EA Deploys The Comcast Defense: 'It Only Sounds Like A Lot Of Complaints Because We Have So Damn Many Customers'

from the these-'launches'-are-hardly-deserving-of-the-word dept

EA continues to prove it is unable to offer up even the slightest bit of contrition for its disastrous game launches. Both SimCity and Battlefield 4 were plagued with problems that prevented many game purchasers from playing their purchased games. Server problems and other related issues locked out many gamers for the first couple of weeks.

When SimCity debuted in a Hindenburg-esque blaze of glory, EA reps scrambled to pin the blame on anything but its awful decision to make it online only. Every complaint was deflected with PR doublespeak and vague allusions to “server-side calculations.” Nearly a year down the road, it “embraced” its SimCity community by handing them a set of stunted modding tools and an offline mode that had been possible (according to one modder who did exactly that) within a week of the game’s release.

But nowhere among the many statements issued during EA’s twin catastrophic release did you find any indication that the company was rethinking its online deployment strategies or even truly hearing what angry players were saying. The tone-deafness continues, as is indicated by the responses given to Rock Paper Shotgun’s Nathan Grayson when he tracked down EA’s chief creative officer at the recent DICE Summit in Las Vegas.

RPS: SimCity and BF4 both had terrible launches. SimCity didn’t work for more than a month, and BF4 still has issues. Surely you’re overhauling how you approach launches internally from now on?

Hilleman: I’m not sure I accept your premise. Battlefield 4 has been an exceedingly successful product on both consoles and PC. From a sales perspective, from a gameplay perspective.

RPS: Sure, BF4 is fundamentally a good game, but you can’t just write off months of glitches and server issues. Some people straight up could not play for the first couple weeks.

Hilleman: I think there was a lot of noise about the game, but some of that is a function of your surface area. The more customers you have, the more noise becomes available. We did things wrong. We know that. We’re gonna fix those things. We’re gonna try to be smart about what customers want in the future.

Unbelievably, EA’s creative officer trots out the same excuse as Comcast’s CEO did recently: a lot of complaints means aproblem of scale, not an indication our company sucks at doing its job. This eerily similar dismissal of complaints as simply being an indicator that a company has lots of customers helps explain why these two companies race neck-and-neck for the title of Worst Company in America year after year.

Fixing problems doesn’t have the same ROI as cranking out “new” titles and pushing DLC. When a company’s customer base is sufficiently large, it can drown out complaints by shoving wads of cash in its ears. At least EA’s front-mouth admitted the company did something wrong, but that comes at the tail end of him describing the uproar as nothing more than the byproduct of “surface area.” And that part followed him attempting to deflect the question entirely by obtusely refusing to “get” what Grayson was inquiring about. “Your product was broken at launch.” “What do you mean? It sold tons and gameplay was solid.”

This part at least clarifies how EA views game “success.” If it sold well, all else is unimportant. Keeping customers locked out of their own purchases because you can’t keep servers running is a problem only EA can solve and as far as it can see, it did nothing wrong. Crashing servers is a “scale” problem, too, but one of no more apparent importance than the ignored complaints.

EA at least had the sense to momentarily halt the DLC assembly line in order to patch Battlefield 4 into usefulness, but other companies are also finding that patching games doesn’t fill the coffers.

Warner Bros Montreal explained its plans for the rather hollow sequel/prequel in a forum post:

“The team is currently working hard on the upcoming story DLC and there currently are no plans for releasing another patch to address the issues that have been reported on the forums.”

“If we do move forward with creating a new patch, it will try to address the progression blocking bugs for players, not the minor glitches that do not prevent one from continuing to play. The issues that are not progression blockers will unfortunately no longer be addressed.”

WB says maybe we’ll fix a bug that prevents people from finishing the game. Maybe. In the meantime, here’s some stuff to buy. That’s the endgame. Buy. And keep buying, no matter how much we ignore you or break your purchases. As long as the “surface area” remains roughly intact, EA will live on to fight another day bungle another launch.

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Companies: ea, electronic arts

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Comments on “EA Deploys The Comcast Defense: 'It Only Sounds Like A Lot Of Complaints Because We Have So Damn Many Customers'”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

A lack of incentives

As long as idiots continue to buy from EA, and other similar companies that treat the customer like crap while taking their money, they don’t really have any reason to change.

