Recently, the EVP of Strategic Growth at EA – Mike Bibley – spoke to gamesindustry.biz regarding EA’s investment in independent title’s and their stance on streaming moving forward. During the interview Matt stated that, “I still struggle with the perception that we’re a bunch of bad guys.” This would indicate that executives at EA are concerned with the organization’s public perception.
The answer is relatively simple, EA has continuously damaged their image over the recent years because they have buried developers, cancelled promising titles, lacked transparency, and emphasized financial gain through questionable tactics. That isn’t to say that EA is completely corrupt, but it’s hard to focus on the positive – such as their partnerships with various independent studios – when they consistently shoot themselves in the foot.
Consumer relations with EA have always been a point of contention. Whether its labeling loot boxes as “surprise mechanics” or implementing unnecessary pay to win schemes in premium titles, it’s no wonder that there is a lack of sympathy from their consumers. If you happen to be an employee of EA, being scrutinized is a part of the job. It’s unfortunate, but it can be expected when you’re working for an organization that has a target on it’s back.
This isn’t to say that EA can’t pull itself out of the doldrums, it would just require an exorbitant amount of work. Ubisoft and Capcom are two examples of major industry players that have turned around their public image. Ubisoft became more transparent in their business practices and are now the standard when it comes to live services. Capcom has mounted an incredible comeback with their emphasis on bringing back beloved franchises with either quality remakes or continuations.
Running a conglomerate like EA is no simple feat. To stay ahead in the industry, certain concessions must be made and sometimes this comes at the cost of certain developers. With that being said, it should not come at the cost of consumer trust. Blatant cover-ups will always do more damage than telling the truth. If anyone can smell bullshit, it’s the consumer but EA’s actions tend to show they believe otherwise.
Being just a smidge more transparent will go a long way in rebuilding their reputation. As an executive, especially one in Strategic Growth, stating that you dont understand why your organization is vilified can be viewed as tone deaf. With all of the controversies surrounding EA, everyone at the company should be well aware of their public standing. Instead of pulling away however, EA has practically embraced it and doubled down.
This response was immediately mocked by social media. No one pointed the fingers at the developers and rightfully so, the real issue lies at the publisher. EA is publicly traded company, so they have shareholders they need to appease to ensure steady financial growth. The consumer will always come second, that’s the ugly side of business and until EA is held accountable, you can expect that their shady practices will continue.
Honestly, it would take a mammoth effort for EA to change their image. Something catastrophic would have to occur before reconsidering their business strategies as the status quo is what made EA so successful. Sure, there will be titles released that don’t fit their usual criteria – Unraveled and Sea of Solitude – but these will be quickly glossed over because Madden, FIFA, Battlefield, and Star Wars will be their money makers.
These are the titles that will bring the most buzz and more than likely a ton of controversy. Until EA learns how to treat their core audiences with respect, they will continue to get no sympathy. People want the companies they’re loyal too, to reciprocate these feelings. But if doesn’t make dollars it doesn’t make sense and at this current juncture, EA doesn’t look like they care.