EA Repeats as Worst Company In America and are Trying for Three-in-a-Row

ea-worst-company-in-america-2013In an unprecedented feat of terribleness, Electronic Arts has become the first-ever repeat winner of The Consumerist’s Worst Company in America poll. This year, they once again beat Bank of America to claim the Golden Poo.

While the Worst Company in America is a misnomer for The Consumerist’s poll as these things tend to degenerate into something closer to the most hated company, EA should still be taking heed of the massive victories they’ve been able to score in the poll. The problem is that they’re convinced that the results of the poll are largely unfounded. Sounds like EA wants to three-peat.

After last year’s victory (or is it really a loss), EA shrugged off the result saying that there are many companies that are worse than them. I won’t fault that statement. EA isn’t the worst company in America from a purely objective standpoint. However, they missed any possible lesson to come from the result.

The people voting were trying to tell EA that they were unhappy with their business practices. A major online poll, such as The Consumerist’s, would certainly draw EA’s attention to the issues consumers had with them. Last year, it was the decreasing quality of BioWare products since EA bought the developer and being forced onto the (at the time) poor Origin client.

This time out, BioWare is coming around. Mass Effect 3 got an updated ending, some free multiplayer DLC and a very good final single-player DLC (Citadel DLC). Heck, even Origin has turned into a decent client. It’s not as good as Steam but the number of connection issues I’ve had are steadily going down.

simcity-2013-loading-errorHowever, EA isn’t perfect. This year’s crimes against the gaming community included adding microtransactions to $60 games, a couple of security issues with Origin, turning Real Racing 3 into a free-to-play cash grab and that unbelievably botched SimCity launch that only now has seen all features restored to the game.

The areas that EA has to focus on have been spelled out repeatedly by gamers and the gaming press. Still, EA acts as though their shit doesn’t stink. I believe the term I’m looking for is “hubris.”

EA COO Peter Moore recently published a blog post to the EA website in which he said the five main reason people thought EA is the worst company in America is wrong. Here they are in FJM style.

Many continue to claim the Always-On function in SimCity is a DRM scheme.  It’s not.  People still want to argue about it.  We can’t be any clearer – it’s not. Period.

Moore clearly hasn’t been keeping up with the latest SimCity news. A few weeks ago, people dug through the game’s code and found that the game was designed to shut down if your internet connection dropped for 20 minutes. If you’re disconnected for 20 minutes, that’s all she wrote.

EA has put a spin on this by calling SimCity an MMO lately. However, it’s a single-player game with a forced multiplayer component that nobody asked for that has forced the game to be always online. There is no opting out of multiplayer here. That’s the opposite of most games where mutiplayer is opt-in.

So is always-on SimCity a DRM scheme? Yes, it is. It’s a backwards way around to DRM but considering that you don’t actually need to be online to play the game, it’s effectively DRM.

Some claim there’s no room for Origin as a competitor to Steam.  45 million registered users are proving that wrong.

ea-origin-broken-logoPeople aren’t on Origin voluntarily. I got Origin because I was obligated to in order to install and play Mass Effect 3. I’d imagine that there are many more people who were forced to do the same for Battlefield 3 or Dead Space 3 or SimCity or any other major EA PC game release over the last thirteen months.

And, while I’m at it, how many registered Origin users had their old EA accounts switched over to Origin accounts? I could just login into Origin without creating a new account using the old EA online gaming login I had. (I want to say it was called EA Pogo or something like that.) If you only counted people who voluntarily became Origin users, I’d doubt the number would be 45 million. I’d be shocked if it was 10% of that.

Some people think that free-to-play games and micro-transactions are a pox on gaming.  Tens of millions more are playing and loving those games.

Well that’s a bit dramatic. The problem is how EA is doing free-to-play and micro-transactions. Adding micro-transactions to a $60 game is a pox as Moore puts it. It’s pay to play and pay even more to win.

Free-to-play and micro-transactions are fine if executed properly. When they aren’t done in a pay to play way that some people feel it is with Real Racing 3, they’re alright. Sure, they’re no one’s favourite thing in the world but it’s business and we can live with it.

We’ve seen mailing lists that direct people to vote for EA because they disagree with the choice of the cover athlete on Madden NFL. Yes, really…

In the past year, we have received thousands of emails and postcards protesting against EA for allowing players to create LGBT characters in our games.  This week, we’re seeing posts on conservative web sites urging people to protest our LGBT policy by voting EA the Worst Company in America.

mass-effect-3-screenshot-01-alenko-shepardThe Consumerist claim that anyone has nominated EA citing either of these reasons. Mind you, neither Moore nor The Consumerist provide any evidence to back up their statements. Since Moore said it first, I believe that technically the burden of proof is on him.

Look, I’ve said before that EA’s… Okay, largely BioWare’s progressive attitude toward the inclusion of LGBT characters in games should be lauded. Have read a couple of articles analyzing this letter, I haven’t seen any that cite any websites that have advocating for EA because of their LGBT policies.

As for the Madden cover vote, I don’t really care about it. I doubt any sane or rational person does either. Surely, not enough people care about to sway the vote one way or another.

Over the last three weeks, 900,000 SimCity players took us up on a free game offer for their troubles.

I also took up EA on its offer of a free game on the one-year anniversary of Origin. Does that mean that EA can count on everyone who took up the offer of a free game as a 100% satisfied customer? No! It just means they took EA up on an offer of a free game. It is in no way an endorsement of EA.

Every day, millions of people across globe play and love our games – literally, hundreds of millions more than will vote in this contest.

Therefore, EA doesn’t care about the outcome of this poll. Peter Moore considers this poll to be nothing more than the vocal minority complaining about EA. If EA’s Chief Operating Officer doesn’t truly believe that there are problems with the company, no matter how many time he writes that EA isn’t perfect, they won’t do better. Instead, it’ll be an EA three-peat.

About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on April 11, 2013, in Games, Long Read and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The biggest issue I have, by far, is the always online requirement. I purchase my games, I do not pirate them. I also live in a rural community that doesn’t have consistent internet reliability. To claim it’s not DRM is ludicrous, and I’m not even bother arguing this dead horse of a topic now… I mean, sure, a company has the right to try and protect it’s product and all, but to do it in this way effectively says the company does not care one bit for customers like myself.
    I didn’t buy Diablo 3 for the same reason.
    Disincluding loyal customers, like myself, by going this route (then trying to deny the reasons!) is a very good way of losing a large fan base. I’ll spend my hard earned money elsewhere.

    Like

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