Analysis: If one were to ask the general gaming community which company they despised the most, it wouldn’t take long to learn that none are quite so vilified as Electronic Arts (EA).
In 2012, The Consumerist named EA the worst company in America, awarding them with a golden turd trophy to commemorate the occasion. However, I cannot disagree more with such a result and feel it’s wholly unjust. EA is, without a doubt, the worst gaming company in America, but the worst of all?
Nowhere close, as EA limits its near-endless exploitation to merely an entertainment industry; they don’t evict people from their homes or share electronic information with third-party organizations, or cause ecological disasters, or profit off the misery of others. Still, this award just goes to show just how much EA’s business practices are despised and just how many people have been burned by them.
The list of EA’s anti-consumer practices is a mile long, but I will touch on the most significant examples that would immediately come to a gamer’s mind were one to ask.
• Online Passes: I should preface this by stating that EA actually discontinued this practice a good while ago, but the fact that it was implemented at all still definitely bears mentioning. The main drive behind this was the fact that companies, not just gaming, receive no royalties from the purchase of used items; authors receive no profit from used copies of their books and likewise gaming companies receive no profit from the sales of used games. So EA’s answer to counteract this problem was to disable all online features of a game unless the owner purchased an “online pass”, always included with new copies of a game, but forcing those who buy used games to pay EA a sizable fee just for the ability to enjoy a game’s online features, something no other gaming company has even attempted.
• DRM: EA has also, expectedly, implemented other such absurd practices concerning piracy. Of course, when discussing EA and DRM the elephant in the room is Spore, a highly-anticipated game released in 2008 that marked the beginning of a practice still vilified by games today; DRM. In this particular instance, it was known as SecuROM, a program bundled with every copy of Spore which highly restricted how a customer could install and play the game. Among these hindrances were long security codes that must be verified, a limit on the number of installs, leeching system resources, and ironically hurting the consumer far more than any potential hacker. Oh, and this entire controversy lead to Spore becoming the most-pirated game in history at the time. Pretty much a lose-lose situation.
• Insane Micro-Transactions: This is another thing that every major game publisher indulges in, but EA is particularly guilty because of the sheer shameless indulgence they constantly exploit in this specific category. Micro-transactions are small pieces of extra content for a game which you pay additional money to gather. The issue here is that those pieces of content can still provide a huge disadvantage for others who don’t purchase any of it; new gear, weapons and armor that one could have to gain an edge over the competition is tantalizing enough for many to throw away a few dollars to gain said edge. However, where EA stands above the rest is just how excessive they abuse it. Their games tend to have the most micro-transactions and they even hold back content that might be necessary to continue in a game, forcing a player to give them more money. And they have no scope or limits as to how they do this.
Relatively recently, an EA CEO stated that players should have to pay real money for bullets, that if you are playing a shooter and want the necessary tools to even begin the game, you’d have to pay extra for that too.
Price-gouging has become all-but synonymous with EA because of the examples above and many of those who love games and gaming, regard EA as the absolute bane of the industry.
Worst of all, they don’t listen! They have gotten push back from the gaming community, but continue to push micro-transactions as hard as ever, they find other ways to lock a game behind a paywall in lieu of online passes. They constantly sneak in DRM restrictions which the consumer won’t likely know until they’ve made the purchase.
EA should be viewed as a cautionary tale to those looking into gaming, not to deter, but to help them to understand and make smart decisions with their money.
Vote with your wallets, as it’s the only language they understand.
About the author: Philip Kolodziej is a native Tulsan, a recent graduate of Oral Roberts University and a passionate member of the gaming community.