One of the biggest video game publishers in the world, Electronic Arts (EA) has had a hard time as of late. Responsible for some of the biggest video game franchises around – including Battlefield, The Sims and FIFA – almost every single one of its series has been hit with some sort of controversy over the past 12 months or so.
With Battlefield 4, the game’s highly anticipated multiplayer mode was swamped with game-breaking issues that EA and developer DICE seemed unable to fix. Not only that, but on the back of BF4, a game that many considered to be ‘unfinished’, they announced Battlefield Hardline, which only made matters worse.
Despite the valid criticisms of EA’s business practices and the games that they have been putting out, copies have still flown off the shelves. Even so, for new EA CEO Andrew Wilson the company’s reputation problem is still a pressing issue that needs to be fixed. So, like any CEO worth his salt, he’s outlined a three year plan to fix it.
Speaking at the GamesBeat conference in San Francisco, Wilson joked and told the audience “I still have a job. Which is an accomplishment in itself,” suggesting that he has at least been paying attention to the issues that have plagued EA during his first year at the helm. Wilson also explained that he’d like to fix this by putting gamers first.
“The first is to re-establish a player-first culture in the company. The focus is on the player and the people enjoying the entertainment you produce. That is the most important thing and I want to get back to that.”
Although he said that it would take several years to do this, Wilson didn’t offer any other details on what a ‘player-first culture’ would be. However, as EA were once labeled the ‘worst company in America’ by Consumerist for two years on the trot, anything that makes EA better for players would likely be seen as a win in many gamers’ eyes.
Wilson also explained that EA would be transitioning as they aim to embrace digital retail more and be more original when creating games, asking themselves “What are we doing that is new?”. They’ve certainly embraced digital recently in terms of their EA Access subscription model, but the sudden decision to embrace originality might come as a surprise considering that EA’s success has largely hinged on annual franchises like FIFA, NHL and Madden and other long running series like The Sims.
Furthermore, Wilson said that polishing a game will help them get higher review scores and (presumably) make games that players like better. “Polish is the absence of things that might detract from a good experience,” he says. In terms of player satisfaction he even emphasized that EA games should offer better value to players too.
“When they give you $20 for something, they expect something that is worth more than $20 in return. You always have to get to the point where they feel like what they get in return is greater than what they put in.”
Unfortunately, despite Wilson saying things that hit the right notes and tick the right boxes, everything that we’ve seen from EA up until this point has been the direct opposite of Wilson’s player friendly plan. For example, Dragon Age: Inquisition was delayed under the premise that it would be a more polished experience, but talk of microtransactions has some fans wary. The Sims 4 also caught flack (and poor user review scores) for dropping well-liked features, and NHL 15 missed the mark by launching without several core game modes.
Although Wilson seems to want to usher in a newer, better and much-improved EA, these actions seem to harken back to EA’s days as gaming’s money hungry bad guy. He’s got three years to prove us wrong though so he – and EA – can expect watchful eyes on them in the meantime.