Tired of this Schmitt Episode I: The Obvious Menace
The beginning of this year has already started out quite poorly for infamous game publisher Electronic Arts (EA) in regards to popularity. While sales have still been fairly admirable for the company’s stockholders, ire from millions of fans and detractors alike have been heard around the US-possibly the globe-thanks to winning The Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America” award. Besides the obvious fact presented that those responsible for the US’ economic disaster have still not learned their lesson and are still avoiding oversights whenever possible, what could’ve possibly possessed contributors of The Consumerist to possibly give EA this award over every other American company? By all intents and purposes, it seems that these contributors voted for them because of their disappointment with Mass Effect 3’s ending. Yes, it was more than likely over a videogame developed by Bioware, not EA themselves, that we have this award given over environmentally-unfriendly companies or corrupt banks. For the sake of ending any chastisement, I can understand how long-time fans can begin to feel like EA has changed a beloved developer into something different; however, there are so many other reasons to express resentment towards this company. Without further ado, here are some reasons why you should hate EA BEFORE ever mentioning Mass Effect 3’s ending.
1.) Hypocritical PR statements
One of the most recent attacks on EA have been in the form of protests and angry letters for allowing the inclusion of homosexual relationships in some of their recently-published games: Mass Effect 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic. While it would make more sense to attack the tawdry writing in general (used these protests for publicity), it’s interesting to find an inconsistency in what they call “artistic freedom.” Another heated PR moment in which they mentioned artistic freedom of expression was with the inclusion of the name “Taliban” as the enemy force in Medal of Honor (2010). After essentially considering the possible sales they’d lose in North America after the outcry, they decided to change the name to ‘Opposing Force’ (or OpFor) for the sake of collecting as much dough on this average game as possible.
Oh, but it gets worse. Do you know WHEN EA decided to make this “heroic” proclamation of keeping these homosexual acts within the game? This speech came out only a day or two after winning that ill-reputed award from The Consumerist. Not only is this display of hypocrisy insulting but also the fact that a company is holding a heated political argument by the throat as a means to garner sympathy from gamers and acquire a chance of better game sales. I honestly see this treatment as nothing short of disgusting; for a publisher to propagate a “friendlier” attitude which is really only made for the advancement in profit margins is terribly appalling.
Make no mistake about it: I’m one of the first who would champion competition in today’s market. The main problem I have with this service-which is conveniently tied in with hypocrisy-is how EA’s own digital games being released on their own service are the same price as a boxed copy. If you’re familiar with pie charts that have discussed why games are sixty dollars today, you’ll always notice the publisher’s selling price for titles stands at around forty-eight dollars. In today’s competitive market, a company that has the power to make digital distribution (DD) take up an even larger amount of the market-share, yet has their myopic vision aimed only at the dollars they can make today deserve a great deal of hate.
Even worse is knowing that EA’s current CEO, John Riccitiello, was among the first to tell other publishers to develop “new revenue models” in order to combat the detrimental sixty dollar price range placed on most games. The irony in this: he mentioned this need for change about five years ago. A model that he himself considered to be broken is still going full steam ahead towards a possible game depression, if not a crash entirely, despite the fact that this company’s profitable sitting puts them in an advantageous position to successfully commercialize DD of all varied-priced games en masse. Whether this is the pompous “we think OUR games are worth full price” attitude or something else entirely is beyond me. What I do know is that Riccitiello’s belief on the broken retail model is true and should have been addressed by EA already, rather than watching them sit on their thumbs pretending it’s not THEIR problem anymore.
3.) Server shutdowns
During the month of March 2012, EA posted its new wave of games to succumb to the “out with the old, in with the new” server deletion model. What’s more interesting in this case is the fact that some of the games losing their entire online support had required online passes in order to enter the multiplayer/DLC portion. The first annoyance I found in this entire debacle would be the point of EA running their own servers in the first place when other third-party studios typically pay the console manufacturers to handle it. For comparisons sake, I’m able to play a third-party launch title like ‘Call of Duty 2’ yet am unable to play certain three year-old titles, such as ‘Godfather II,' anymore (this effect came April 13th).
Despite the fact that ‘Godfather II’ was a bad third-person shooter and it was more than likely not being played by anyone, this action still speaks volumes of how publishers are beginning to believe they’re selling you their game license to rent rather than their product to buy. Certain PR statements like “only one percent of users were playing all of these games anyway” are still irrelevant counterpoints against the unashamed idea of the owners of said intellectual properties believing they can rent the game and-even worse-the online service to you.
As mentioned before, the online pass creates a new wrinkle for this argument. You see...when this was first being circulated throughout every new EA game (starting with Mass Effect 2’s Cerberus Network), the company coyly stated that this action to combat used game sales was meant as a way for second-hand purchasers to pay their “fair share” against the customers who purchased the product in mint condition. They believed this ten dollar token was essentially the purchase of one spot in that game’s online server, even though common logic says the game purchase (second-hand or otherwise) itself would be that. What do they believe now? They think this system of purchasing your spot for the server can only be temporary…without any refund…and without any sort of consent from the community if they see fit, whether it's fifteen years from now or fifteen months. While the fine print we all agreed upon is there to be found in regards to the situation, how slimy does one have to be to hide behind the legality of a deplorable business practice?
While there’s also a handful of other complaints ranging from purchasing Battlefield 3 servers to their mocking Indie Bundle posted on Steam a few days back, these were the three major points I desperately wanted other gamers to see before thinking about what initial complaints should be given to the company, which ME3’s ending seemed to greatly overshadow for a certain timeframe. Mistake me not, I’m a huge fan of certain EA-published games and think they’ve improved in quality compared to the later part of the last console generation; however, there’s still much room for improvement. The term “the customer is always right” is something I’m sure EA is familiar with; now comes the time for our voice to be heard.