Fellow gamers, we are living in interesting times. Despite sales of games heading up year on year, the traditional AAA/ publisher-developer model is looking increasingly creaky. Making a AAA game is an expensive, risky process and the feedback I’m seeing from the industry is that they’re often not getting the (vast) sales they need to justify the risk. So we end up with games that seem successful to consumers being judged unsuccessful by the publisher because 1m/ 2m/ 3m/ etc. sales just isn’t enough.
This all has very little to do with Electronic Arts being voted worst company in the USA for the second year running on a consumerist.com poll. The likelihood of them actually being the worst company in the USA is pretty low, but it’s clearly something people feel strongly about. Also there’s a sense in which a lot of people have made up their minds to hate EA and will just assign any bad decision made by any developer under the publisher’s umbrella to feed their hatred. For example, it’s really unlikely that EA had much say in the ME3 ending (that was a purely Bioware decision), but it’s all grist to the mill.
I have no interest in defending EA, no doubt they deserve a lot of the flak. Plus you have to assume that gamers will a) be online a lot and thus able to vote in online polls and b) interested in gaming any voting system.
But as a non-US person, the surprising thing to me is that US consumers don’t hate the same sorts of companies that I think would win the poll here: energy companies, banks, railways/ airlines, tax evaders, any other annoying company that is generally a hassle to deal with or sets unduly high prices. The businessinsider post I linked above notes the same thing:
Usually, utilities, cable companies, and airlines come at the bottom of customer satisfaction ratings because the interactions people remember are paying bills, delayed flights, or dealing with outages.
EA’s a company that is supposed to entertain people. The fact that it’s won this poll twice in a row shows how much it needs to alter its priorities.
I just don’t think UK consumers would vote a gaming company top of the hate list. Then again, looking at the reactions to Mrs Thatcher’s death, maybe some organisations or iconic figures have just become acceptable figures of hate. (NB. without getting into the politics of it, I think people who disliked Mrs Thatcher have more grounds than the EA haters.)
Peter Moore (EA COO) touches on this in his statement, and tries to address some of the criticisms, pointing out that for many of them there are many more players who are happy with the state of things than are complaining. (Although I think he should have left SimCity off the list: too soon, Peter, too soon.) This definitely won’t do anything to satisfy the people who hate his company, a bit more humbleness might have gone further. But I’m not sure anything would stop people from hating on EA except being given a different hate target.
Maybe next year.
Silly and meaningless internet poll is silly and meaningless. I’d never heard of it until a few days ago, and I imagine it’s about as far from scientific as one can get. I’m quite certain that a huge majority of Americans would be hard-pressed to even name some of EA’s products, let alone form an opinion of the company’s customer relations track record.
This is not about senseless hate. I am tempted to write my own series of blogposts, analyzing some business practices. I would actually start a blog for it I’ve written a response that was three pages long and did not cover half the subjects I wanted to discuss. All these issues that Peter Moore gave are irrelevant. It is his job to scapegoat, because EA does have a history of being successful with their business practices. The problem is EA’s business model rather than any of these current issues.
Just to give examples:
EA does not really care about creating high quality products. EA has a very strong position in the gaming industry. EA uses this bargaining position to force players into using their service (example: Origin) or forces them to play how EA wants them to (example: SimCity always online).
EA often sells IP’s rather than games. EA does hostile take overs to buy IP’s and employees. These hostile take overs are generally not a success (I am not blaming EA, this could be because it is tough to integrate different management/business cultures). Consumers are loyal to these IP’s.
EA does not provide the highest quality of services. There have been more connection problems with Origin/Sim City or other online games than with ISP’s/cable/electricity companies.
It’s tempting to compare EA with a restaurant that messes up their dishes and that frequently serves cold food. They sometimes provide a very tasty meal. Imagine that this restaurant likes to buy up nearby restaurants…
Consumers are helpless and dissatisfied with the services. Some of these dissatisfactions are founded, others aren’t. They however feel helpless. EA has been successful because of its business practices and have no reason to change internally. They are a major force in the gaming industry. The only thing which consumers can do (besides not buying their games) is to vote EA as worst company to give its shareholders something to think about.
The thing is, why isn’t Activision then 2nd most hated company or even close to EA? They are doing the exact same things, and they milk us even more with their franchises. Hell, people go on about Simcity, did we all forget who’s behind Diablo 3? Hellloooo? Activision have done equally terrible things to their people and their acquisitions.
And we’re complaining about Origin here? What about Battle.NET ? You can’t even buy any digital blizzard product outside of their “store” , and people moan about Origin, seriously?
I think there’s a bunch of hypocrites around this based on how much you like their games at this point, totally ignoring their business practices.
I do agree that this does not mean that EA is the worst company. Consumers are incapable of judging which company is the worst, they simply do not have enough information (companies are not transparent enough for a rational judgment).
The polls are indeed biased because of an target audience that heavily uses the internet. It however is a valid sign that the (a big group of) consumers are dissatisfied with the products (or business practices they encounter) of EA, for their own (often biased) reasons.
I read(http://uk.ign.com/articles/2013/03/26/square-enix-games-sell-strong-but-fail-to-hit-targets) that even with the ‘success’ of the rebooted Tomb Raider, expected sales of that title have not met expectations. Surely it is the companies that develop these AAA titles that are over-zealous with their sales forecasts? Should 3.4m sales mean a failure?
As far as I’m concerned, acts of organised nerd rage because people don’t like always on DRM are the epitome of the phrase “first world problem”, and frankly even within the gaming industry there are companies that treat both customers and their own staff in a far shittier way than EA do – or has everyone managed to forget Zynga somehow?