EA can do better (but won’t)
In another instance of companies behaving badly, Peter Moore recently wrote about how EA can do better in an effort to stem the tide of negative publicity the company has received—most recently in regards to winning the title of Worst Company in America by The Consumerist and recent fubars like the debut of SimCity. This isn’t the first time EA has been voted the best of the worst in the same poll against oft-vilified companies such as Bank of America. With the ball in EA’s court, it was time to speak out and admit mistakes while outlining a plan to deal with them—which Moore did not do.
His piece goes against everything they teach you in Customer Service 101. The tone that permeates the piece is one of condescending superiority. EA, much like a tall tree, catches the most wind due to its size (or so Moore reasons) and people are frustrated with them because they’re just too big and great of a company. Are they objectively the worst company in America? No, but the poll is framed in a way that it considers companies impact and perception by consumer, and perception is reality. Many other companies in the videogame industry have earned as much ire as EA (looking at you, Activision), but EA is by far the largest target and a symbol for what the audience have come to dislike in this generation.
This generation has been characterized by attempts to cut out the used games market with online passes, always-online DRM that inconveniences customers, cutting back on content to charge later as DLC, nickel and diming people out of money for what should be free-to-play titles, and the recent gem of micro-transactions in Dead Space 3, which embodies what might be the greatest sin of this gaming generation: the homogenization of titles into a bland sludge designed to please everyone and end up satisfying no one, even struggling to appease shareholders.
To be fair, Moore does own up to the various fumbles such as server issues and SimCity. But any goodwill built up by that is immediately dashed when Moore lists a series unfounded complaints and a weak defense of online DRM. Moore claims SimCity‘s always-online requirement is somehow not the online DRM that’s already been proven to be a complete waste of everyone’s time. And that Origin is somehow a legitimate competitor to Steam, which is almost too ridiculous a claim to even respond to—it’s merely an inferior delivery service built out of the titles EA yanked from Steam in an effort to duplicate the system’s success without offering any of its benefits or its own distinct advantages. Take a look at GOG which has been making bank by selling game content in a bold, new direction versus trying to rip-off the other guy.
Moore also attributes some of the votes for EA as the worst company due to people mad about the cover of the latest Madden. The rest of the votes were apparently from anti-LGBT groups that were upset over being able to get in on a little same-sex action in the Mass Effect series. So Moore is basically accusing people who voted for them as childish and homophobic.
The rest of Moore’s post details how free games made up the disaster that was the SimCity launch and some jargon on how EA will make better decisions in the future, but doesn’t say what any of that would look like. Outside of that gesture, Moore turns what should be an apology into a cheerleading session about how great EA is really doing – in the face of studio closure rumors and reality – and how everybody loves their games, yet somehow still ended up being voted the worst company in America.
Posted at the same time Adam Orth was getting flack that eventually led to his resignation, it’s another example of bad communication and a company’s failures to acknowledge the feelings of its customers. There are two things to remember when dealing with irate customers: admitting mistakes and taking the necessary steps to resolve them, the former most people are willing to forgive if they try to make it right. But it looks like there is nothing to resolve, because as Moore puts it, EA is an unbowed tree standing firmly against the harsh winds of consumer ignorance—and he is proud to be a branch of such a tree.