Following the SimCity launch debacle and recent ridiculous comments made by EA's Label President, it's beginning to look like we're seeing some kind of inter-company contest amongst EA executives over who can step in it the most. The company is somewhat recently infamous for being voted "The Worst Company In America" in a poll by The Consumerist and, congratulations, they have made the final match-up in that same poll again this year (voting ends tonight). I can certainly understand that executives for the company aren't too pleased about this chance at repeating the "award", but certainly cannot understand why their COO would come out with one of the most obfuscating attempts to create a sympathetic narrative ever devised.
Yet, that's exactly what Peter Moore did on EA's site, in a rambling half-pushback semi-admission on the company's missteps that ultimately concludes that EA is super-freaky-awesome and homophobes are generating The Consumerist's poll results. Seriously, just look at how he begins.
The tallest trees catch the most wind.
That’s an expression I frequently use when asked to defend EA’s place in the gaming industry. And it comes to mind again this week as we get deeper into the brackets of an annual Web poll to name the “Worst Company in America.”
He goes on to equate EA with the Yankees, Lakers, and Manchester United, suggesting that the company only gets so much criticism because they are so awesome and successful. It's a very interesting position to take, given the company's stock has plummeted by roughly 60% in the past 5 years. That number alone shouldn't be taken as a tell-all, of course, given how the financial crisis generally effected most industries this past half a decade. Considering that the company has had a net-income positive result once
in that same time span, on the other hand, with outlook for 2013 being negative
, I'm not sure the positioning of the company as some kind of perennial industry force holds much merit. Still, the complaints in the polls haven't been focused on revenue, so let's let Moore tackle those questions head-on.
Some of these complaints are 100 percent legitimate – like all large companies we are not perfect. But others just don’t hold water:
He then lists of these non-water-holding complaints, beginning with the idea that SimCity's always-online component is DRM (he notes that EA has said repeatedly it isn't, which means it's so, I guess), then that Origin isn't successful (ignoring the massive
security flaw), then he takes on the tons of people who hate playing games for free (wut?), Madden cover athletes (right game, wrong complaint), and then he finishes with my favorite of the list, a massive voting backlash against the company because of its inclusion of homosexual, bisexual, and transgender characters in their games.
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. That last one is particularly telling. If that’s what makes us the worst company, bring it on. Because we're not caving on that.
See, Peter, the thing is that if you're trying to combat the idea that your company is the most horrific of them all, it's probably best not to attempt to falsely co-opt the plight of those actually suffering true prejudice against their nature just to drum up sympathy. As someone fairly in-tune with both gaming news and politics, let me assure Moore and everyone else reading this that any attempt at backlash over gay characters in games like Mass Effect was a complete non-starter. In fact, there seemed to be a much bigger
backlash against the earlier games not
including those characters. It's one of the things I'm most proud of my generation, that the tide is finally turning against bigotry for our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community. Moore's attempt to use their suffering to shield EA from criticism is beyond shameful.
Adding to that shame is the complete dodge-job the post commits on all of the actual criticism
against EA. Reasons for the polling last year cited the day-one DLC use and EA's notorious tendency to gobble up smaller developers and murder them to the despair of their fan base, along with their stranglehold exclusive sports licensing. As Consumerist itself notes
Instead, it looks at EA’s history of buying up smaller, successful developers with the intention of milking — and arguably ruining — the intellectual properties that made these acquired companies so attractive. It also discusses EA’s exclusivity deals on popular sports games, that some say effectively sets the bar for retail prices for the rest of the gaming industry.
Then there’s the issue of microtransactions, in-game purchases that EA has made no secret are at the center of its business model. Many customers believe that EA’s view of microtransactions isn’t to simply charge customers a little bit of money for something that is additional, but not integral, to the core game, but rather to put out broken or deliberately incomplete games with the ultimate goal of selling add-on content that should have been included in the $60 price tag to begin with.
Add to the continuation of those practices the failure and lying about SimCity and it'd be a bigger surprise if EA didn't
find itself amongst the most hated companies again this year. And if there's anything they could do to position a subsequent run in 2014 better than trying to milk the plight of the LGBT community, I can't imagine what that would be.