Sometimes it looks like controversy is part of Electronic Arts’ DNA, as from time to time the Californian publisher has to face scandals of various genre and nature. Of course, being a huge company, it is much more exposed to stuff like false reports or reports coming from people who ignore other giant’s controversial episodes and remark EA’s. We can’t deny, however, many times Electronic Arts had to admit great mistakes that were done by previous management and strategic errors coming from both the marketing and development side of the society.
The last controversy is about Star Wars Battlefront, and this means things have not shaken up or changed since CEO Andrew Wilson was appointed instead of John Riccitiello a few years ago. You can see the biggest EA controversial happenings in our opinion below.
MASS EFFECT 3 ENDING
Mass Effect 3 is the end of the first Mass Effect trilogy coming from beloved developer BioWare. The ending of the game was supposed to be the direct result of what players lived and chose in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, but many users claimed it wasn’t up to their expectations. One of them went to the Federal Trade Commission reporting that “after reading through the list of promises about the ending of the game they made in their advertising campaign and PR interviews, it was clear that the product we got did not live up to any of those claims”.
And, while this was to understand due to the high level of unsatisfaction, it’s clear that such reports were providing severe damage to the video games author’s freedom to create and produce their vision. A few years after that controversy, our opinion is that EA giving some more time to BioWare would have allowed to make a better ending, and not focusing exclusively on the mass audience (just like it happened with Dead Space 3) would have save the game from being under a lot of aspects a Gears of War rip-off.
In 2014, EA released a Dungeon Keeper remake for mobile devices. The game was not up to people’s expectations, which were pretty high due to the original masterpiece, and was filled with in-app purchases. The most controversial aspect was Electronic Arts’ work not to allow people to express their opinion in several digital app stores, also deleting lowest scores. They defended themselves just by saying the game had an internal tool for people who wanted to provide their feedback, an excuse we don’t think is enough to justify such reports.
Peter Molyneux, original Dungeon Keeper’s creator, said to BBC: “I felt myself turning round saying, ‘What? This is ridiculous. I just want to make a dungeon. I don’t want to schedule it on my alarm clock for six days to come back for a block to be chipped’. I don’t think they got it quite right, the balance between keeping it familiar to the fans that were out there but fresh enough and understandable enough for this much bigger mobile audience.”
It was 2013, two years ago, and yet it seems an entire lifetime has passed since those days. Do you remember the Online Pass? Online Pass was EA’s (and other publishers were later involved in that, Ubisoft among the many) attempts to monetize second-hand copies of their games.
You could sell a game to a friend of yours or complete strangers, but they had to use a code to access online modes in that title; if you had already used that code, included in each new copy of the EA games, the friend or stranger had to buy a new code at one third of the full copy price.
After months of controversy about this illogic DRM policy, Electronic Arts decided to give up and get rid of the Online Pass that was among the things that caused the company to be elected twice as the worst in America (we’ll discuss that later), being the first to do that and giving the good example to similar companies which had assumed online passes as a standard. “Initially launched as an effort to package a full menu of online content and services, many players didn’t respond to the format,” EA’s Reseburg said. “We’ve listened to the feedback and decided to do away with it moving forward.”
2012 And 2013 Worst Company In America
And here we are with the “Worst Company In America” controversy, with EA being provided with that… award even twice, in 2012 and 2013, in a period of time when the company was the talk of the town to many discussed business choices. We already discussed them earlier in this feature, and they were specifically the Mass Effect 3 ending and the Online Pass policy, which created a lot of unsatisfaction with the company on the Internet.
We wanted to take some time to talk about this anyway, simply because the award of “Worst Company In America” was assigned based on votes and ratings coming from the Internet. Most of the people using the Internet those days (today the things are slightly different but not that much) are gamers, too, so it’s obvious the Internet votations are always a result of what gamers think.
The Internet isn’t a good nor proper representation of the entire world, by the way; there are many companies which are worse than Electronic Arts, which basically are responsible for much worse and more evil deeds than Electronic Arts. There are companies which work on and sell weapons to child soldiers, for example, and those have not been taken into account when talking about the “Worst Company In America”. That might sound rhetorical, but it’s the true and that controversy was one of the rare circumstances we as gamers had to defend EA.
STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT
Electronic Arts signed an exclusive agreement with Disney, becoming the sole publisher of Star Wars games, a couple of years ago after LucasArts was dismantled. That agreement involved EA investing a lot of money as part of that deal, which will result in a lot of incomes deriving from launching titles like Star Wars Battlefront, Visceral Games’ single-player SW experience and more.
It’s obvious EA really cares about that deal and doesn’t want people to give a bad impression of its titles on the Internet, but that doesn’t mean they can pay famous people not to provide negative impressions to their fans or manipulating Reddit comments by giving a bribe to moderators.
That’s exactly what is happening now with Battlefront according to the latest reports, and that’s something Electronic Arts has yet to comment. Singer and guitarist Benjamin Burnley has stated on the main social networks that he is not going to talk good about that game although he is being paid to do that, and Reddit moderators caught in removing negative feedback during Alpha and Beta stages or providing false feedback to the users, being paid through Star Wars goodies, have been removed from their roles.
We hope EA can provide an official statement explaining or even denying what’s happened so far, since it’s something we don’t think suits the video games industry at all, or at least it shouldn’t.