Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Can Do Better, But Will You?

Yesterday I mentioned the gem of a letter Peter Moore from EA released to the internet titled “We Can Do Better.” First, yes, yes you can and as gamers we do care that you own up to some of your mistakes. Not all, but a couple.

That’s about the only positive thing I’m going to say about Moore’s letter. From there it descends into a rant (or non-rant-rant if EA wants to get technical) coupled with bad references and made-up gibberish. Apparently EA was ranked worse than BP Oil last year according to Moore because some fans were not happy with EA’s SOPA support (Moore claims is not true) and fans were unhappy with ME3’s ending. The Consumerist has an enjoyable response. Point #1 about beating out oil companies immediately falls flat because none of them were nominated last year. At all. Whoops! Fact check fail. In fact, the reasons why EA was on the list had nothing to do with SOPA or Mass Effect 3. Were people upset about those issues? Sure, but those weren’t the reasons behind the nomination. EA’s lack of customer service, continual purchasing of smaller companies to hold the market to their whim, and cornering all sports games (which also set the basic pricing standard for games) make them a company to be feared and disliked.

Moore’s non-rant-rant continues onward, again by admitting that they’re not perfect, but they’re still not the worse company. SimCity isn’t a DRM scheme. Origin has 45 million registered users, making it just as friendly as Steam. People love the micro-transactions!

My response: 1-If it’s not a DRM ploy then why not have an offline version, something that hundreds of thousands of your customers have been requesting since SimCity’s release. (Even better when they fully admit that the game can be played offline, but they chose to not implement the features because it wouldn’t really work.) 

2-How many of those registered users are actually satisfied customers? For so many of us, we’re forced to install and use Origin to play a game. We don’t have a choice. At least with Steam I don’t have to login to my account to play the product that I’ve paid for. But with Origin? Nope. If it’s on my computer I’m forced to register the game, I’m forced to install Origin, I’m forced to use it to play a game that I paid for. By the way, there is still nothing on the box or manuals for EA PC games that states that Origin is required to play. They might want to fix that. Not that they won’t have lawyers out the butt.

3-Micro-transactions are fine and clearly they are the way that games are going, particularly for the free-to-play models. The problem that gamers have with it is that we have recently consistently seen EA intentionally releasing unfinished games that cost $59.99+. A few months later they release a download or two that will complete the game, but you have to pony up an extra $20 for it. That’s the issue. We, the consumers, are paying for unfinished products instead of getting everything out of the box through our initial payment. Imagine dropping $180 for a collector’s edition of Battlefield 4. You play through the game, get to the end, and the game just stops. There is no ending. The story isn’t complete. There is no last level. Nothing is there. Now you sit and wait until EA releases a download, where you pay more money, to finally finish the story. That is cheating consumers and fans. Micro-transactions are fine when they are properly applied. Pay this and you’ll get an in-game boost or side-quest. NOT when it’s needed to finish playing a story.

And then Moore shifts the blame. The reason that they’re getting so many votes this year is that homophobic and people that hate the Madden cover have released mailing lists and petitions online to vote against EA.

Okay. Having worked at GameStop corporate, I have seen a lot of stupid things. I’m not saying that these mailing lists don’t exist, because they probably do. There are a lot of strange people on the internet. But to claim them as the sole driving force for the votes is ridiculous. Out of the millions of people that purchase Madden every year, I’d argue that maybe 100 people have issues with the cover. And the homophobic? Silly. You had many more people boycotting The Old Republic BECAUSE same-sex relationships were excluded.  Trust me EA. You’re not that far up on the food chain for the super-conservative to care about. They are much more concerned about the supreme court right now.

Did anyone else start thinking about that South Park BP (well DP) Oil episode where the CEO keeps releasing a series of “We’re Sorry” advertisements that were anything but sincere, but just enough to shush the public, during Moore’s non-rant letter? Just me? Okay. I wanted to double check.

There is one comment from a user to the letter posting that I wanted to address.

Jesus, so much hate, this is internet after all, where people hide on their avatars to say bad things to others. This is not only about EA, but Square Enix, Capcom, Activision, Apple, ABC, Fox, Justin Bieber...everything that is popular. Say what you want haters but EA still one of the best selling companies of the world, and people love their games because they buy it every year, people don't buy what they really hate. Yes, they make mistakes but anyone is perfect

It is fun to hate on EA. I will not deny this. I find a sick enjoyment on picking on them. But I don’t do it because it’s the “cool thing.” When you have a website like The Consumerist, which is one of the few online sources that actually researches and maintains their morals so as not to have corruption within their ranks, point out the problems, you listen. These aren’t just 5 people in a room talking, but customers from all walks of life that have real concerns about a company.

Everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. The reason that EA is still so “popular’ is because our options are pretty limited. Go into any store and pick up a game. There’s a good chance that EA was involved in it. They have taken over so much of the industry by buying up all of these studios that we can’t touch anything without an EA logo on it. Popularity is relative when you’re the only name in town.

“Winning” the Worse Company in America award should be a sign that something is wrong. Listen to your customers. This should not be about blaming others, picking on the weak, or inflating your ego. You were chosen because people legitimately feel that something is wrong with the company and the products. EA, you should try listening for once. You might be surprised at what your customers have to say.

By the way, I still can’t get The Sims 3 to work. Thank you for a $80 collector’s edition that I can never play. Now will you stop sending me advertisements about the expansion packs?


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