Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Five-Point-Exploding-PR Technique

For the second year running, EA has been voted the “Worst Company in America” in a poll by the Consumerist. Is it possible that publishing bad videogames is in fact a worse sin than ruining the economy, murdering sea life or giving millions cancer?

Aside from the sample bias that people participating in online polls are more likely to play a lot of videogames than they are to own equity, swim in the Gulf or watch MTV respectively, EA's problem isn't actually an inability to publish good games. Seeing as they own half the industry's AAA developers at this point, a great many of the games they publish are in fact excellent. No, their problem is largely one of PR.

When SimCity failed to be playable by many at launch due to always-online DRM and dodgy servers, what was their immediate response? We made our game so fun that too many people just couldn't stop playing! (See, it's totally your guys' fault!)

In similar fashion, the response to the consumerist poll includes a beautifully laid out list of reasons why in fact you are stupid (and homophobic) for hating them. So enlighten us EA. Let's go through this sucker point by point:

-Point #1:
"Many continue to claim the Always-On function in SimCity is a DRM scheme. It’s not. People still want to argue about it. We can’t be any clearer – it’s not. Period."

Except that it totally is DRM. If the online features were not merely implemented to combat piracy, there would have been an offline option for the billions of people who do not have internet connections, sort of like every other SimCity game ever. (SimCity is not an MMO and never has been.) I also like how they're dubbing it the “Always-On function” since it conjures images of a product that is always ready to go when you need it rather than the complete opposite of that.

-Point #2:
"Some claim there’s no room for Origin as a competitor to Steam. 45 million registered users are proving that wrong."

You know what? I'm a registered Origin user. You know why? Because a ton of EA games require you to register and be logged into your account in order to play them (thanks to that lovely Always-On function). Do I use Origin for anything else? I suppose I gripe about it in blog posts. Admittedly that's a service Steam hasn't provided me yet.

-Point #3:
"Some people think that free-to-play games and micro-transactions are a pox on gaming. Tens of millions more are playing and loving those games."

Tens of millions of people also love Hollywood movies, but that doesn't prove that they all need to be teal and orange.

-Point #4:
"We’ve seen mailing lists that direct people to vote for EA because they disagree with the choice of the cover athlete on Madden NFL. Yes, really… "

Initially I actually agreed with this point... until I saw the new Madden NFL cover:

Disclaimer: not actually the new Madden NFL cover.

-Point #5:
"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."

Thank you EA for championing equality and inclusiveness by having 99% of your games star straight white male protagonists (along with the rest of the AAA industry, sadly).

I know times are tough financially EA. I understand that it's not easy being the most hated company in America (it's quite impressive actually when you consider the competition), and I sympathize that you feel the need to take extreme measures to combat piracy, but I feel like both might be resolvable were you to show a little more humility, benevolence and good faith and perhaps, just a thought, try to include features that make your games better than the version the pirates are offering rather than worse.

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