When your customers/walking wallets have shown that no matter what abuse you heap on them, they’ll still happily give you their money, it simply doesn’t pay to treat them decently, since they’ll pay you no matter how you treat them, and going the cheap route will always be less intensive on time, money, and effort.

If more people were willing to say ‘You know, they may make good games, but they treat their customers like crap, so I can do without their stuff’, and actually follow through, refusing to buy any of their stuff, no matter how shiny and tempting it may be, then companies like EA would care when their customers complained about their latest idiotic and anti-customer action, but until that happens, the arrogance, and contempt for the consumer will just carry on.

crade (profile) says:

Re: A lack of incentives

They don’t make good games, they make good deals. It doesn’t surprise me that people want to buy sim city or mass effect 3 even though they hate that EA took over the series.. They are hooked or whatever, but what surprises me is that people keep buying their sports games. Seriously why people will pay out the nose for the 10 minutes it takes to change the numbers on the jerseys is beyond me.

Violynne (profile) says:

And watch how all these problems with EA washes away when Titanfall is released next month.

Seriously, you can bash the crap out of EA all you want, but until consumers do the right thing and stop spending money on their crap, nothing will ever change.

Sucks, too, because EA can put out some quality games when bean counters aren’t pushing developers into 120 hr work weeks.

This is why, until EA changes its internal policy, GameStop will always get my money before EA will.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Seriously, you can bash the crap out of EA all you want, but until consumers do the right thing and stop spending money on their crap, nothing will ever change.

And that’s exactly why I’ve changed sides.

Once upon a time, I felt sorry for the gamers who were repeatedly ripped off by EA. I empathized with their plight. I got angry when EA did — well, they did a LOT, so pick whichever incident(s) you want to list.

But then I realized that the gamers were being stupid. REALLY stupid. By consistently buying from EA, they were not only enabling this behavior on EA’s part, they were encouraging it. After all: if EA can act like the biggest douchebags on the planet and profit from it, even though nobody actually NEEDS their products, then why shouldn’t they?

So now I’m on EA’s side. Fuck the gamers. If they’re so incredibly stupid as to keep patronizing EA, then they DESERVE to be royally screwed over. And they probably will be.

Not that I like EA. I don’t. They’re assholes. But at least they’re intelligent assholes, whereas the gamers are abysmally stupid sheep who deserve to repeatedly abused because they’re begging for it. And I’d rather take the side of intelligence that the side of blind stupidity.

Dragon Tamer says:

Re: Re: Re:

I, personally, have not bought an EA game without waiting a minimum of 6 months since the late nineties. Black and White. Was a good game, honestly, and I enjoyed it. It’s just that I had seen it in a discount bin for less than half the original price within 6 months.

That sold me on wait-to-buy. For all videogames.

Violynne (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is an interesting position, but it’s massively flawed.

Years ago, before EA became a bunch of douchebags, they made quality games. Not every game was a hit, of course, but the customer relationship was based on the fact we came first.

Then, one day, they woke up and said “Let’s make subpar products, by assimilating every developer studio we can, and treat customers like they’re stupid (because they are).”

The rest is history.

When I buy a $60 game, I expect it to work. I’m okay with a few bugs (no game is perfect), but when the game completely fails to do what a game is supposed to, it’s no longer about sides.

It’s about being screwed, and since you’re now on the Dark Side, I’m sending Luke and Han after your ass.

vancedecker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Children aren’t even of legal age! They are not trusted legally to make rational choices and thus not held responsible.

Kid could shoot you in the face and still be out in time for his sweet sixteen party.

So how is it that you hold them responsible for knowing what really happens in the real world, and being able to rationally realize that supporting EA, just continues the BS…

btrussell (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“This part at least clarifies how EA views game “success.” If it sold well, all else is unimportant.”

When I was a boy, “The Customer always comes first!” “The Customer is always right!” were very common signs in places of business and offices.

Today, every corporation has a mission statement stating their devotion to the shareholders. In other words, the bottom line today.

Danny says:

The proof in the pudding.

Hilleman: I?m not sure I accept your premise. Battlefield 4 has been an exceedingly successful product on both consoles and PC. From a sales perspective, from a gameplay perspective.
When all else fails, quote the sales. And this is why it is so damaging when games like Battlefield (and Call of Duty) sale mega numbers. This allows the developers/publishers, in the face of nearly any criticism, just say “But we sold a lot of copies. So we must be doing something right.”

