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If you haven't heard, Electronic Arts was voted by consumers to be the worst company in America in The Consumerist's annual poll. The final showdown landed between EA and Bank of America, and EA walked away with more than 250,000 votes favoring them as the worst company in America right now, and rightfully so.
Unlike other companies on that list who would have won and faded into media obscurity with nary a thing to do about their bad business practices, EA's situation is different. EA is positioned where fan outlash and media backlash can actually affect how they do business.
Anyways, in an effort to run second-party damage control, PopCap Games' co-founder John Vechey wrote an open letter to gamers to explain (justify?) why EA won the award and that it has more to do with community engagement than the other companies on the list.
According to GameIndustry.biz, Vechey wrote that...
"It was a bit frustrating to read EA winning, but when I look at the list of companies, I only see one or two others that actually inspire any emotion or passion," ... "Apple. Google, maybe. I may rant or complain about DirectTV's atrocious customer service, Comcast's flakey connection speeds, Bank of America's ATM fees or Ticketmaster charges, but do I really care? Naw. No matter how angry I've been at them, I ultimately can't care."
One problem here...the ending to Mass Effect 3 being botched (whether deliberately or haphazardly) was icing on a well-built cake. EA's business antics have been building up to a near boiling point and the ending to Mass Effect 3 -- had it been a standalone case -- would not have made people hop to the polls to vote EA as the worst. There were the lawsuits before that, there were broken promises, there were all things regarding Origin, there was the viral marketing exposure, there were all those beloved studios who had been shutdown under EA's wing, and the list kind of goes on and on. Gamers had become fed up with EA's treacherous monopoly, it wasn't just the "Mass Effect 3 ending".
Anyways, Vechey went on to say that...
Everyone makes mistakes," ... "EA does not have a perfect past. It's made HR mistakes. It's made huge game design screw-ups. It's messed up studios, marketing campaigns and beloved franchises (sometimes all at once).
No one would complain about Madden had EA not muscled the rights exclusively for their own means, ending Sega and 2K Games' tenure at providing their own annual iterations of sports titles. We don't want to make our own but EA prevented others from making their own. Fail point, Vechey, fail point.
Also, no one told EA to always make AAA titles...not all games have to be $60, multi-million-dollar projects. Gamers seeking fun games want fun games, not expensive experiences. The whole point of mainstream AAA titles though is to boost sales and it has, again, nothing to do with creative ventures. PlayDead, Team Meat, inXile and Double Fine prove that you can make fun games on a moderate budget beyond the likes of FarmVille, and you don't need $25 million and more to make creative, innovative titles. But I shouldn't have to explain this, PopCap's games speak for themselves.
What's more, EA hasn't been the same EA over the course of 30 years...the EA from the 1980s through 1990s was a completely different beast from what it is today, and those guys back then really were about electronic artistry. Road Rash 2 is still one of my favorite games of all time, and that was back when EA cared about quality over bottom line quantity.
This open letter also still doesn't really negate the fact that gamers see an opportunity to expose a blight on the industry and I'm at least glad this has reached high enough altitude to keep the issue in the spotlight...for better or for worse.