I could get a lot of applause here from some quarters if I stood here and wrote "Electronic Arts is the worst company that has ever existed and every manager there should be tarred and feathered out of town!".
Yes, hating electronic arts has been in vogue in recent years – actually for a long time – including multiple awards as the worst company in the USA as part of the annual ridicule prize.
But I don't want to go that far. EA, the worst company ever? That is massively too exaggerated, and you don't even have to use weapons manufacturers or medication lobbyists for comparison. Despite all the criticism, EA has also done a lot of things right, published good games, helped indie teams gain attention that they would otherwise never have received and apparently treated them very decently.
Of course, that's only one side of the coin, because nothing comes from nothing and the company has of course worked hard for the pent-up resentment of many fans.
Goodwill as a means to an end
So much is clear: Electronic Arts is not your friend, like any company you want to earn money – that's the only reason why seemingly selfless decisions are made. A good reputation brings good money, and popular figures such as Nintendo or (until recently) CD Projekt Red act no differently.
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Source: PC Games
Electronic Arts has not followed this path for a long time. Sure, players were treated to goodies and games that were interesting for them. Already relatively early on, however, they made a name for themselves as "the publisher who closes studios", often those who had developed popular series and had only recently been bought up by EA.
Westwood Studios, the makers of Command & Conquer? Bought in 1998, the lights went out in 2002. Maxis, the ladies and gentlemen behind SimCity? The curtain fell in 2015. Pandemic, the team behind the first Star Wars battlefront titles? 2009 was over, it was nice with you. And of course Visceral Games, who made a name for themselves with Dead Space and then worked on a Star Wars action adventure until they stopped doing that in 2017.
Studio corpses pave his way
And that was only a selection, you and me also remember Bullfrog Productions, Black Box Games, Dreamworks Interactive or Mythic Entertainment – rest in peace.
I am sure that in many cases the closings were inevitable or at least justified, but often enough they were purely calculating with a view to short-term profit. At the latest Visceral Games then caused absolute incomprehension among players. Simply ditching the teams of beloved games is a pretty lousy move not only for waiting fans, but also and above all for the employees.
And otherwise? EA announced games to be canceled soon afterwards, managed to release only a handful of Star Wars games in eight years of exclusive rights, not all of them great, sidelined promising titles from other manufacturers such as Star Wars 1313, messed up the beloved series like Dungeon Keeper and Command & Conquer into unnecessary cashgrab mobile games, turned out to be one of the biggest culprits when it comes to real money content in full-price games and other microtransactions and, and, and.
So yes: you have already worked hard on the bad reputation.
How to make yourself the bad guy
This strategy, which is designed to maximize profits quickly, cannot last long, because ultimately the most important capital is the paying, satisfied player, and the fact that a title like Star Wars Battlefront 2 was a financial disappointment when measured against expectations speaks volumes.
Well, EA would not have had to gnaw on the hunger cloth if this strategy had simply been continued, FIFA and Co. would have made sure of that, and – again with a view to FIFA and its aggressive paid content – the company is still no model boy. But yes, a change is noticeable.
Source: Respawn Entertainment / EA
Suddenly with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order a single player game comes to the brand, although it was previously said that the fans "would not want something like that". And all that without any microtransactions! The same thing with Star Wars: Squadrons, and big is now mentioned for every title if it doesn't try to riot the players. This is a transparent strategy that should show "we're the good guys now!", But I'm still happy when something changes for the better.
Happy developers are good developers? Nobody could know!
Source: PC games hardware
And now the big insight and the reason why I wrote this column: All of a sudden EA realizes that it is not good to push studios to developments that are not their thing and to force hated game elements out of everywhere.
Who could have guessed that?
Dragon Age 4 can now be created without multiplayer and live service elements, all internal teams are given more decision-making power in their projects: Now studios are free to decide what they want to work on. Not directly said, but I hope it implies: Studios with some extremely long tradition will no longer be closed if a few billion euros in savings have to be made at the end of the financial year.
Whether all of this will be enough to transform Electronic Arts into a popular figure at some point remains to be seen, and also whether this large-scale change in behavior will eventually bring milking cows like FIFA on board and free them from their customer-unfriendly design.
The realization that creativity and quality cannot flourish when absolutely every aspect of development is regulated to death is a valuable one. Likewise, and this is my hope, goes hand in hand with showing greater consideration for the welfare of employees. The fact that at Bioware employees were sometimes tortured to the limit of their nervous resilience, that crunch was standard and that apparent efficiency was paramount, should no longer be accepted.
Learn from the mistakes of others
Now that's it, I say the sentence with which I will finally pick up the verbal headbutt from many readers: I hope that many other manufacturers and studios will follow Electronic Arts as an example, if this new behavior has substance and not in three months is just a nice memory. The Activisions and Blizzards, Ubisofts and how they are not all called in this world would do well to think further than until the next investor meeting. Then you can build something that will endure and at the same time renounce to be seen as the devil who has descended on earth – is not the worst either.
Ultimately, destructive financial thinking simply ruins everything – the joy of the players, the quality of life of the developers, the success and reputation of the manufacturers. And if all of this can be avoided by simply acting morally and humanely, there is no excuse to act differently.
Am I naive with my point of view? Maybe – but sometimes it's just really good to believe that something can get better.
how do you see it? Do you share my point of view? Tell me in the comments!
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Electronic Arts vs. Creativity: In the end, everyone is screwed up (1) (Source: Respawn Entertainment / EA)
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