Who Turned EA To The Darkside? - mbellacio Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Who Turned EA To The Darkside?

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Years from now, I feel absolutely certain that some intrepid gaming journalist will undertake the task of uncovering what led to EA's decline, and they will discover that a Sith lord infiltrated their corporate headquarters and used the dark side of the force to control everyone's minds. At least that would be a reason that I could live with and understand. Otherwise... I'm dumbfounded.

Coming as a gamer who remembers some of EA's earliest, and very best games, I am genuinely saddened to see the direction they have taken and their apparent obliviousness to what gamers truly desire. It's really hard to reconcile an image of an evil mega-corporation with a company that provided me with so many fond memories. But, there is no mistaking it. EA today is certainly not the great company that I once remember. In fact, it has almost gotten to the point where I actually DREAD seeing EA's name attached to any project I think I might be excited for. It seems that they have become exceedingly proficient at finding ways to take what should be the simple joy of gaming, and turn it into an exercise in frustration.

Remembering The Glory Days



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This is the EA I remember. Before the evil took over.



I didn't really began paying attention to publishers until the 16-bit era. Prior to that, the only companies that stood out in my mind were Namco, Nintendo, Atari, Sega, Activision, Data East, and Konami. SNK didn't even come into my radar until the early 90's. Although my first console was an Atari 2600, my first favorite console was a Sega Genesis. And for that time, it was a bright spot in EA's history. The late 80's through late 90's literally brought an explosion of good software to the market. In fact, given how glutted the market was back then, I'm surprised that the games sold as well as they did.

Road Rash and Lotus Turbo Challenge were the first games that made me sit up and take notice of EA, then called Electronic Arts. You may find this hard to believe, but for a time when all games consisted of pixels, and not polygons, games like the Lotus series were the modern day equivalent of  Gran Turismo or the TOCA racing series. Road Rash was tremendous fun for it's time. Not only an exciting motorcycle racer, it also gave you the distinct pleasure of getting physical and beating the living tar out of your competitors. At the time, there were very few titles to offer such simple, malicious fun. But somehow, EA still gave us more.

 

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Road Rash and Lotus Turbo Challenge

 

The Strike series of games (Desert Strike and Jungle Strike) during the 16-bit era were consistently some of the best of that time. They helped further cement EA's ever-building reputation for producing quality games. Part of EA's appeal was that they were a company with deep origins (no pun intended) in the world of PC software. So an Electronic Arts console game tended to have that "crisp" look and feel that was typically associated with PC games. In fact, part of EA's early glory was that it was knocking out some truly stellar PC titles that still stand the test of time even in 2013. Games like the Wing Commander series, Need For Speed, the Ultima series, pretty much every Sim game you can think of, the Jane's Combat simulators for the PC, the Command & Conquer series, and arguably some of the best sports titles to ever come to the world of digital entertainment, ever. EA built a legacy of greatness early on. They knew exactly what gamers wanted, and they were excellent at providing it.

 

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Desert Strike: Quite possibly one of greatest games of the 16-bit era.

 

It stands as such a stark contrast from the EA of today. Now they are widely derided as the "evil empire", and in many ways justifiably so. EA became to game publishing what Bank of America is to banking. From my own personal thughts, I knew something had gone wrong when EA sought to crush Sega's stellar NFL 2K series by making an exclusive rights deal with the NFL. It had been obvious to everyone why EA had made that move. They simply could not compete with the superior quality of the NFL 2K games. That moment in gaming history will always stand out as a sad one for me. It indicated that money and greed were beginning to poison a once very simple, very pure hobby.

I could go on and on about the many sins that EA committed over the years, but it would be redundant and perhaps not the most fun thing to read. But when you see a transformation such as the one that occurred with EA, you simply can't help but wonder... why? Did EA grow too, big too fast? Did the wrong kind of people weasel their way into upper management of their corporate structure? Was it complacence?

 

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Ever wonder how in over ten years, this...

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... never topped this???

 

It sounds strange to me to even think it, but I'm often reminded of how corporations have been referred to as being people in recent years. It's a strange concept since we tend to think of corporations as being more machine like than as a living, breathing entity. But, in just the same way that people like you and I have individual social security numbers, so do corporations. Many corporations file their taxes each year in much the same way as a single individual would. In fact, many corporations enjoy better rights than individual citizens do. So why do I mention all of this? Well, it's because you have to figure that if a person can become big-headed and egotistical with too much success that comes too quickly, so can a corporation. In EA's case, I think that plays a very large part in what has brought them to such lows. They have lost their sense of respect for their consumer market and now regard most them as so much cattle. They farm their loyal customers for money, but have very little respect for the deep connections that many gamers form with their beloved hobby.

Arrogance is often times the kiss of death for companies in the video game business. Any good business realizes that the needs and wants of people are constantly changing and evolving. A good company will continue to adapt in accordance with those shifts in the public mind. Sega lost sight of that in the 90's and paid a high price. More recently Sony and Nintendo seem to have lost sight of this. And EA's red hot SimCity scandal provides the freshest examples of poor business practices. What is especially disappointing about EA, is the discoveries of how it blantantly lied about the nature of SimCity's game architecture and it's DRM features. The past few weeks have seen a literal tidal wave of bad news in connection with SimCity and it's bungled launch. Even more appalling was EA's stubborn refusal to offer refunds to digital purchasers or to consider removing the always-on DRM.

Is There A Silver Lining?

So I guess the big question now is, can EA ever get back to greatness? I think the answer has to be yes. While many will see the recent resignation of EA's CEO as a positive sign of some sort, I think it will take much more than that to get EA back to where it needs to be. One man cannot possibly carry all the blame for ruining a company like EA. No. Like Sony and Nintendo, EA will have to be humbled to the point where they are reminded that revenue comes from happy customers, not from simply shoveling out annual rehashes of software or buying out successful game licenses. And when EA finally realizes that they really aren't too big to fail, they will start to publish great games again.

 

 

 

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