Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Enough about EA you bandwagon morons

at 12:08 PM
Look, I ain't no EA advocate. I'm not here to tell you that they're the greatest game company ever, or that they're even good. I only own a few of their games (Dead SpaceSSX, Shank 2). But they sure as hell aren't the "worst company" of 2012, or whatever award they just won. I'm not honestly sure what someone's personal experience with them could be that they have such a strong opinion. Idiots just need some abstract entity to demonify, and EA happens to be the flavor of the month. These are the same sheeple (ooooh yeah I went there) who would've been burning witches at the stake four hundred years ago. What's funny (or sad I suppose) is how oblivious this paints the consumer world: the masses responsible for voting EA to the top of this poll honestly don't understand the difference between "releasing bad video games" (EA) and "genetically and legally eliminating natural-grown crops" (Monsanto). And these are the same masses responsible for voting for political officials!

First, let's establish that it's virtually impossible for a video game publisher to be the worst company in the world. Unless they're skinning endangered tigers to print their manuals and rebranding the waste products as ground beef, there's not a lot they can do to actively hurt the world. You could argue that one publisher could negatively affect the trends of the game industry (by such practices as EA's DRM push), but you're still failing to identify them as harmful. If the consumers are buying it, the trends fall on their shoulders, because games, as a luxury, can be easily boycotted. You don't need them to live, so stop buying the ones that you think hurt the medium. Moreover, "negatively affect[ing] the trends of the game industry" is quaint in how low it ranks as damage to society. Two years ago, BP blew up the Gulf of Mexico. They destroyed the ecosystem of the largest gulf in the world, killing wildlife by the score, polluting hundreds of thousands of square miles of saltwater and coastline, rendering a gorgeous natural resource uninhabitable. Now weigh that against "SimCity had a really buggy launch". Hrm.
Are these tragedies of the same caliber? You decide!

Okay, this was a Consumerist poll, so maybe "worst company" should be understood as "worst-liked company", not "worst-for-the-world". Again, I'm confused how EA could even be nominated. Video games are still a luxury product, that hasn't changed since last paragraph. Which means that continuing sales translates pretty easily into positive opinion. If EA was so hated, how could they sell games? Do they trick you every single time? "I had no choice but to buy Madden 13!"? They've been around for decades - these EA haters should be wise to their practices by this point and avoid their games. And hey - maybe the proclaimed anti-EA crowd is avoiding their games, and the sales are coming from those who aren't 'in' on the hate. Kids or oblivious grandparents or something. In that case, what the hell do you, a non-EA gamer, care about their practices? A truly bad company would need to affect not only their own consumers, but the marketplace, or society at large. I'm pretty sure that the single step of not buying EA games should save you from their influence. And, again, even if EA does have some affect on trends, that means their product is selling well enough to be a market-driver, which means your hate should be directed at EA consumers, not the company itself.

But fuck it. Forget all that logic. Let's just talk about games for a second. Let's look at which video games EA actually publishes, because worst overall company implies worst video game company, meaning they surely must put out a lot of bad games. About ten years ago when all the EA hate got going, they really did put out a lot of dreck like Catwoman. So let's look at what they're up to these days. According to MobyGames, here are all new EA-published titles from 2012 (excluding DLC), and their respective Meta-scores. This is critical consensus, not one man's opinion.
FIFA Soccer 13  90 
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning  81 
Madden 13  83 
Mass Effect 3  93 
Medal of Honor: Warfighter  55 
Need for Speed: Most Wanted  85 
Shank 2  77 
SSX  82 
Syndicate  75 
UEFA Euro 2012  69 
Warp  79 

Do you even need me to parse that data? Only two of those scores fall into what Metacritic calls "Mixed or Average Reviews". Seven are "Generally Favorable Reviews", and FIFA and Mass Effect 3 are "Universal Acclaim". The average score for EA in 2012 is 79, or "Generally Favorable"; of the eleven games they released, zero were "bad" and Mass Effect 3 even won the majority of game-of-the-year awards. Clearly the work of the worst company ever! Even if you, like me, think critics are largely bullshit, and games like Mass Effect are trash, you have to admit that EA is catering to their customer pretty well, which is exactly what a business is supposed to do. I mean, think about how many game companies didn't release Mass Effect 3 last year. Now realize that EA did. Then try to explain again how they have a bad 2012 library.

A lot of the EA hate probably stems from the fact that EA is synonymous with sports franchises, and a certain breed of game nerd passionately hates sports. Because someone threw a football at their head in gym class and broke their glasses, I guess. So the best way they can think of to get back at sports is to proselytize hatred of EA, the company that has polluted their precious gaming medium with athletics. I don't get that, but I do know many a gamer who feels personally violated by the very idea of Madden, let alone anyone who would buy it. 
It makes me SO ANGRY that other people like things that I don't!!!
The other practice that draws a lot of ire is DRM. DRM is a type of copy-protection that requires a game to connect to an Internet server to verify that it is a valid copy. It often comes with stipulations, like that the game can only be installed on five different machines (meaning that after five installs, the game disc becomes useless and you have to buy a new one if you get a new computer). All game sales (all software sales really) translate to a license purchase, and DRM is seen as a manufactured limitation on that license, essentially transforming every purchase into a rental. The practice is pretty despicable, and the vague claim that it combats piracy dubious at best. Nonetheless, EA is little more than a scapegoat here. Attempts to limit end-user license rights have been rampant since the days of CD-keys, and the console market is (to this date) free of this scummy tendency. DRM has been around for a while, and it's no secret - when the customer buys a game, he accepts the restrictions it imposes. Blaming EA for DRM is like blaming George W. Bush for war - they are far from innocent in the affair, but eliminating them would do nothing to eliminate the problem.

