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Now I don’t mean to go off on a rant here...


If you get this reference, sweet

...but I have a few things to say about Electronic Arts.

Since I've had a few blogs that have apparently been pretty good according to others, I figure it's time to splash a little "controversy" into the mix and get my flame-repellant suit on!

In case you’ve been living under a rock for a while in the video game world, Electronic Arts has become the go-to punching bag on an almost daily basis and is lampooned constantly by journalists and gamers alike. Now I’m not here to defend EA and claim that they aren’t a crappy company, I’m just pointing out that a lot of the companies around them are just as crappy and that the hate for EA is as overblown as Bill Clinton during his presidency. 

Electronic Arts has seemingly reached the point where they can do no right. If they release a sequel to a game people like and keep a game true to its predecessor, people complain that EA isn’t innovating enough. If they release a sequel and try to expand upon the predecessor, they get ripped on for forcing new things into a game. If the sequel doesn't live up to the, usually quite lofty, expectations of gamers then it becomes EA's fault because they clearly must have rushed the product (even though mediocre sequels litter all forms of entertainment, rushed or not rushed). And if they release a new project, everybody immediately expects this new project to be ruined with numerous sequels or worse yet don’t buy the game.

You can write this off as simply the internet being the internet, but the fact is that EA gets lambasted constantly for things that are actually industry-wide issues. For example there’s the complaint that EA does nothing except pump out sequels. Yes, EA does put out a lot of sequels, but so does everyone else. In fact here are three separate links to the Top 10 highest selling games from 2011. Guess what, every single game is a sequel and only two of them were published by EA. Activision has multiple studios dedicated to pushing out Call of Duty games on a yearly basis, Microsoft started up a new studio just to keep making Halo titles, Valve pushed out two Left 4 Dead titles in less than a 12 month span, Capcom slapped Devil May Cry on a brand new game just to catch your attention, Ubisoft wont give Assassins Creed any sort of breather. Sequelitis is a disease that runs rampant through every single major developer and publisher in this industry.

This is because sequels bring out your wallets faster than new titles. People are more inclined to spend money on something when they have an established familiarity with the product. That is why you most likely buy Cheerios instead of the bottom shelf generic brands that are the exact same thing, or why movies throw “from the director of” in as many previews as they can. It constantly perplexes me why gamers have issues with companies doing fairly logical things that are time tested money makers in order to get money when money part of the integral lifeblood that keeps the industry going.

Even with sequelitis running more rampant than syphilis in California porn, EA still does manage to push out new intellectual properties despite what others will make you believe. In fact here’s a list of new IPs EA has been the publisher of since the start of 2007;

Army of Two
Brutal Legend 
Dante’s Inferno
Dead Space
Dragon Age
Kingdoms of Amalur
Mass Effect
Mirror’s Edge
Rock Band
Star Wars: The Old Republic

That averages out to over two new IPs a year, which isn’t a horrendous number at all when you factor in that gamers only have so much time they can spend playing games, let alone just EA games. This also doesn't include EA's revivals of Medal of Honor or SSX. Out of the fourteen games I listed above eight of them managed to get sequels and turn into franchises, so it's not like EA isn't aware of the fruits of putting out new IPs. And before you turn around and try to remind me that EA just pushes out sequels and drowns out the value of their franchises, I'd like to point out that this is a problem with lots of other publishers too and specifically mention that when Assassins Creed III launches later this year there will be as many Assassins Creed games alone as there are currently Mass Effect & Crysis games combined. Given that I'm also on the topic of whining about sequels, I'd also like to take a quick moment and call out the hypocrisy of whining about sequels but then complaining that Mirror's Edge 2 hasn't happened yet.

The Madden series is another one of those areas that EA gets criticized for when it's in fact a more industry wide problem. Sports games are generally an entirely different beast than traditional games when it comes to sequels because sports games dont rely on narratives and fictional characters, they rely on up-to-date rosters and emulating their game of choice as it is. While other sports games do occasionally get barbed on, it's mostly when Madden is brought up that the "sixty dollar roster update" line gets thrown. What seems to get ignored is that their competition in recent years tends to do the exact same thing; 2K Sports has put out yearly basketball games for the last 4 years as well as baseball games for the last seven, MLB The Show (probably the most well received baseball game on the market) has pumped out a new game every year for the last 6 years and was a successor to the yearly 989 Sports MLB games, hell even WWE has put out a yearly game since 2000. While Madden is by far older than any of these other franchises I've mentioned the gamer animosity towards yearly sixty dollar updates hasn't stopped other publishers from attempting, and succeeding at, the exact same things.
Then there's the other big issue people have with EA in regards to Madden, the exclusive NFL rights that the Madden games now carry. I'll be honest, I'm surprised the animosity from this has lingered as long as it has. For those of you who are unfamiliar, allow me to give you a quick recap. About seven years ago now, 2K Sports released ESPN NFL 2K5 and sold it for $20. Given the steep price difference between 2K5 and Madden 2005 that year ($20 versus $50), Madden took a hit in sales and forced EA to reduce the games price down to $30 in order to compete. After both 2005 games came out, EA Sports, the NFL, and the NFL Players Association reached an exclusivity agreement that effectively killed off any other NFL simulation games on the market. The following year the price for Madden 2006 returned to its previous $50 price point.

