Saturday, December 16, 2006

What Other Reasons?

EA is kind of the de facto whipping boy of the videogame industry and this is not without reason. The EA_spouse whistleblowing highlighted some incredibly pernicious business practices.

Of course, by all accounts they have at least made an effort to change. What about other major game companies guilty of the exact same things? Where is the widespread call to regulate the industry? Are we so naive to think that Nintendo doesn't have voluntary-mandatory crunch time? Most studios probably ducked their heads and said, "Thank god it wasn't us. And thank god nobody is urging industry-wide oversight."

Lack of innovation. Let's all turn and stare and point at Madden, class. But let's be real about this: Madden is a football game. This is not meant as a diminutive but to point out that right from the start innovation is limited by a stringent ruleset made even more stringent by its brand licensing. Some years Madden is a great football game, other years it's passable.

But they've been publishing Sid Meier for quite some time. They released Ultima Online, flawed but still with more options than most other MMOs. Dungeon Keeper. The Sims. Shogun: Total War. Populous. Lots of stuff coming out of small, quirky studios.

Of course they have a raft of shallow, derivative titles and outright duds. Look at any game-publishing company and you'll see the exact same pattern. A few innovative sellers, lots of generic retreads that sell gangbusters and a whole host of failed product (not to mention all the unseen games killed off at some point in development).

There's a reason crap games get made. They sell. I remember being shocked when I heard that the third and fourth rate games coming out of my employer made the company more money than the AAA titles. "That can't be right," I said. But it's true. Doing things different means more risk, which means more time, which means more money - the higher risk means less income should the game not live up to its potential, and a higher chance of dropping a project when it starts missing milestones because the concept can't be proven.

All of which comes back to my question: Other than the complaints that might be lodged against any corporation and the specific beefs with videogame corporations, why reserve specific ire for EA?

Mostly this is for Corvus. But anyone else can feel free to chime in.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Personally, I single out EA because they are the largest publisher by turnover, but they invest the least money in original IP of all the publishers. In fact, their original IP investments in the past few years have been shockingly low.

Investing billions in Will Wright and nothing in anything else original is not a policy I can personally endorse. I believe corporations have obligations beyond making money, and if they don't live up to those obligations, I boycott them. This is where I am with EA at the moment.

All I want to see from EA is some commitment to re-investing the billions they make from sports licenses on a few original projects. They don't even have to be big projects - any sign that there is a willingness to invest back into games would do.

Must fly... take care!