The troubled actions of Electronic Arts


posted 6/18/2005 by John Yan
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Electronic Arts was originally known for producing or creating some great classics. I remember spending countless hours playing Archon, Bard’s Tale, Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One on One, and M.U.L.E.. They were a much beloved company and churned out some great games in its early years. So how did this company’s image become so tarnished with the gaming community?

In 1992, EA bought Origin Systems. Origin was responsible for the Ultima series and other great titles. Richard Garriot’s series is a huge influence on many other titles and also gave a large RPG audience many sleepless nights. Some of my favorites such as Questron followed a similar formula to the early Ultimas. The marriage of EA and Origin came to an end on February 25, 2004 but Ultima Online continues on. The closing of Origin Systems was certainly an unpopular decision amongst the community. It also didn’t help that the quality of the Ultima series declined and Ultima X: Odyssey was canceled as well with Ultima Online 2. To be honest, the series wouldn’t be the same without Richard Garriot in my opinion. Even so, the cancellation to focus on the fading Ultima Online series compounded with the closing of Origin Systems left a bad taste in many mouths.

EA’s closing of popular studios continued with Westwood. In 1998, the company was picked up by Electronic Arts. Responsible for the popular Command & Conquer series, the studio also created classics such as BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk’s Inception and Legend of Kyrandia series. EA downsized the company on January of 2003 by moving 100 of the Westwood employees to the Los Angeles branch of EA and closing the doors of the studio. Count for great studios closed by them is now up to two.

The momentum against EA really seemed to pickup when the story of a disgruntled spouse of an Electronic Arts developer blogged her story. Long hours without any compensation detailed the work environment of one EA employee. The details of non-caring managers and EA’s sweatshop like environment really gave EA a black eye within the gaming community. As a developer myself, I know that working long hours can really take a toll and be counterproductive. Deadlines do have to be met and you do occasionally have to work extra hours to get the product out but EA’s lack of compassion or reward for the effort put in brought many voices against the company. It doesn’t help that EA has become a huge corporation and it looked like another example of a big company making large profits by working their employees to death and deeming them as expendable. Perhaps the long hours also contributed to the less than stellar quality of releases requiring numerous patches with some coming out even before the game hit the shelves.
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