It seems like a long time ago that EA could be considered one of the leading and most respected companies in the gaming industry. Having been well known for their fantastic sports games, it all seems to have gone a bit wrong for them. After the utter mess of Star Wars Battlefront 2, I think it is fair to say that EA’s reputation with the public leaves something to be desired. So can they bring it back from the brink?
In all honesty, I think EA’s problems go a little further back than recent months. The partner of a former employee said that their conduct towards those employed by them was questionable with huge demands for unpaid overtime and basically holding their days off to ransom unless they met a certain demand. Although EA refused to comment, it contributed to them being named the worst company in America not once, but twice. It took a lawsuit filed against them for them to even consider changing how they treat their employees and some would consider this too little, too late.
It is also worth touching on their appalling marketing campaign for Dante’s Inferno, which saw them recruit actors to stage a fake religious protest at E3 as well as planning to include an option to play as the Taliban in Medal of Honor in a time when something like that was still making serious and often distressing waves across the world.
But one of the biggest reasons why I have fallen out of love with EA is the way they just destroyed the Mass Effect franchise in what should have been its finest hour. Plagued with numerous bugs and glitches that infuriated gamers and an open world universe that was sliced apart due to production deadlines, it is highly unlikely we will ever see another Mass Effect this decade. If you read further into the story behind Andromeda, you realise that the game was finished in 18 months with huge slices cut from the game due to deadlines and creative decisions being overruled.
I really enjoyed Mass Effect Andromeda, so much so I still own a copy, but to know that this game ended as soon as it started infuriates me. If Anthem does not perform well when it is released, we can kiss goodbye to Bioware; another company that EA have run into the ground.
And finally we get to their handling of Star Wars and their appalling business practices. I have no come to accept that loot boxes and microtransactions are now going to be as much a part of gaming as your controller is, but to throw it in everyone’s faces in a game based on a franchise that is loved by all ages was just asking for trouble. I also find that including what is effectively gambling in a series loved by kids is a really shady way to make money. On the surface at least, Star Wars Battlefront 2 is now the game it should have been at release, but there are still issues.
I think it is fair to say that their reputation has almost definitely had it. Hell, most companies would have been wiped off the planet if it had happened to them, but I don’t think it is all gloom and doom for the once beloved gaming company.
By fixing Star Wars Battlefront 2, they have made a step in the right direction. It may have killed off what should have been the best Star Wars game ever, but they seem to have learned their lesson from the backlash they received. By learning lessons, they can avoid another PR meltdown and avoid the same thing happening again. Disney may take away the rights they have to make the games in the future, which would be a huge blow for them, but judging by the reaction the game caused, I can’t see any alternative.
The biggest way that EA can really save their reputation is by changing their business practices altogether. In the past, EA have managed to develop some truly memorable games, proving to the world and the gaming community that when they put their mind to something, they can achieve it. If they really want to use microtransactions, then take a leaf from Blizzard’s book and have cosmetic items only instead of a pay-to-win system. And stop throwing them in our face at the first opportunity. If people want to invest in loot boxes then they will, but forcing us to do so is just a poor way of doing it.
Finally, EA are going to need one hell of a PR team to drag them through the other side of this. If EA carry on the way they are going, then the gaming world is going to start firing back, and I’m not sure EA will survive that. But when it is all said and done, I think too much damage has been done to salvage their good name.