And this is also why they (and game retailers) put so much stock in preorders. When preorders are fulfilled on release day it won’t matter how badly the game actually runs because they can quote the sales figures and declare victory.

What incentive does EA have to listen to consumers when despite the performance issues of Battlefield 4 it sales a few million copies in the first week?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The proof in the pudding.

Exactly. Preordering is ruining the metric of how good a game is by looking at sales!

When that is said, same can be said about payed alpha- or betatesting. I think the monetization still needs to be tweaked in the industry. A lot of questionable projects with good marketing is massively outperforming well-developed games. That fact is no different from the 80s and 90s even though the world has changed dramatically since then. When will game-buyers ever learn to avoid the honey-traps?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: The proof in the pudding.

“Preordering is ruining the metric of how good a game is by looking at sales!”

Sales rates have never been a good metric of how good a game (or anything else) is. Only marketers try to push that assertion, because it’s one of the standard marketing methods (“The Bandwagon”).

In reality, mediocrity has the greatest sales rates in any field.

Anonymous Coward says:

I long ago gave up on EA and Ubisoft in particular. They can make whatever games trips their trigger but they will get not one penny from me. I simply do not support companies with the sort of attitude EA has that in the ends means a rip off of the customer. They can make all the DLC to add on their games they want but it won’t be me buying them.

Screw EA.

GunSheep (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I gave up on UBIsoft after the Rainbow 6 debacle back in my PC days. Fast forward to today where EA/Dice has made Battlefield 4 a joke. I went to a console to avoid exactly what I’m running into every time I play Battlefield 4. My last 3 play sessions on the Xbox One consisted of:

Day 1. No sound in the first map you play on. Sometimes this resolves itself and the remaining maps you play on have sound. How is it even possible for something so broken to make it past QC.

Day 2. EA servers down?? All experience, levels, unlocked weapons, etc. are all reset back to zero. I view my Battlelog and it displays my level which rapidly decreases to zero. Don’t dare play.

Day 3. Levels are back. I’m able to get into a server and play. I have sound now too. Crash to home screen. Restart. Starts loading me back into the server I was in. Crash to home screen. Hard reboot of the Xbox One to purge memory. Reload Battlefield and play for about an hour. Crash to home screen.

In each of the cases I finally put in COD:Ghost and played it. At least it works (for varying definitions of works…at least I’m able to play and it doesn’t crash)

That’s it for EA though. Won’t be picking up any more of their games.

Anonymous Coward says:

what are you complaining about ??

how a company runs its business ??

Do you play EA games??? if not why do you care how a company does business?

Oh is it because now you cant pirate and steal the games ? or is there some other reason why you get so upset and people responding to theft ?

If EA only wants to have a web based game they have every right to do what they like (as long as legal), just like TD is only on the web, its because TD chose to be only on the web, if lots of people asked for a printed version of TD would Masnick fold to them ?? or would he say “fuck off” we are only on the net!

But then again, Masnick will fold to readers in regards to CENSORSHIP, and censor people and at the same time fight against other people who CENSOR to stifle free speech..
Peer pressure is strong here on TD, even making Masnick give up his “so called” ideals of free speech.

Jim G. says:

Techdirt has taken the stance that Google is a private company and if somebody doesn?t like their search results they should just go use a different search engine. Why is EA so different? You seem to be holding them to a different standard. Google is judged by the ?invisible hand of the marketplace,? and EA is judged by ?corporate responsibility.?

The thing is, it is FAR easier for someone to play a different game than it is to stop using google.

LCD says:

Re: Re: Re:

It isn’t just the fact that the user can choose Jim was highlighting, they can still do that.

Jim was suggesting that there is a trend in the comments to have different judgements on the same behavior and the people doing it do so without disclosing or even acknowledging their bias.

That and the idea that when it comes to search engines user have fewer choices (couple dozen) and are more a commodity then a video game (thousands). Plus Google tends to be the omnipresent defacto and often powers other searches under the hood. Not to mention that playing a game is more of a luxury then doing an information search (#firstworldproblems)

Lurker Keith says:

Re: game substitution?

