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Electronic Arts, or EA, is an American video game developer, marketer, publisher and distributor. It is the world’s third-largest gaming company by revenue, after Nintendo and Activision Blizzard. Despite its commercially successful franchises, the company has become a popular target of online criticism, mainly due to its contentious game development practices, marketing strategies and consumer treatment.
Electronic Arts was founded by Trip Hawkins on May 28th, 1982. In its early years, the company began developing games in-house and eventually supported popular console systems by the early 1990s. In the following decade, EA’s scale of operation grew through the acquisition of several successful video game developers. By the early 2000s, the company had become one of the world’s largest video game publishers. In 2004, EA established an exclusive licensing deal with the NFL and a 15-year deal with ESPN the following year. On February 1st, 2006, EA announced it would be cutting 5 percent of its entire staff. On June 20th, EA purchased the video game development company Mythic Entertainment. In February of 2007, EA CEO Larry Probst was replaced by John Riccitiello. In 2008, the company suffered from poor sales during the holiday season and cut 11 percent of its workforce the following year. In June of 2011, EA launched the online game retail service Origin. In July of the same year, the game company PopCap was acquired by EA. In January of 2013, EA reported a $45 million loss for the final quarter of 2012. On March 13th, Riccitello stepped down as CEO.
Mass Effect is a science fiction role playing video game trilogy developed by BioWare featuring fully voiced acted cinematic cut scenes and 3D action sequences. The games take place in various planets throughout the galaxy reached via the SSV Normandy starship.
SimCity is an open world, city-building simulation game franchise developed by Will Wright and published by Maxis. Owing much to its long-running success and multiple spin-offs, the SimCity franchise has a strong online following and is credited with establishing the city-building game genre that deals with continuous building rather than a set victory condition.
Customer Service Complaints
Screenshots of poor customer service interactions using the company’s Internet chat support are commonly posted to Reddit. On December 15th, 2009, Redditor knarf submitted a post complaining about an unhelpful EA customer service representative to the /r/gaming subreddit, which featured a screenshot of the chat session. Prior to being archived, the post received over 1,100 up votes and 400 comments. On October 29th, 2011, Redditor secretbuzz submitted a post to the /r/gaming subreddit, describing a frustrating experience with EA support to change his account information. The post accumulated more than 1,500 up votes and 260 comments before it was archived. On November 4th, Redditor namonaki posted a screenshot of an EA support chat session to the /r/funny subreddit, in which a support representative ends the chat by saying “this chat has become unproductive and I unfortunately have to end this conversation.” Prior to being archived, the post garnered over 9,200 up votes and 800 comments.
Digital Rights Management (DRM)
Electronic Arts has been known to use digital rights management (DRM) software in their games to prevent piracy. Several PC video games including Spore, Mass Effect and Bioshock included a form of DRM which limited the number of times a game could be activated over the Internet.
Mass Effect 3 Ending
On March 6th, 2012, BioWare’s action RPG Mass Effect 3 was released amidst high anticipations from the online gaming community. However, the cinematic ending of the game was poorly received by fans for having only slight differences based on choices made throughout the game.
2013 SimCity Launch
During the release of SimCity 5 on March 5th, 2013, the game came under intense criticisms by gaming review blogs and YouTube commentators, mainly due to requiring an internet connection to play the single player campaign. A large number of players experienced issues logging onto the server, similar to the Diablo III Error 37.
“Worst Company in America” Awards
On April 4th, 2012, the consumer advocacy blog Consumerist named EA the “Worst Company in America,” beating Bank of America by a nearly 30 percent margin in an online poll. Consumerist noted that there had been “numerous accusations” that the company deliberately released incomplete games to charge fees for additional content at a later date. The same day, Redditor wickedplayer494 posted the results to the /r/gaming subreddit, gaining upwards of 10,400 up votes and 1,600 comments prior to being archived.
On April 5th, 2013, EA Chief Operating Officer Peter Moore published a blog post in response to the company’s inclusion in the Consumerist poll, in which he admitted that the company has “made plenty of mistakes.” The post went on to defend SimCity’s always-on function and games with micro-transactions while praising the company’s use of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) characters. On April 9th, Consumerist published a follow-up article highlighting the company’s “Worst Company in America” achievement for second year in a row, citing the controversies surrounding the popular franchise titles Mass Effect 3 and SimCity 5. The same day, the Consumerist post was submitted to the /r/gamingsubreddit, where it received over 18,000 up votes and 2,700 comments in the next 48 hours.