EA: The Big, Bad Wolf
I regularly check the newspost-comments and often visit the forums of both Fragland as well as fellow newssites. Since a couple of months I’ve noticed something very strange. Every time a videogame is announced that is being developed or published by Electronic Arts (or EA as they like to call themselves), you get to see a lot of the same comments. Words like “milking”, “sequel”, “again” and “no innovation” keep turning up. It’s like a large part of the game audience suddenly has gotten a dislike of the big friendly giant EA.
Still, you wouldn’t say that when looking at their sales figures. Each time I check the weekly Games Charts (each Tuesday), EA has around 3 titles in the overall Top10. Not bad for an “evil” company, I would say. But then where do the reactions come from ? Obviously not from the mainstream audience, who eagerly keep devouring EA’s titles, but then who ?
I’m betting my money on some younger “hardcore” gamers, who play a lot of games, have tons of spare time, and also like to criticise lots of things in the games industry. Indeed, the fanboy generation.
Older gamers are a lot more tolerant and mature, and don’t have a problem with EA’s many sequels and licensed games and don’t even bother with criticising EA. Negative publicity, after all, is also publicity, they think. I couldn’t agree more.
For sure, I’m not a great fan of the yearly returning EA Sports games either (NHL, FIFA, NBA Live, Madden NFL, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, …) from which we can expect the 2006-editions in October, but it doesn’t bother me. A big company like EA is after all still a capitalist institution which needs to make a profit. Since each year millions of copies of their sports games get sold, it would be commercial suicide for them to skip a version. Also the enormous fanbase anxiously awaits a new edition and gladly pays the requested €60. Both sides are pleased. What right do the critics have to bash EA ?
But EA isn’t just EA Sports. Contradictory to what some may think, EA does bring original concepts to the market. Take Battlefield 1942, Need for Speed: Underground or the more recent Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath for instance. All three games differ very radically from the rest of the games offer and were commercial gambles. It is good that EA wants to throw such games on the market and I grant them their success. EA is by the way the only company that has made games accessible to the big audience and somewhat got rid of the negative image of gaming.
But success isn’t a coincidence, contradictory to popular belief. EA’s strongest point is that they listen to both the mainstream and hardcore audience and that they release those games gamers want to see. Who would have thought that The Sims and The Sims 2 would ever be such a big success ? Nobody, but EA had confidence and their gamble had a huge reward. That for both games a ton of expansions have and will be released isn’t awkward. It’s a matter of demand and offer. If the demand is high, EA will of course continue and if it goes down, they’ll stop. That, my dear readers, is called healthy financial policy: maximising profit, with as little costs as possible (expansion packs are rather cheap to develop)
EA keeps getting bigger and stronger, which gives them the possibility to hire more people. All those that would love to see EA go broke should therefore look a bit further than their nose before making such remarks. The best advise I can give to a true gamelover is as follows: Buy the games you like to play, try out different ones and genres and have respect for the choices others make.