EA Viral Marketing Exposed, Big Buyout On The Horizon?

Someone claiming to have worked with EA sprouted up on the 4Chan forums, of all places. While it would be easy to roll-eyes and click away, what the chap had to say was rather interesting, as he detailed how his job at EA was basically to "troll" forums and websites to create viral marketing effects and deflect bad press from the inner circles of gaming.

While the news originates from 4Chan the real details emerge on Reddit, where a thread talks about the elephant in the room: why would someone come clean about being an ex-employee of EA where they admit that their job is to professionally troll in order to deflect heat from a game or promote a product with subtlety and professionalism?

Moreover, what this guy had to say was intriguing whether he was actually a viral marketer or not, providing plenty of links and info to backup what he had to say, revealing that...

Most of EA's growth has been due to acquisitions and not organic growth.That's because EA can't make quality games to save their life.Most of the companies bought out were:a) lied to (oh stuff will be the same, you'll remain independent but with the bigger budget and backing of EA)b) with EA's access to the capital markets, they could pretty much buy out any small to mid-sized firm.

While that's nothing new and a blind, lipless, autistic man could have told the gaming community the very same thing about EA, the real trick is that this alleged former employee of EA says the company is in a bad place and that they're actually in panic mode because Star Wars: The Old Republic and Mass Effect 3 didn't quite perform to expectations (even though Mass Effect 3 shipped 3 million SKUs in under a week), hence why he was sacked as a viral marketer....

There's about 560 full and part time people that do my (old) job at EA. Other companies have people in similar positions, no idea how many though.So that post or thread you think is vir­al marketing might just be.I actually researched TOR and there was no legitimate defense I had for it.The best I could do is derail threads into GW2 sucks and other random nonsense. That was actually surprisingly effective and entertainingAnd ME3 basically hyped itself.

His mention of threads relates to "trolling" popular websites and forum boards and aiming to derail bad publicity and "negative" marketing from spreading. Sort of like those people who are on Amazon right now defending Capcom's inclusion of disc-locked content and trying to discredit the reviews who bring this poor business practice to light.

What's more is that when he reveals a former forum name, posters instantly recognize him as a guy who had been defending Mass Effect 3, Star Wars The Old Republic and Origin for several months, even using Origin to hand out free games during a brief marketing campaign, meaning he's either legit or one of the most dedicated trolls ever.

Anyways, EA actually spent more than $747 million on marketing last year. That's close to $1 billion marketing stuff by paying people to troll; advertising; press events, etc., etc. Can you believe that? consumers are footing bills for marketing campaigns that are just shy of $1 billion. Just imagine how many games could have been made with that money?

Also, he mentions the number one rule about the top misconceptions about the gaming industry, using PR tactics to deflect bad press or publicity from a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic during a phase where the game needed positive press spin. What's more is that just recently The Old Republic has come under fire for having under-populated servers, and possibly not being the World of Warcraft killer that everyone pegged it be, as reported by Zo Knows Gaming. Still, there's no reason to jump on the doom and gloom train, it just points in the direction of truth regarding what Mr. Anonymous says about SW: TOR not being as big as EA expected.

His claims about the company flailing as they begin to hit declines also rings true, which are shown in the links he provided on the forum thread, which you can view here. The company dipped from $100 per share back in 2006 down to $36 per share in 2011, although that's not to say that EA is hurting, they have a forecasted profit stream of $4.1 billion in 2012. But that's info any Joe Schmoe could have looked up. However Mr. Anonymous uses this data to explain the following...

They recently moved their "creative" marketing segments to East Asia, hence the (my) being laid off.Senior managers and game designers with years of experience are getting fired left and right to save on costs because they can get some kid to work up to 100 hours a week for shitty pay.The stock holders and creditors are concerned about the company.

It's true that EA is currently hosting a job drive for marketing managers and personnel in South East Asia, but when aren't big companies hiring PR and marketing agents?

The real meat and potatoes of his post however falls in line with the mention of an upcoming business acquisition. When asked what company it was he simply mentions that...

Honestly. I have no clue. I was talking to my boss a few weeks ago and she literally said "EA's going to buyout another firm soon and a lot of people won't be happy about it."I wouldn't fully blame a firm that gets bought out by EA.A lot (not every) developer has investors in the company. These investors own shares of the firm, but since the firm isn't publicly traded, their shares aren't very liquid so they can't cash them out.Eventually, these investors want to get their money back plus a return on their investment. Then EA comes along (or they are contacted) waving money around. Even if the actual managers and operators of the developer don't want to sell, they could either be forced to if the investors have a majority interest, or the pressure to sell if too much.Also, loadsamoney, guaranteed salaried positions as well.

His mentioning of liquid assets is very interesting because as soon as Zynga went public, CEO Mark Pincus attempted to offload $227 million dollars worth of stock according to GameIndustry.biz, something privately owned companies wouldn't be able to achieve with such ease. This at least gives credence to this 4Chan member's understanding of the business side of the gaming market.

Still, this is coming from some chap on 4Chan who received tons of heat for even mentioning that he was a former marketer for EA and received even more heat when he basically admitted that his job was to professionally "troll" to save face for one of the most hated companies in the gaming industry right now.

However, given the BioWare fiasco, waning momentum for Battlefield 3 and a lot of general heat over all things Origin, is it really hard to imagine that EA may aim to pick up another beloved development studio to try to repair their image and save face with the community? Well, I wouldn't put it past them. Remember they initially did the same thing with Visceral Games, BioWare and Pandemic back in 2008 and recently purchased indie company PopCap Games as an attemp to rebrand the company. But we'll definitely keep our eyes and ears peeled if this acquisition happens to be true. Until then, keep that bag of salt handy.

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.