The troubled actions of Electronic Arts


posted 6/18/2005 by John Yan
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An exclusive deal with the NFL and NFLPA on December 14, 2004 surely didn’t give EA a great image. Before that, Visual Concept’s NFL2K series was viewed as a great alternative and some considered it superior to EA’s Madden product. And the idea of releasing the game for only $20 really gave the game a boost in sales. The NFL2K series looked to really put a dent into the football giant in Madden and I was eagerly anticipating another year from VC to see how they would improve their game an in turn push EA to create a better quality product. Before that would happen, EA decided to sign an exclusive deal with the NFL and NFLPA so only they will be able to use the team and player names. Another wave of protest rang out in the forums blasting EA with some comments declaring that EA didn’t want to compete so they bought out the competition. Others starting comparing EA to Microsoft for their practices. The ESPN exclusive deal followed essentially kicking VC even though it was already down for the count. On the heels of this news, we were all waiting to see if licenses for the MLB, NBA, and NHL would follow suit. The only one to materialize was MLB PA but they went with Take Two instead prompting EA to call the deal "stupid money".

EA does do some acquisitions of other companies but EA’s purchase of 19.9% shares of Ubisoft on December 20, 2004 was viewed by Ubi and many others as a hostile take over attempt. Ubisoft’s big franchises such as the Tom Clancy series of games, Far Cry and Prince of Persia would give EA a massive collection of top quality if they did acquire the French publisher. Imagine loading up a Far Cry game and seeing the EA logo spinning at the beginning. The thought of EA controlling another major publisher produced another wave of protest. The fight is still ongoing at this point.

Even when a subsidiary of EA does something, EA still gets a good amount of blame. With the impending release of Battlefield 2, DICE decided to close the NY office on June 7, 2005 that contained Trauma Studios, the guys behind the Desert Combat mode that the game is heavily influenced by. The act seemed like they took some talented people, picked their brains, have them help in creating a highly anticipated title, and then let them go. To make matters worse, a $200,000 supplement payment to Trauma will not be made even though it was agreed upon at the time of DICE’s acquisition of the company. Sure they were offered positions in Sweden but the prospect of moving to another country for a job is pretty daunting given that moving to another state can be hard enough. Was it DICE’s sole decision to close the office? Did EA pressure them to? Conspiracy theorists seem to think so. Either way, EA wasn’t going to get away clean from this decision with the timing of the closing working against them as well. As a mod maker looking to get into the industry now, would you even consider going to EA if they made you an offer?

Has any other company had such a torrid history since its inception? With EA being the largest player in the gaming industry, many people want to see them knocked down from their perch for more reasons than the ones listed above. But it’s hard to get away from the facts listed and the many opinions expressed about them in various formats. Electronic Arts will still generate billions and business will continue as usual for them. But if you told me that back in 1983 when I was trading energy with other alien races and shooting 3’s with Larry Bird that Electronic Arts will be viewed as a greedy corporate gaming company that the online gaming community hates, I would’ve called you crazy.

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