I would like to play SimCity again (only played someone else’s copy of the original I’ve forgotten how long ago), but 1) I just can’t, the game is broken; 2) if I did, I’d be encouraging EA to release anther broken game 3) I’d be giving EA money they don’t deserve, because they don’t know what Game Testers are for & 4) I’d be furthering the evil of DRM/ online only stealing my rights to what I’ve paid for.

I am not aware of another proper substitute for SimCity. Ergo, I cannot just play a different game. Either I do what I don’t want to, or I don’t play. & since I won’t pirate it, I won’t play.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Why is EA so different?”

It’s not, and nobody said it was. I don’t understand what you’re complaining about.

The comments about “you can always stop using Google” are in response to people trying to say that NSA spying and Google spying are equivalent in some way. That’s an entirely different context than this.

LCD says:

Insider point of view

The message from the Chief Creative guy(not a PR guy and not a studio head) it is a decent viewpoint. He said there were mistakes made… it is apparent by the actions that EA and DICE are committed to fixing them pushing off DLC to fix the main game… trying to keep users up to date with frequent forum posts… the fact that you still have the Great Game Guarantee for new owners etc. A couple years ago read an article about how Facebook changes get analyzed… a change the position of a button ends up in millions of complaints but turns out to be less then one percent of the total users.

Most of you don’t know of all the complexity for launching a game that supports 500K users on each of multiple platforms playing at the same time. The numbers behind the scene show that the small sample of vocal forum users that you have access to add up to a small set of overall play. It is probably a good idea for to EA post those numbers but sadly they don’t…. Even with 10K Beta users playing for a week that is a drop in the ocean compared the the millions of hours of play from 300K+ ASU (Average Simultaneous Users, all day every day) post launch.

Each launch is like a child and very different… each has dozens of hours of Post Mortums and dozens more for new game teams figuring out how to apply the lessons. For SimCity they thought they could do better then using vetted centralized technology and so created their own with bad results. For BF4 they spread their resources thinner then they wanted on the new consoles that were lacking in their support and late with key milestones for hardware and software. Should have BF4 launched on Gen3 and PC only? maybe… but that would have probably broken contracts that had been written years before with MS and Sony and also angered the community.

I am not trying to say that EA is perfect… but to argue that SimCity was completely unplayable for everybody or even a majority is an exaggeration. Sure it may not have met expectations but that is different then just not working. As for BF4 I have 100 hours of play on PC and I have only have a few crashes… sure more then there should be but it isn’t every game. I see lots of forum users defending they have had few issues as well.

If you all think that EA employees sit around before a launch convincing each other that all is fine and take the time to cut costs and con gamers out of money you are delusional. There is an army of passionate people putting their best into a game. I can assure you that for every issue you see post launch dozens have been fixed before. It isn’t like the Challenger and Group Think scenario, the bug tracking system has hard data in it that can’t be ignored and there are high stake meetings trying to determine the best course of action for most (normally with the lowest risk wins).

As for the fact that those people “work for the man/EA”, yes but they are making decent money doing what they love. Survey after recent survey has shown the old days of underpaid sweatshops are not the current culture. Of course sometimes they work so hard they get a bit sheltered and their vision isn’t really what the market wants(SimCity), sadly that happens all the time. I know lots of developers at Google and Facebook and small dev houses that are passionate about their work and as a result work late.

Like any project there are time frames and budgets and consequences if things are missed or altered. At EA game studios and game teams have a lot of pull on how they do things and are not just corporate slaves like people like to think… if you don’t believe me take a close look at the technology of each launch and the how Studio heads react when things go right and wrong.

And yes EA has stockholders and sometimes decisions are biased to revenue and lower risk but show me a any company that doesn’t bias their decisions toward revenue and lower risk and I will show you a company that isn’t long for the world. Sure there are a few out there that are successful in the long run but there are more people that win the lotto each year.

In full disclosure I have been working for EA for years (I have been reading TD for longer), don’t be fooled as I am not an official source of anything. But I will say that there are a lot of things that this company does right for their gamer and some that are dumb, I admit that… but all companies I have worked for are like that. The overall culture here is to make good games and wow the user and hope they will pay us in reward. There is a big push to be a team and apply our individual talents to make our products better. And it is an awesome perk to be able to talk about games and not get in trouble. It makes me grin like a kid in a candy shop when my boss suggests that we take a long lunch to do some gaming with our teammates.

