The buzz is abound yet again, as for the second year in a row, Electronic Arts is continuing on strong in The Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America” poll. Last year’s win is attributed to some of their poor decisions, such as their always-on DRM for PC games, the fact that their Origin network exists, shutting down servers to games that are still played and loved by fans to cut costs and of course, for their liberal use of downloadable content in any situation that they can manage it. Electronic Arts is the big dog in the world of gaming when it comes to publishing games, so they have a target on their backs no matter what.
The question that I pose is; as horrible as Electronic Arts really is, what does it winning the award last year mean and what does their strong showing so far this year mean?
I think to get this out of the way; no sane person really believes that Electronic Arts is the worst company in America — at least they shouldn’t — because what they offer to consumers is nonessential and for entertainment purposes. No one is putting a gun to your head to pick up that new piece of Mass Effect 3 DLC or to subscribe to Battlefield Premium, although there are some compelling arguments to do so with EA’s massive marketing arm behind it. SimCity might not of been playable for the first few days after launch, but if you were to play now everything would be, for the most part, fine and playable, and you most likely got a free game out of the whole deal as well.
Electronic Arts offers stuff that is intended to be fun, to supplement your daily life and help to enhance it through entertainment. You won’t wake up in the morning, sweat beading on your forehead while the phone rings off the hook because Electronic Arts has sent you to collections and this collection agency wants your money. You aren’t going to come home and find someone inside of your home, wrangling up your game consoles because you have missed a few payments and will now watch as someone else gets your game console. None of this will happen because Electronic Arts may not be a nice or fun company, but they have no real bearing on the everyday lives of their consumers to be considered actually the “worst.”
To top it off, Electronic Arts has not fashioned the gaming industry in a way that they are an unmovable cornerstone in the market that spent too much and made poor decisions, but when it comes time to pay up, pleads with the government for a bailout because if they fall, the industry falls. In fact, if a big time publisher goes out of business in the gaming world, they just liquidate their assets, have an auction and another group of publishers will grab whatever is left and continue on with business-as-usual.
Gaming is absolutely important to many of us and a lot of these companies might not have the best business practices, and while it was fun while it lasted, we all know that Electronic Arts is not the worst company in America. There are companies in America that have actively done awful things to consumers, actually hurt people and ruined their lives, maybe we let the spotlight shine on them for this one.