It's Nothing Serious

OP/ED: EA Less Turdy Than Ever

In Seth Nicholas Abel on July 23, 2009 at 2:06 pm
Girls, one of the ways that EA gives back.

Girls, one of the ways that EA gives back.

Some major stuff has happened that has gotten gamers behind EA for the first time since  Westwood was dismembered with the EA chainsaw and thrown into the corporate wood chipper. The list of grievances against EA is long, often petty, and completely unwarranted considering that other major publishers do the same thing. Some how they never got the kind of attention that EA did.

The angriest criticisms against EA started with yearly sports games that seemed like the same games with roster changes, horrible DRM, and their crappy PR team who at one point dismissed a petition from some articulate consumers with the statement “We don’t listen to the vocal minority (read: whiners).”

More words if you click here.

But these days EA has gotten a lot better at PR and maintaining their community; I blame Peter Moore. Here’s a short list of things that EA seems to be doing right these days.

Piracy.

The Sims 3 was leaked nearly a month before it’s release date. And EA, instead of issuing their normal “Pirates are sponsoring state terrorism and cloning babies for food” statement simply told pirates, “eh… you’re missing out on a lot of content .” This was true: a bunch of features only available by registering the game online were unavailable to pirates until the full game came out. Of course it’s still being pirated at the rate of 180,000 copies a day with the extra content. Was EA successful in stopping piracy? No, not really, but they did successfully show that they were willing to approach the problems of piracy using the kind language that speaks to most gamers. In the end piracy won’t end with threats and name calling. Actually it’ll probably never end, but this kind of tact goes a long way with reasonable people.

Original IP.

Once EA was known for its cookie cutter sports game rehashes. NHL 07 was NHL 06 with new rosters the same went for Madden and Tiger Woods Golf.  There was no where to turn. EA effectively have a monopoly on all sport franchise game licensing making any would-be competitor turn to making unlicensed sports games like  “Black College Football Xperience.” Aside from any offense you might take away from the racist overtones in the title, the idea of playing your favorite NFL stars appeals to most sports gamers, and only a very small niche of gamers will ever go out of their way to buy your non-franchised game.

Now EA has been working hard to fix that reputation by taking some risks with games like Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge. You may not like those games, but it’s the first time in years new EA games aren’t WW2 shooters and don’t have a sequel number in the title. Regardless, EA still insists on 60$ yearly roster updates for your favorite sports games.

EA giving back to gaymers (gamers).

Recently EA decided to sit down with representatives from GLAAD and talk shop about how to  address rampant homophobia prevalent in games. This is blatant PR if I’ve ever seen it, but who cares if it is? This move is getting people together to talk about something that is getting quite annoying. For once I’d like to play a game on XBL where I wasn’t assaulted by some 12 year old who discovered he can get the attention his parents don’t give him by shouting ‘faggot’ into the microphone as loudly as he can. Anyone who can shut that kid up deserves a pat on the back and a beer, or in EAs case I’ll buy a copy of one of their games so that whoever shut him up can get paid and buy their own beer.

Saving Brutal Legend.

Now I know a lot of you see this as a really nice thing for EA to do. After all Doublefine’s poor tortured producer suffered so much after Psychonauts, right? I’m sorry, I don’t see it that way at all.  I think there’s more at work here than philanthropy, EAs rather light fall season lineup and a good deal financially probably have a lot more to do with this than it being a PR stunt. Still we love to see when the good guys get a break. Whatever your intentions, thanks EA. Also, Brutal Legend looks great so far!

Battlefield Heroes: Free to play.

“Free-to-play, free-lunch, neither of these things really exist. You’re either being advertised to, or your being encouraged to spend money on virtual items. EA is testing a new content distribution technology, one that is highly successful in Asia. Virtual items are a multi-billion dollar industry around the world, EA isn’t giving you a free game, they’re giving themselves an opportunity to sell you Michael Jackson outfits, or virtual gold plated AK-47s.

EA hasn’t become nicer so much as they have learned that their community isn’t going to tolerate being treated like they’re brainless credit cards with legs drawn to shiny PR schemes like moths to the flame. People who play games tend to be warier than the average summer movie-goer mainly due to the price of games.

I guess the question we’re left with now that EA has cleaned up its act is “Where do I go when I want to be generally angry at the state of videogames?” I suggest Ubisoft, they’re French, and they’ve pretty much ruined everything they’ve touched for the last two years. Those two things are related somehow.

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