Experienced Points: Not Greedy, Just Clueless

By Shamus
on Mar 12, 2013
Filed under:
Column

I know I’m guilty of bouts of hyperbole. Activision, EA, and Ubisoft are capable of some truly infuriating behaviors, and it’s really tempting to just throw around words like “evil” and “greedy”. EA is a huge, dysfunctional organization that takes in billions of dollars and employs thousands of people. But I think it’s worth noting that their desire to make money isn’t what makes them a bad company. Their problem isn’t greed, but shocking ineptitude.

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  1. Chamomile says:

    I’m genuinely curious, is there any real risk that EA will actually die? It’s been bleeding for years but it’s still not only going on, but buying other companies.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Big companies like that never actually die,they just get bought by someone.Im hoping that will happen soon,and that the new owner will be smarter.

      • Thomas says:

        According to wikipedia they’ve got $5 billion left, which should give them 5-10 years bleeding before they die out. I guess assuming their share price doesn’t suicide

        • I’m not sure where that wiki figure comes from (guess would be quarterly reporting of total assets, ignoring liabilities) but their latest results (which are going to be 3 months out of date very soon so expect new figures in 2 weeks that could paint a different picture) indicate $2bn of current assets, $500m of property, and $2bn of goodwill and intangible assets (which my layman reading interprets as assessment of value of the IP and proprietary technology they own) combined with $3bn of various debts.

          I expect the tech/IP value will keep them alive until a share price implosion forces them to do a fire sale to recover some of the investors’ losses and they obviously have cash to hand (over $1bn at last report) to keep going for a while but the size of the bets they’re making on things like MoH and potential toxic brand association pushing their franchises into shrinking returns could burn them out. Once the stock market starts to think they’re not a growing company then the betting on the change rather than the value could start a rapid change in their luck (although they probably won’t do a THQ, you can see how that stock quickly fell in 2008 when the market lost confidence).

        • MadTinkerer says:

          Oooohh!! Man, I need to get rich and famous fast, now. Like Notch rich or better. Need it.

          When EA collapses and the IPs go up for auction I could buy the Dungeon Keeper IP and give it to the War For The Overworld guys, buy the Ultima IP and give it back to Garriot (pending Shroud of the Avatar turns out as good as hyped), buy the Medal of Honor IP and hold it hostage until more Mirror’s Edge games are made, make Dragon Age n a Steam exclusive, and so on…

    • ENC says:

      As an accountant that’s glanced at their reports briefly, no.

      They made a loss for several years after the GFC up until 2012 (their 2013 reports won’t be out until about 1-2 months after their June 30 reporting date), but because of their, quite frankly enormous, cash reserves (of 1.5bn, when their revenue is only about 5bn per year) they could mitigate their losses with ease.

      Why did they make losses for so many years? It’s hard to pinpoint it but my guess would be because they’re such a retail focused company (their gross profit margin isn’t exactly high by any standards) they would’ve lost the average consumer for a while. Other big companies like Blizzard or Valve also have continual cash flows in the form of WoW and Steam respectively, and don’t have anywhere near as such strong retail presence as EA.

  2. Isaac says:

    I’ve come to the conclusion is that the main problem with Simcity is that it’s Software-as-a-Service, but no one is treating it like one. Not the consumers, who were expecting a normal single player launch but got a botched MMO-style launch instead. And not the reviewers, who tried to rate it like it was a packaged game and then updated their review score like it was a F2P Facebook app. And not EA, who has been treating it like a packaged game with DRM and then are shocked when they have games-as-a-service style problems at launch.

    Admittedly, EA spent the past year trying to convince people that it was a single player game with DRM, but they seem to have fooled themselves as well. So far I haven’t seen or heard anything that suggests they were treating it like a live game. There wasn’t a soft launch, or an extended beta to gradually stress test the servers. The stress-testing that did happen in the limited beta was more like a multiplayer FPS beta, which has completely different usage patterns. I haven’t heard anything about having a live team for the game.(They very well might still have one, but if they do they haven’t said anything about the kind of future updates and patches that you’d expect if you were playing, say, a Zynga game.

    Say what you like about Zynga, but at least they acknowledge that their games are services, and they treat them like services, complete with frequent,regular updates. EA could have had one of the first AAA games-as-a-service if they were honest with themselves about what they were trying to do, but instead they tried to have their cake and eat it too.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thats the problem with a lot of games these days.Theres nothing wrong with renting out single player games,as long as you adjust your prices and policies accordingly.But what publishers are trying to do is to rent their games,while still being paid like they are selling them.That doesnt work,and is really bad for the industry.

    • Duffy says:

      The worst part of the whole debacle is that the game in question is actually pretty damn good and the shift to the region supported by multiple cities was borderline brilliant for game longevity and including a multi-player.

