Well, this goes without saying. No company wants to have the label of being the worst in America, but with EA winning the title two years in a row in a poll at The Consumerist, new CEO Andrew Wilson is thinking of ways to change that image.
Wilson’s approach, brought up in an interview with Kotaku, to addressing the issue comes from the simple idea that gamers do not believe they are getting enough for their money.
“There are lots of really big public companies that make a lot of money that are loved by their consumers. That’s because the consumers feel like they get value from that company in the investment in their dollars [and] time.”
Wilson wants gamers to feel like they are “stealing” EA games at $60.
“Any time we create something, if you’re asking for an investment from the consumer in dollars and time, make sure they feel like they’re stealing from you and that they are getting the best end of that deal and the rest will follow. And that will be our philosophy.”
Unlike the arrogantly blunt response of COO Peter Moore, who blamed football fans and homophobes in response to the poll results this year, Wilson takes the poll as a clear cut sign that something is wrong. Head of Console and PC Game Development Patrick Soderlund also chimed in on the progress the company has made in listening to gamers.
“When we got this the second time around, if you don’t think about it as an executive in the company, you probably are not doing the right thing. We started thinking about how we don’t want to be viewed as the worst company in America. I personally don’t think we’ve ever been the worst company in America, but it says something. The consumers out there are telling us something.”
Soderlund provided the example of online passes being cut from all EA games. Earlier this year, EA had claimed that the negative press the company received from them was not worth their monetary value, and they were cut as a demand from fans. He also mentioned Origin’s try-before-buy system called Great Games Guarantee.
“We’re also the only company that I know of that has the Great Game Guarantee on the digital store. You don’t like the game, you can return it. I think that’s a great value proposition. Again, it makes it feel like you’re stealing from us rather than vice versa.”
I’ve always felt the anger directed towards EA has been greatly unwarranted. Server issues with big games aside, the company doesn’t really stand out negatively more so than other publishers. Capcom has been quietly getting away with actions just as deplorable, such as on-disc DLC, cancelling fan popular games, and watering down franchises, but EA’s corporate image magnifies the backlash.
I do agree though that I never feel like I am getting my money’s worth for $60 anymore, but that is not EA’s problem alone. All major publishers refuse to cut the cost of games, even with the decline in physical packaging, and they continue to charge even more for the option of expanding the experience.
Games are becoming shorter, less innovative, and even the new consoles are failing to excite with familiar ground simply being given a facelift.
The booming indie scene is proof enough that AAA doesn’t deliver the goods anymore. Steam Sales and $5-$20 video games providing far more hours of entertainment than a $60 package were enough to convince me never to spend full price on a video game ever again. How does Wilson intend to combat this?
“We need a mechanism and a process which we can get to better games more quickly. If we can be faulted for anything, over the years, it’s kind of hanging on to ideas or concepts of games too long, driving too hard against them, spending too much to the point that we couldn’t invest in other opportunities and ideas.”
“Fun is a tough thing to create. It’s subjective. It’s an emotional calculation of enjoyment over time. That’s what fun is. By its nature it’s subjective.”
Soduerlund also chimed in, mentioning the products of several competitors.
“If innovation, passion and polish is visible in the product, then ultimately you are bound to be successful. I think that is true with The Last of Us. Look at Battlefield. Look at GTA. You can sense that they put a lot of effort and love into making them.”
It’s hard to see where EA is coming from and where it is going in the future. It remains the second largest third party in the industry and is charging full force into the next generation. Titanfall, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, and Mirror’s Edge are clearly aimed at the hardcore gamer and what they have been asking for.
However, many bombshells like SimCity, Dead Space 3 and Fuse lie in the company’s wake, and micro-transactions and constant inter-connectivity are still high on the company’s agenda. Where is the happy medium in this situation?
Can the company shake its image and completely give gamers what they want? Are gamers simply demanding the impossible of EA, or are their complaints too focused on a single target? What else do they have to do to not get your vote as the Worst Company in America?
Be sure to check out Kotaku‘s interview in the source below as well. It gives a sense that these guys are really serious about turning the company around, and they don’t come off as blaming gamers for their demand.