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If you even remotely watch television (for the 14 - 34 male demographic) you can’t help but notice that at least one of their games will be advertised at some point in time (usually during sporting events). EA’s nearly ubiquitous gaming logo is especially apparent during the start of the Nascar season, FIFA’s World Cup, the NFL pre-season and the start of the NBA’s season. Yep, they’ve nearly monopolized all the popular sports in gaming and they’re about to start with superheroes, and possibly the entire Take-Two brand of gaming.
Now there’s nothing wrong with monopolizing an industry, especially if it’s for the better. No one can complain about a popularized product if it at least works well. Right? Well that would seem to be the case, the only problem is that EA’s products are more miss than hit. Their announcements are usually about the most buzz-worthy aspect of the entire development process for any of their projects. And many of their original titles feature a noteworthy but standalone feature, such as the extortion function in the promising yet disappointing The Godfather: The Game. To this day I can’t figure out what they wanted you to do after you were done shooting everyone.
The only game in their entire library for the PS2/Xbox era that was as impressive on paper as it played on-screen was the highly publicized, and well received, 007: Everything or Nothing. It was one of those rare games where everything just came together exquisitely. Sadly, though, after their success with an original James Bond title Electronic Arts reverted back to hashed-together gameplay and sequels with missing features from their prequels. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this tactic I’ll quickly run through a few games where this method was used: After the Need for Speed: Underground II (which was actually pretty good) EA decided that it was best to start substituting a lot of what worked in NFS: II for new ideas that weren’t quite as good...such as simulation tracks in place of an open-ended city, in their lukewarm release of NFS: Pro Street. But that’s not including all the NFS games that were released in-between Underground II and Pro Street that were inconsistently hit and miss. You would think that after nineteen games in one of their most popular franchises (i.e., Need for Speed) EA would have found a way to get it right.
There was also the Def Jam series, which was looking quite promising as a franchise after Def Jam: Fight for NY. But EA allowed for the butchering of all that made Fight for NY fun, and substituted it with an original, but highly repetitive, rhythm-fighting feature in Def Jam: Icon. Now can anyone tell me where this rap-themed series is? Exactly. I could also go through all of the good things they added to the likes of the Medal of Honor series and then decided to replace them with less laudable features, but that would just be a waste of time, and several pages of text. The same could be said for Nascar and Madden. I don’t need to tell anyone how those titles can excite and subsequently disappoint gamers all in one play-session. I guess EA should receive some sort of reward for that.
Nevertheless, I don’t want to come across as nitpicking on Electronic Arts. Because I know that every publisher has its’ hits and misses. Activision misses more often with their Spider-Man games than I would care to mention. And Microsoft can’t seem to get any developer to make a good subsidiary mascot game that doesn’t include Master Chief. Still, Activision and Microsoft have established franchises that gamers can at least look forward to with worthy triple-A status. Halo, Forza Motorsport, Doom and Quake represent pinnacle achievements for the fore-mentioned publishers. Sadly, the only consistently improving franchise EA has is Simcity. I would say The Sims is a note-worthy IP acquired by EA, but, as a gamer, you would need $200 worth of add-ons to make it a complete game. I suppose that’s the whole point...EA is milking the industry with a lot of half-breed ideas and incomplete attempts at greatness.
For those of you on the side of EA you might be thinking that it’s worthy to ameliorate the argument on their behalf with games such as SSX Tricky, Burnout, Tiger Woods or Command & Conquer. But in all honesty a few decent games in comparison to a recent run of high-class shovelware isn’t really saying much. In fact, it’s like saying Bush’s tax breaks make up for all the other monkey-related antics he’s committed in the past eight years. It doesn’t really equal out, does it?
Supposedly, Electronic Arts is starting to put forth a lot of effort in the restitution of their brand’s name. Games like Army of Two, Spore and Dead Space are supposed to be the spearhead in EA’s new direction for creative-based, developer projects. But it looks like the same old shoe box with a different slogan, if you ask me. You would also think that a company so bent on eating up the competition and leading the way in the industry would have remarkable new projects from A to Z...sort of like the ones that Take-Two, LucasArts or Capcom manage to produce. But even with the likes of Dreamworks Interactive, Maxis, Criterion and Bullfrog under their acquisition (among others) you would think this would be a company at the top of their game (no pun intended).
Believe it or not, though, Activision actually acquired revenues reaching $1.47 billion in 2006, compared to Electronic Arts, which netted a total revenue of $1.28 billion in 2006, even with more than 20 developing studios under their wing. I guess the real shocker is that Activision had only half the amount of developer resources as EA during that same period, but managed to make more money. So let’s do the math: EA buys up a bunch of developing studios, makes more games and spends more money than Activision, yet makes less money. H’m, I don’t know about anyone else but that seems like a future recipe for financial disaster.
Can you imagine if EA buys out even smaller publishers and developers? Or worse yet, if their hostile takeover of Take-Two actually happens? You can kiss a good part of gaming goodbye under their wasteful leadership. Still, to make matters worse there are rumors circulating about Electronic Arts getting into the console competition by 2011. That’s just what we need, a half-arsed console with half-arsed games published by a half-arsed company. Unless Electronic Arts can shape up their dictatorial mentality on the gaming industry, it’s only going to be a downhill plunge for the market in their uphill climb for supremacy.