Electronic Arts. The name sends chills down your spine, doesn’t it? It is the company responsible for iconic gaming franchises such as Mass Effect, Dead Space, FIFA, and the Madden NFL series. It is also the company to blame for Anthem, the newest run of Battlefront titles, and again the Madden NFL franchise (none of the games change or get a whole lot better year to year). I am happy to announce that I am giving my own personal award to the studio as being the “Single Worst Gaming Company in Recent Years.” A bit too long? Well, I’d have to say it is well earned.
Now, it isn’t just the terrible games that they have released lately that has won them this esteemed prize. No, it isn’t a crime to make bad video games. It is instead the way EA chooses to do business in 2019 and how they have attempted to change, and in many ways try to ruin, video games in general.
To start, it’s insane that the slogan for EA (and most other new game releases) is: “NO LOOT BOXES!” or “NO MICRO TRANSACTIONS!” No joke, companies have to assure potential buyers that they won’t try to screw people over with random gear boxes and hidden pay walls on progression. And no company knows it has to do this more than Electronic Arts. Let’s take the previously mentioned EA failure Star Wars Battlefront II as an example. By purchasing loot boxes, players would randomly receive a variety of gear. Some were purely aesthetic changes, while others were game enhancing “star cards” that gave special advantages in online competitive play.
Let’s say this one more time so that companies can hear it: Pay to win is awful. Don’t do it. It’s just not right. Make a game that doesn’t require people to spend more money in order to succeed. Video games should be skill based, not wallet based.
The most disrespectful part of this whole controversy has been EA’s response to people about it. In the UK, court hearing’s about EA’s loot box and other randomized content systems have been going on. Officials question the ethics of such a system and imply that there is no difference between this and gambling. The major concern is that it could cause an addiction to be formed in young people as they could become obsessed with spending this money for advantages in game. A representative for EA stated: “We don’t call them loot boxes . . . we look at them as surprise mechanics. We do think the way we have implemented these kinds of mechanics, . . . is actually quite ethical.” (I’ll do everyone a favor and put a link to the whole hearing here.)
You can’t even try to write comedy like this today. A multi-million dollar company is marketing gambling to children and calling it an ethical and fun surprise. What I want to know is how a company with so much money and influence doesn’t hire anyone to give a reminder like: “Hey everyone, we’re going to look like supervillains if we keep doing stuff like this.”
But that is why I wanted to celebrate EA with this Worst Gaming Company Award. They don’t get enough credit for being the bad guys that they are. The Dark Knight was such a hit because Heath Ledger was an amazing Joker. If EA wasn’t so diabolical in the way that it operates, gaming wouldn’t have nearly as much controversial news to complain about. This isn’t the first negative superlative EA has won, of course. In 2013 EA won “Worst Company of the Year” from the Consumerist.That was from a user-based poll too, involving thousands of people, not just the opinions of a few disgruntled gamers.
The good times that EA gave me when I was younger will never be forgotten, but it is just sad to see that the Madden NFL promise was not kept: “EA Sports. It’s in the game.” No. It turns out, its blocked off by pay windows. But I guess those are just fun surprise mechanics. Totally not child gambling at all.