      The depressing part is this should not have been released as is, you can’t even get to the menu if the game can’t connect to the servers. Black screen hangs everywhere. All they had to do was make this a single player or LAN based game without the annoying always on server connection, but advertise the hell out of the multi-player functionality. Even though I was planning to play the game by myself in a solo region, less than 24 hours after the game came out I’m playing in a region with 1/2 dozen friends. The opportunity to make a truly great game was just barely missed .

  3. Hal says:

    On a vaguely related note, I saw your Stockphoto-EA manager a few weeks ago used in a presentation at church. It was an odd occurrence, because now I associate him as the guy who shoved a hooker in a dumpster.

    • Dragomok says:

      I once saw him at billboard advertising some travel company. It didn’t strike me as trustworthy either.

      • mdqp says:

        He said it was odd, not that he didn’t trust him! ;p

        In fact, he could have littered the ground with the body, but since he has more civic sense than most, he took the time to properly dispose of it. Truly, he is a remarkable member of our society! :D

  4. Jack V says:

    I think part of the problem is that people mean different things with greed. Their problem isn’t wanting to make more money, it’s in focussing on short-term, badly-thought-out ways of making money (like charging for individual straws and napkins). But sometimes “greed” means “screwing me over to get more money” and sometimes it means “screwing both of us over to get more money because you can only see the money, not the planning”…

    • krellen says:

      This is kind of my reasoning on this. Greed isn’t “wanting to make money” or even “wanting to make more money”; it’s allowing the making of money to trump all other values and decisions.

      Valve wants to make more money, so they devise ways to offer value and convenience in order to convince you to give them more money – the important part here being that they aren’t exerting any real pressure on you, they’re just making their product more attractive.

      EA wants to make more money and they don’t particularly care how they do it. Instead of gussying up the product and trying to make it more attractive, they’re taking away things we used to have, adding gates and barriers that money can help you get through, and in general thinking of nothing but getting more money, at the expense of all other values.

      I’d call the latter greed, and the former good business. I do not believe there is ever a circumstance in which “greed” is a good thing.

      • Bearded Dork says:

        Steam and Amazon are my two biggest examples of companies that make it easy for you to gleefully fork over giant piles of cash. They also tend to be where most of my disposable income ends up, go figure.

      • Keeshhound says:

        Full Metal Alchemist.

      • StashAugustine says:

        One could point out that greed is never a good thing, because greed is love of money that has gone too far but I’ll stop being pedantic now.

        • Or, as Ayn Rand put it: They don’t want to MAKE money, only to GET it.

          Greed can’t be defined as love of money (or anything–you can be greedy for things other than money, you know, witness this comic: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/facebook_likes) that has “gone too far”, because how far is “too far”?

          The problem isn’t with wanting more, the problem is indeed with how you go about *getting* more. There are lots of strategies out there, but fundamentally the only one that works long term is to provide someone with some kind of value. If your strategies are focused around ANYTHING but “how can we provide more value”, you are going the wrong way. It may take a while for the result to show, but it will, sooner or later. Treat life as a zero-sum game, and eventually zero is what you will have.

  5. DGM says:

    >> “I know I’m guilty of bouts of hyperbole.”

    Also: the occasional understatement.

  6. Dan says:

    Your second to last paragraph about consumers being nickel-and-dimed to death was supposed to be illustrating the ludicrousness of some game companies, but my first thought was “Oh, like the airlines.” So, yeah, this idiocy isn’t well contained to just one industry.

    And, in the airline industry, it seems like a lot of people like SouthWest largely because they don’t have the same annoying ‘charge for every little thing’ practices that most other airlines do. It would be nice if some of the others clued in to this.

    • SteveDJ says:

      Well, the day I’m on an airplane with pay toilets, is the day I pee in the corner.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        Welcome to RyanAir. Corner seating is available for purchase for GBP10, Eu12, or USD15.

        • Atle Pedersen says:

          But they reduce the main costs, and are open about the “everything but the flight itself costs extra”. You know exactly what you get, and can act accordingly.

          What I usually dislike is advertising like “Now, feature X is included!” What I read is “Feature X is mandatory, and you have to pay for it too!”

    • False Prophet says:

      It’s about trade-offs, though. Southwest has the randomly-assigned lineup for seats practice, which is fine for business travellers, but my girlfriend and my friend’s wife get really anxious on airplanes and won’t fly in seats separate from us. Meanwhile, an indie band we met at the airport told us they always fly Southwest because they have a lot of gear and Southwest doesn’t ding you for every piece of luggage like most airlines.

      • Mike S. says:

        In what is admittedly one of SWA’s few instances of nickel-and-diming, you can pay an extra $15 to be in the first boarding group. That’s sufficient to find four seats together. I actually prefer that option to the previous method (where I’d have to hover over the net 48 hours before the flight to try to do online check-in early enough to get Boarding Group A). Or the one before that (where you’d actually have to physically be early enough to the airport to be one of the first twenty-odd people to check in). Or the one before that. (Just start lining up as early as possible.)

