Video games: Three strikes for EA Games

By Zack Lederman

Perhaps EA Games should take a note from just about everyone in the gaming industry on how to improve their relations with their consumers as well as their company as a whole.

Electronic Arts, the major Videogame publisher and developer, which was recently rated The Consumerist’s Worst Company in America, has become a running joke among gamers in the wake of seemingly innumerable controversies. From the recent release of their ‘Origin’ content delivery service, to the “Mass Effect 3” Launch day downloadable content, it seems that as of late, EA games can do no right.

Though it’s only been relatively recently that gamers have begun to pick a fight on a large scale with EA, the company has been condemned by major industry figures for years. In 2004, the company was subject to a major class-action lawsuit over their unfair treatment of their employees and lack of overtime pay. EA has also been accused of sexism as well as ageism. In 2011, to prepare for the release of “Dead Space 2,” EA promoted the “Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2” advertisements, showing the disgust of mothers specifically chosen because their age and the fact that they did not play videogames, at the game’s content, primarily to promote the game through shock value and humor. Critics, such as Daniel Floyd and James Portnow of the ‘Extra Credits’ web series found the advertisements to be in bad taste, and representative of an outdated stereotype that adults and women do not play videogames, which is duly untrue, considering that 40% of gamers are female, and the average age of a gamer is 34, according to the Atlantic.

EA’s decline in popularity with most gamers, however, seems to begin with the release of EA’s ‘Origin’ content delivery service. Origin is a platform that allows for users to purchase content online and download it straight to their machine of choice, without ever having to leave the house. Intended as a competitor to Valve Co.’s content delivery service ‘Steam’, Origin was released in June of 2011. Since then, it has been subject to heavy criticism, mainly over the perceived lack in customer service, as well as a significant amount of unjust account bans that render users unable to access the content that they’ve purchased, even offline.

Another criticism is on the limited number of computers that one is permitted to download their purchased games onto. EA also experienced significant backlash from gamers after the removal of certain games from rival delivery services like “Steam,” making them Origin-exclusive, “Crysis 2” being the most notable example. EA did, however, deny responsibility for “Crysis 2”’s removal, citing Valve’s “business terms” as responsible for the decision.

Images of chat logs and stories of abhorrent dealings with Origin’s customer service representatives flood websites like Reddit.com every day, where gamers gather and discuss issues like this. Since the release of Battlefield 3 in 2011, these have become increasingly prevalent with the difficulties many gamers experienced in either downloading the game itself, or its DLC.

However, the issue as of late has been EA’s treatment of the recently released ‘Mass Effect 3’, the anticipated ending to the Mass Effect trilogy. Both Bioware, the game’s developer and EA’s daughter company, as well as EA itself were heavily criticized before the game was even released, according to Kotaku, for the inclusion of “Launch Day DLC”, extra downloadable content that was available for purchase the very day that the core game was released. As Kotaku puts it, “…if a piece of content is ready for a game’s release day, why would a publisher charge extra for it?” Bioware and EA have defended the decision, citing the fact that the DLC was created after the game was finished. Mass Effect’s executive producer, Casey Hudson, tweeted, “It takes about three months from “content complete” to bug-fix, certify, manufacture, and ship game discs. In that time we work on DLC.” However, some players have mined through the game’s files and found evidence to suggest that the DLC was actually intended as part of the core game, but instead cut out in order to be purchasable.

Mass Effect’s distinctly vague and wildly unpopular ending also caused a major stirrup, with many fans accusing Bioware and EA of specifically creating such an ending in order to charge gamers for a ‘true’ ending after a few months, a move not unheard of in the industry, Capcom being a primary culprit of this maneuver, with their release of “Asura’s Wrath’s” DLC ‘True Ending” for $6.99. It seems though that these plans have since been abandoned, as in the wake of gamers’ angry response, Bioware and EA have come fourth to offer a free piece of downloadable content this summer that will “offer extended scenes that provide additional context and deeper insight into the conclusion of Commander Shepard’s journey,” according to Bioware’s official website.

One thing is for sure, if EA doesn’t begin to shape up and try to improve its relationship with the community, it’s going to lose the support of its fans for good.

As Reddit user Moleculor put it, “EA sucks. I don’t trust them, they don’t care about me (lack of updates, SOPA, etc.), only my cash, and they’ve already had something like four attempts at getting a download service running, and failed so far. Why would I trust them at all?”

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