And, hell, let's not even get into which game companies are worse (cough Capcom cough). It's Capcom. They are the worst video game mega-company (plenty of publishers have NEVER released a good game, but that's a much smaller scale than this conversation). Their good:bad ratio is like 1:10, they nickel-and-dime with DLC and re-releases (Ultimate Mega Super Arcade Street Super Arcade Fighter IV HD Remix), and they squander their most beloved series (Mega Man, Resident Evil). So if we wanted to talk about worst game companies, that's the first place I would look. But while the scope remains on worst overall companies, luxury and entertainment purveyors shouldn't even be in the room. That they do receive so much attention only evidences the bane of vocal minorities and materialistic, self-righteous consumer delusion. EA-haters may not necessarily be more ignorant or oblivious than EA-consumers, but they seem to experience far more cognitive dissonance. I'd take a casual who plays nothing but Battlefield 3 and FIFA 13 more seriously than I would a "hardcore" gamer who bought Mass Effect 3 and Dead Space while spewing profanities at EA from the other side of their mouth.

3 comments:

  1. Honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with the extremely BAD PR they employ, their lack of care in what their vocal fanbase DOES ask for, and blatant disregard of same.

    While I agree, it IS kind of ridiculous on one level that a game company is up for an equally ridiculous 'award' like that, there are some legitimate NON-bandwagon points people are trying to get out there.

    I guess the point is, when a reasonable number of serious game fanbases make requests of a company, i.e.: to avoid the massive DRM restrictions and the 'always online' kick that EA has been trying of late to import into its games (similar approaches to those which have failed by other companies like, oh, Games for Windows Live...)... where is the point between it being a reasonable request by the only people who care enough to comment, and when does it become nothing but 'vocal minorities and materialistic, self-righteous consumers'?

    Also, as a side point, it's not so much about DRM, as about BAD DRM. Most gamers from the mid 90s remember the 'Starforce' DRM scheme on disc copies of games of the time, that literally prevented MORE legitimate users of games than it did piraters, who had the know-how to remove the DRM protection. While not quite on the same scope as that issue, EA's DRM has been reminiscent of that, interfering a lot more with their customers' enjoyment of their games than the piraters whom they claim to be combatting. Add to that poor customer service, no refunds, EXTREMELY bad PR from a company whose top brass' actions show no consideration for the group having the issues, and you have some admittedly overhyped, but still absolutely realistic reasons to complain about EA as a company.

    I honestly think that within a given amount of reason, a lot of the requests the fanbase made of EA during the simcity debacle alone was at least reasonable, although admittedly it's garnered more industry attention than it should have, largely based on lack of other topics with similar 'punch' for news outlets to focus on. As well, most of the arguments against EA were never short term, but were about their long term practices. In short, they go against their hardcore fans' wishes at their own peril.

    In any case, it's largely immaterial, because what was intended by most of that 'vocal minority' is extremely similar to what you're doing here, although this article is much more intelligently put than some of the griping on forums. Getting word of your opinion and views out to other viewers, who can then be influenced by your opinion when espousing their own views on it at a later time. I mean, why else post a blog about something than to explain your stance on something to others, right?

    That said, great writing, I may not always agree with your points, but you generally have something valid and worthy of a good conversation to say.

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    1. I didn't know we had readers. Thanks for the compliment! You're right that what I'm doing here is similar in intention to those vote-bombing EA, but I'm not advertising my opinion as "majority". I'm saying it as one dude. Also I just get fed up with sensationalism. People need to chill the fuck out and look at things rationally - which is what I try to do here!

      EA is not a good game company. You're right that a lot of the complaints we've heard recently are reasonable, level-headed requests, like "don't make SimCity the completely ridiculous heap of garbage you made it". But we're not talking about government policy here - we're talking about a game publisher. The next step you take after your demands are ignored is to stop buying EA games. If you got burned on one game that turned out to have shitty support, yeah, that sucks, but now you've learned your lesson: don't buy from EA. Taking it any further, insisting that they MUST make good games (and/or provide good support), does suggest a sense of entitlement. It suggests (incorrectly) that you're already committed to buying their games, and that you've bought into some level of quality. While I understand that certain gamers do feel THAT invested in certain series (SimCity obviously being one), that's their mistake to make.

      IMO, that's the "point between it being a reasonable request [...] and [...] 'vocal minorities and materialistic, self-righteous consumers'". Make your reasonable request, then walk away. Just walk away. Otherwise you fall into the latter group.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ttKJwvFIgw

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  2. EA's bad PR in the gaming community is also due to stories that come out every few months about how abusive the company is to its employees. Not that their treatment of them is that different from any other game company. But your central point still holds true for this point--if you do not like a company, stop supporting them!

    One could also argue that their overseeing of Kingdoms of Amalur made them deserving of the reward, but I am actually in favor of Rhode Island going bankrupt, so I count that as a definite plus.

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