The problem is that people with revisionist history attempt to make EA look like the lone and primary bad guys in all of this. Many people believe that EA bought out the NFL license in order to bury their competition knowing that the 2K series was a quickly growing threat and that the return to the fifty dollar price point in the 2006 edition of their game was a reflection of that. While the hike back up to fifty dollars was definitely a dick move by EA, the exclusivity deal wasn’t necessarily a result of the dent 2K5 put in them the year before. The blame for NFL exclusivity falls more on the NFL themselves and not necessarily EA. The NFL was more interested in taking the license exclusive than EA was, and had been reportedly negotiating with EA about exclusivity before ESPN NFL 2K5 was even a thing you could buy.

Thus, the NFL exclusivity is something EA gets ripped on for and I never understood why. The NFL approached them in regards to exclusivity, so what was EA supposed to do in this case? Were they supposed to go “No, we would not like to protect our most stable franchise and provide a little extra job security in a very insecure industry”? Video games are a major business and in major business you need to be cutthroat once and a while. I don’t blame them for agreeing to NFL exclusivity because if EA didn’t agree to the exclusive license it’s very probable that the NFL would have taken their offer to one of EA’s competitors. Along with that if I was in that position and had that offer in front of me I’m pretty sure I would have taken the deal as well, just like every single one of you reading this probably would have. 

Getting away from Madden, a more recent complaint I hear volleyed around anytime EA is talked about is how EA shoehorns some kind of multiplayer into every game. Admittedly it does get a bit annoying once and a while when you hear that everything has some other gameplay mode attached to it, but at the same time I’m not opposed to it automatically. For every couple of people who hate Dead Space 2’s multiplayer there’s likely another person who finds fun in it, so if that floats somebody’s boat then so be it. I’m a bit more okay with tacked-on multiplayer than I am with “easy modes” or “story-only modes” because, in my opinion, throwing in a separate multiplayer or cooperative mode doesn’t compromise the challenge or accomplishment of a game the same way easy-modes do and it’s a completely optional thing you can avoid completely. 

But, for the sake of providing myself with more to talk about, I’ll just go along with this con that adding multiplayer to a game is an evil thing. Why does shoehorning in a multiplayer mode always seem to be primarily an EA complaint when it’s occurring in other places as well? Why is it that EA and Visceral Games announce that Dead Space 3 will have a completely optional cooperative version of their story mode and it’s a horrible thing, but when Valve slaps a co-op mode into Portal 2 they’re considered messiahs of gaming (and yes, I just compared EA and Valve). I don’t remember nearly as much complaining occurring when it was announced that Resident Evil 5 would support co-op gameplay, a move that oddly enough ended up saving that game in light of how terrible Sheva’s AI was in that game. In fact, right off the top of my head I could name Uncharted 2, Bioshock 2, Spec-Ops: The Line, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii as games that all had multiplayer shoved into them that all didn’t get ripped on nearly as much as Dead Space 2 or Mass Effect 3 did, all because those magical two “EA” letters weren’t involved. Adding to that, or maybe just confirming the hilarious double-standards of the modern day gamer, tacked-on multiplayer is somehow frowned upon yet when a single-player only game like Vanquish comes along one of the more vocal complaints I hear about the game is that there’s no multiplayer. 

Now like I said earlier I’m not here to defend EA, and if you’re taking all of this as a pro-EA rant then you’ve apparently misread what I’ve been trying to say. I’m more or less just trying to point out that just about everyone else significant in the gaming industry is just as slimy as they are. Activision once openly admitted they only care about games they can exploit for every cent possible, this is probably what led to them single-handedly almost fully murdering the music-game market. Capcom used the 2011 tsunami disaster as a flaky excuse to make you buy Marvel vs Capcom 3 all over again (which I somehow got conned into!?), not to mention how many times they’ve resold Street Fighter 4 and make you double-pay for games with on-disc DLC. Then there's games like Max Payne 3, Mortal Kombat, and Borderlands 2 that all try to sucker you into paying for DLC before you ever know what it is.