From a personal point of view it upsets me when the EA PR folk and Execs say stupid things, but I understand the odds are stacked against them… the press wants the headlines so presses with questions that are hard to answer while in awkward situations only to have every word picked apart by groups that are predisposed to hating EA.

This turned into a bit of a rant so thanks for reading… I will try to be back to respond if I am not too busy playing because I get early access to an upcoming title.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Insider point of view

What EA did that was so bad wasn’t their technical difficulties. It was their lying about them, their complete disregard for the legitimate problems people were having, and their clearly expressed disdain for their customers.

In other words, it was EA being EA.

Understand, I’m not talking about the rank-and-file development teams. I’m talking about the corporation.

“If you all think that EA employees sit around before a launch convincing each other that all is fine and take the time to cut costs and con gamers out of money you are delusional.”

I don’t think many people believe what you say they believe. It’s only the management who is out to con gamers out of their money.

“But I will say that there are a lot of things that this company does right for their gamer”

Such as? Seriously, I’m not being snarky. EA’s effect on the gaming world is, as near as I can see, negative.

vancedecker (profile) says:

Re: Insider point of view

You are fucking liar. I know many of the assholes from EA. They are mostly elderly middle manager stooge types.

They have seldom even played a game. The company has an above average ratio of corporate douchebaggery.

Your personal point of view is shit. This is my personal point of view from a number of interactions within the firm itself, primarily Santa Monica HQ.

So please hold back on the sludge, the plumber is in town!

Dragon Tamer says:

Dragon Age

Due to EA bungled launches, I earnestly plan to wait until at least 6 months after launch… possibly longer… to buy Dragon Age: Inquisition.

I would like to call on all others here to cease buying EA games at launch/preorder. Wait until issues are worked out, then buy unless the company has a long history of successful launches.

LCD says:

Re: Dragon Age

That is a fair consumer choice to wait to see how the launch goes before purchasing.

If you don’t want to wait EA has also has the Great Game Guarantee….

I don’t like to sound like a shill but it is something that no other big name in the gaming space is doing….but that doesn’t seem to taken into consideration in comments because it doesn’t make EA look bad.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

Re:Insider point of view

You know, it’s not about the individuals who work at EA and do their jobs.

It’s about the way the corporate suits do their jobs and pass the buck down to you when everything goes wrong, and you get shit-canned for not doing it the way they wanted it to. They don’t suffer from the consequences of their stupid actions.

You do, and you’ll pay the price for it. They keep their jobs. You might not.

Of course you’re going to defend your employer-we don’t really care.

But perhaps you should care what the suits at your company do to defend themselves against their own stupid decisions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sim City steals contact info and scans various unrelated files on peoples PCs and sends the data to EA.

The reason they didn’t want an ‘offline mode’ was because without it, the traffic its throwing at EA would become MUCH more obvious (and people might be curious when their firewall is asking if sim city can have access and UAC/security software is asking if the .exe for sim city is allowed to access files outside its own folder)

vancedecker (profile) says:

Libertarian Stooge Brigades Out In Force!

I see from the comments here that all the regulars are out in full force. Anarcho-Capitalist Market Masturbators and apologist ‘level headed’ response drones.

The only one missing from the festivities is some teabagger finding a way to blame Obamacare. (here is some help, like you tards need it… “EA couldn’t afford game testers because of the Obamacare!!!!”)

…but I digress, of course none of sociopath Ayn Rand Beaters will address the moral quandary. When you have a group of sociopath’s profiting from, mostly, minors who are not in any legal sense considered rational actors.

So why should we consider them rational actors in an economic sense? When they purchase that game from some asshole at EA who hasn’t played a video game since the pac-man machine broke down at the local country club, there will obviously be compromises in quality. These kids are unable to grasp the long term impact that their poor choices have on the industry as a whole.

Their poor choices are dooming all of us to buggy crashing games coded partially in India, all because they saw something shiny on TV, and our government fails to protect it’s own citizens from what amounts to false advertising and digital snake oil.

So put that in your crack pipes and smoke it!

vancedecker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Libertarian Stooge Brigades Out In Force!

I bring it up because this is the only way to prove a point to all the crazed shrugging atlas’ out there.

To them conning and crapping over regular people is natural market functioning.

So I brought up that a large part of this market is underage kids who have little power in order to see if the hypocrites will still blame consumers for shit products produced by shit company.

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