different colored choices of the same ending. Not to mention various other outrages.

Oh, so that's what that smell is... In fact, EA has been so unfriendly and damn near evil towards their customers that they managed to win the illustrious “Worst Company in America” Award. Even going up against a company that has been known to literally foreclose on homes they do not own, EA managed to win out. EA has always had an unfriendly stance towards consumers. Invasive DRM, nickle and diming schemes, and the absorption and desecration of popular video game studios. It’s clear that gamers are sick of the petulant pox that is Electronic Arts.

Or are they?

Blame it on masochism, smart marketing, or just an uninformed casual audience, but with the launch of every new major title we see hundreds of thousands of copies sold. But how much will people put up with before it becomes too much? The recent launch of the reboot of Simcity is a clear example of why EA isn’t worth the money. The invasive DRM and poor design choices made the game unplayable. So much so that amazon actually stopped selling it! Due to poor design choices and downright anti-consumer practices like “Season Passes” and new rehashes of a game every year, more and more gamers are learning to simply stay away from anything to do with EA.

The good news, or bad news depending on how you look at it, is that the recent acquisitions from EA have all been for mobile or social (i.e. Facebook) game companies. This means that EA hasn’t been swallowing up more gaming companies that we now depend on, but at the same time means they’re gaining the experience on how to implement microtransactions, invasive advertisements, and further casualization. Only time will tell if it means even more monetization of their games or, hopefully, it means instead that they’re going to focus more on a pair of platforms that gamers don’t care much about.

And last but not least, how can you have an article on EA without talking about one of the worst programs that has ever had the misfortune to been pushed to the masses. Origin. Origin is the result of a monkeys paw wish made by EA executives. It’s everything that you don’t want your digital distribution service to be. Awful performance coupled with bad design choices and a poor interface make it one of the worst programs I’ve ever installed on my machine. It’s gotten so bad that I’m at the point where I simply won’t purchase a game that’s on Origin. And seeing how they’re only EA games, I don’t feel like I’m missing much. Oh, and say something bad about EA? That’s a ban, hope you weren’t planning on playing single player anytime soon either. I might actually be concerned after writing this article, if I actually bothered to use Origin or play any of their games.

EA is a company that has entirely earned its place as one of the most despised companies by gamers. As we’ve watched studio after studio be swallowed whole by this beast and crapped out the other side. Is there any hope for gamers? When such anti-gamer monstrosities like EA, Ubisoft, and Activision-Blizzard running the show? In fact they may be doing more good for the gaming world than we realize. In an effort to undo the damages that have been wrought indie studios have begun to pick up the slack. Creating games that by all rights are some of the best in years. As we continue on I hope we’ll see gamers who desire a return to the challenging era of games, where you had to learn about a boss, not simply wail on him until he died. To want to explore the world around you, not simply just run down one linear corridor after another. I hope to once again find an era free of jelly smeared screens and edgy meme spewing icons. But for now, we’ll just keep moving on, one step at a time, away from EA.