Some companies just can't seem to catch a break. With gamer rage growing by the week as publishers and development studios expand and streamline smaller companies, and struggle to build a sustainable business model for the coming digital age, this bit of news shouldn't surprise anyone. After more than 250,000 votes have been tallied, publisher Electronic Arts has been named 'The Worst Company in America.'
Claiming a title like that certainly isn't easy, and this past week EA had quite an adversary in Bank of America. Since consumers who may have serious bones to pick with Bank of America likely have more desperate or time-consuming issues on their mind than participating in online votes, the naming of Electronic Arts as The Consumerist's winner of the 2012 Golden Poo can't be understated. With a quarter of a million votes cast, EA took the prize with just over 63% viewing the publisher as the most egregious corporation in these United States.
Obviously it isn't hard to see why, with EA placing themselves in hot water over a number of issues of late and the growing level of outcry from gamers who don't get their way. Bringing in a digital distribution system to compete with Steam never fails to lose points with PC gamers, viewing the still-glitchy Origin as an effort to keep a bit more of the profits to themselves. On the plus side, it does give them a chance to offer fantastic pre-order deals - before immediately cancelling them.
Whatever frustration EA has sown with the less-than-perfect brute force implementation of Origin, it can't possibly match the endless backlash reaped by EA's Online Pass. In an effort to stall the sales being siphoned off by the used games market, Electronic Arts made the decision to pass that loss onto the consumer since the retailers are the lifeblood of their industry? It wasn't the kind of move that wins fan support, but they did it anyway. As poor a taste as it still leaves in the mouths of gamers everywhere, it won't be long before every publisher is taking the same path, and many have been predicting the change for years.
Obviously the hardcore video game crowd is right to be disgusted by the executives at EA and their plans to implicitly 'water-down' franchises. After Mass Effect 3 was designed for a broader audience, and the publisher still planning to do the same for Dead Space 3, doing everything in their power to keep niche fans happy at the cost of profitability is not on their list of priorities. However, we would take exception with The Consumerist's interpretation of the vote as a call from the public to "stop treating your loyal customers like crap."
Since the Online Pass has no effect on consumers who purchase their games at retail - presumably with the intention of supporting those development teams they approve of - accusing EA of gouging players to access all of a game's features is a bit misleading. For those consumers without an internet connection the complaint is a fair one, but in that case, online gaming may be the least of your inconveniences. There's no question that the DLC accessories and bonus content have gotten a bit out of hand this past year, and EA is obviously not above giving completionist players all new ways of spending their money in-game.
However, backing from Electronic Arts has helped bring Mirror's Edge, Dead Space, Mass Effect, Battlefield and the Burnout franchises into living rooms and dens across the world. The company clearly isn't investing in properties out of the kindness of their hearts, but among those are some of the most inspired, boundary-pushing and, yes, risky intellectual properties of the past decade. One would think that EA's stance as the only company trying to beat Activision - the former most 'evil' publisher in the world - at their own game with their run of Call of Duty competitors would earn them some community support, but apparently not.
Obviously Electronic Arts has a lot of work to do to get some goodwill on their side in the coming months. Do you agree that EA has earned the title of 'The Worst Company in America,' or do they deserve a bit more credit? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.