The other reason I'm talking about this is because, quite honestly, I'm just sick and tired of hearing about it and I know a lot of other people are too. Sure you can say that maybe they should stop giving us stupid material to talk about or that we'll stop hearing about when EA changes there ways, but there's simply a tipping point where it's just too much regardless of the reason. I mean do we really need to talk about EA as often as ESPN talks about Tim Tebow? It's honestly gotten to the point where every bad thing that can be said about EA , and to a lesser extent, the industry in general, has been said multiple times over already. The other reason I've become simply sick of hearing about it is because anytime EA does anything someone objects to everybody who has any sort of gaming blog comes out from the dark corners of the internet and preaches into my ear like a Monday Morning Quarterbacks about how the entire gaming industry should be run (yes I'm especially looking at you, Destructoid). And the only thing that might bug me more than an uptight CEO telling me how the video game industry should be run is a doofus with an Xbox controller in his lap telling me how the industry should be run.

Listen, just because you play or review video games doesn't instantly qualify you to preach about how the big video game machine should be ran. I liken it to a sports statement, even though you're a good quarterback that doesn't mean you'll be a good coach. And even if you might have a voice that reaches larger audiences doesn't mean you constantly need to exercise that voice. This is the reason I don't rant or cBlog about the Devil May Cry reboot anymore, because I've said everything that needs to be said and after a while my audience will simply become sick of hearing about it. It's a simple thing that more sites need to exercise before they all continue to spiral downwards into a National Enquirer tier of shoddy tabloid writing.

I think another reason people get uptight about EA is because of how EA handles themselves. Honestly they tend to stick to their own business model and don't let the outside world affect them too much, at least the outside world of gamers and consumers. They stick to their own way because they know that even if you complain you're still going to open up your wallet for the next big title they put out, regardless if that next big title conflicts with the something that gamer was complaining about and said they didn't want. And honestly, if gamers who have problems with EA can't live up to their own standards and keep their wallets shut, why should EA cater to those standards? In a way it's almost admirable how they stick to their guns, even if it ruffles the feathers of a few consumers (which, sometimes, includes myself).

Due to my last point I think that's why people get their panties extra twisted when EA does something they perceive wrong. This might also be why shit magically rolls uphill and lands on EA any time a publisher under EA does something that doesn't get universal praise, like all of Dragon Age 2 or the overblown controversy of the year in Mass Effect 3's ending.

Is EA a “good” company? Oh sweet mercy no they aren’t. Do they put out too many shooters? Perhaps, but again so is everyone else. Their online pass system is a little fishy and I can totally understand why people might have issues with that (though, I personally disagree). I'm also definitely not a fan of how EA seems to habitually purchase gaming studios and shut them down after they put out a single title that doesn't perform up to expectations. I also think their hopes of publishing “the next big thing” that rakes in mythical amounts of cash like Call of Duty or Halo has clouded their judgment a little and has led to unnecessarily high expectations with certain studios and games.

An old slogan that floated around Destructoid for a long time was “STFUAJPG”, for you uninitiated that means ”Shut the fuck up and just play games”. Truthfully I think that needs to be exercised more than a little when it comes to whining about EA and the industry in general. A lot of the industry sucks just as much as EA does right now and a bunch of you people slapping their meat hooks against your keyboards isn't going to make a damn of a difference in the industry as a whole unless you are all willing to finally start voting with your wallets. Until then, take a step back and chill for a moment and try to enjoy the things for a bit because they're still plenty of fun to be found in gaming even with all of the shit that's lingering.

Who knows, maybe you're nodding your head in agreement with me because of this rant. Maybe you're pounding your keyboard in frustration while reading this. Maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong (it wouldn't be the first time). If you take something out of this that helps you with your own opinion then I think my job is done here.
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About Sephzillaone of us since 9:27 AM on 07.15.2008

Follow me on Twitter - @Sephzilla

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Who am I? I'm a guy who plays video games, talks way too much about comics and movies, likes Godzilla and Robocop. Why should you read my blog? Because when I write I have fun, make up bullshit lists, and when I do get a little serious with some blogs I try to be insightful and use resources and facts to try and back up my opinion as much as I can. And if you don't follow my blog, I'll send you a picture of a sad kitten who wants some love.

Also, I tend to debate a lot and get up on a soapbox a bit from time to time. I like to debate for the sake of debating and I tend to find it fun to get other peoples perspectives on things, and sometimes I like to play devil's advocate a bit just for the sake of it. Basically, don't take me so serious sometimes even if it seems like I am being serious.

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