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In a generation that has kicked off where we're seeing a lot of opposites (i.e., Microsoft curb stomping their own fanbase while Sony embraces theirs), we have one more antipodean scenario in play that has been developing over the course of the year: EA wants to trade in their heel antics for a babyface stance.
Yes, Electronic Arts no longer wants to be considered evil, anti-consumer or the two time running Worst Company in America. While a lot of other snoots bemoaned gamers for doing what every other person too complacent and lazy to do in any other facet of our life – and that's stand up and do something about pervasive issues devaluing an aspect of our culture – gamers cheered when they found out that working together and being vociferous reaped immeasurable results by getting EA tons of bad press, when gamers voted them as the worst company in America. That effect, two years in a row, has actually affected the way EA views their products, their treatment of customers and how they plan to change for the better.
It's amazing because for all those clueless pundits out there saying how terrible arm-chair warriors were/are for voting EA as the worst in America when companies like Bank of America, Comcast or Monsanto should have held the honors, nothing came out of the situation when those other big corporations were voted Worst in America, anyway.
What did BP do when they were voted worst in 2011 on the Consumerist? More importantly what came out of that situation that made things better for consumers? Anything? Anything at all?
How about Comcast? They won Worst Company in America in 2010 in the Consumerist poll, and did they change? Last I checked people are still paying $60 to $100 for subpar service and almost no actual cable channels.
Compare those above scenarios with Electronic Arts, where they won two times in a row, saw their stock plummet, saw their games falter and flail in the face of failure, and they've generally lost a lot of trust in the gaming community. Being voted Worst in America has consequences, especially for a company that can still be affected by marketing and customer perception. Naysayers were wrong; gamers were right... and gamers may be winning in the end.
Speaking with MCVUK, Electronic Arts' executive vice president, Patrick Söderlund, had words of humility to share, opposite of the crass tone EA's execs originally had when they were first labeled as the Worst Company in America in 2012. Söderlund stated that...
“We looked at something as simple as the Online Pass,” ... “People were telling us they didn’t like that. So we weighed up the pros and cons and went ‘Ok. We will remove it.’ These decisions need to be driven by what consumers want and tell us, and that is where we may have faltered a bit in the past.
Following EA's win as Worst Company in America back in 2012, we did a 10 reasons people hate EA, and many of the things on the list are things that could easily be avoided. Bloated marketing? Origin forum bans? Online Passes? Well, they're working on it. They've already fixed the forum ban issue, as well as the two-year entitlement clause in Origin (hopefully) and EA's marketing was a little less conspicuous this year, focusing more on tangible ads and promotional material instead of cheap thrills like that fake Christian protest or fake anti-gay thing.
The most notable thing from EA has been the removal of their Online Pass program – something that Sony mandated anyway – and others such as Ubisoft has followed suit with removing the passes from their games as well.
Söderlund also made it known that the company may not be mistake-free, but they will try their hardest not to be like Microsoft...
“Well you are bound to make mistakes, but when you do, just be clear to communicate that you agree it was a mistake, and you are taking the appropriate actions to fix them,” ... “Not a single person or company will do everything perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect.”
Whether or not EA will maintain a measure of goodwill by doing right by the community remains to be seen, but so far they've spent most of 2013 (outside of the Simcity fiasco) not screwing up, and that's about as much as most gamers could ask for.
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