        For those who haven’t flown Southwest: the seats aren’t randomly assigned, they’re unassigned. Passengers are assigned to a boarding group and given a number and board in order and by group. So A1 gets their pick of the plane and an empty luggage rack, while C30 gets the last middle seat in the back and the space under the seat in front of them.

        It’s mostly by check-in order, but they give the earliest numbers to their elite flyers and the next few to the people who pay to be near the front of the line. (So you can still have a pretty wide choice by checking in early, or spare yourself the effort by paying the premium.)

        I’ve mostly lost interest in flying other than when necessary due to the security ratchet. But when I have to, I generally go with Southwest when I can, since their prices are competitive and I don’t find out at the last minute that there’s a separate oxygen charge, or a fee for opening the windowshade.

        • Paul Spooner says:

          Hear you there. Trying to lean away from the political side of this discussion, but I would be interested in a “low security” airport system that didn’t hassle me and where I could walk with my wife and kids to the gate when they’re off to visit grandparents. Unfortunately, there’s a monopoly going on with airspace right now, but it serves the point. Less people fly due to the hassle of “security”. Just like DRM, in so many ways.
          Of course, if the security was out of sight and friendly (like with the Steam DRM system) then it wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Sure, it’s still annoying and I’d prefer if it would go away, but, like Shamus says, it’s more about the experience than the underlying semantic content.

          • Peter H. Coffin says:

            There is such a low-security airport system, but it involves more money than most people are willing to cough up for transportation, but far less money than most people would think. Walk into any small airport (How small? Do they have a flight school based there? They’re small enough), with about $250 plus 2-3 bucks a mile, and you’ll be shaking hands with your pilot asking where you wanna go and what time you wanna leave before the people that arrived at the big airport have gotten their bags checked, much less through the TSA line. Commercial-rated pilots with their own planes are not scarce, and most of them are hungry for work flying instead of doing whatever their “day job” is, or taking another tax deduction doing checkrides with Air Scouts.

            • Lord Nyax says:

              While that is pretty awesome, it’s just not feasable for most people. I’m going to college in Eugene, Oregon, and my parents live in rural western Washington. The nearest town to their house with an airstrip of any kind is Eatonville, Washington, which is only about 200 miles north of Eugene. At $250 plus 2 bucks a mile it would cost at least $650 for me to visit my parents, and the same to get home. To compare, I can fly from Eugene to Anchorage and back again for about the same price flying Alaska Airlines. Driving to my parent’s house costs about $35 for gas. Unless you’re fairly well off I don’t think the price of hiring your own pilot is really feasable.

  7. Eric says:

    NOTE: Don’t take these comments as fact, they’re second-hand from a friend of mine.

    I know someone who did QA testing for SimCity throughout the project. The stories he told made it sound like a disorganized mess even nearly a year before it launched, and his look into internal Maxis company culture suggests that everyone is acting completely ignorant of crippling problems. The game has major bugs that he and others on his team reported 6 months ago, and everyone unanimously advised to DELAY the project to fix these bugs. This advice was ignored.

    People forget that Maxis today is NOT the same Maxis that made SimCity of the past, not even necessarily SimCity 4. We’re talking years and years of difference and the people working on the game are in the delicate position of having to make a sequel to a beloved franchise they have never worked on, may never have even played much in the past, and perhaps most damningly, don’t necessarily understand the appeal or success of.

    When you combine that with a situation where most of the executives and producers at Maxis are no longer Maxis-bred but brought over from EA, who have a very different company culture, it’s not surprising to see the game go in a direction completely contrary to what fans wanted. From the sound of it, most of the issues with the game come down to Maxis, not EA directly – it’s just that EA has become so entrenched within Maxis that calling them a separate company is kinda silly, just like today’s BioWare is now basically just another EA division and many of the previously influential folks have long since left.

    Always online DRM sucks. But from comments publicly made by Maxis, it was their decision to leverage Origin to provide an always-connected experience, not EA’s. Why they made this decision, I don’t know. Maybe they genuinely thought people wanted that. Maybe they ran numbers and saw that the casual fans they’d lose would be made up for by the milking they could do of the dedicated fans via expansions and DLC.

    Much as I don’t like EA that much as a company (their “hire and fire” employee-burning policy specifically), the fact is that most people who bash them (including me) don’t have an inside look into what’s going on. I do think “shocking ineptitude” is part of the equation but we can’t lay all the blame at their feet for everything, and the fact that they are such a huge company and still around shows they are doing something right – just that we don’t point and laugh at those things.

  8. Asimech says:

    I think I’ve said this before, but to me “greedy” isn’t “trying to make something more profitable” but “making short-sighted, flailing, attempts at being more profitable”.

    Stuff like “think how much more we could get out of people if we sell the game piece-meal since it will hide the total cost”, “X sells well, we need more stuff like X” or “let’s market this to the wrong audience since that group is bigger even though word-of-mouth will completely ruin long-term profits”. The sort of attitude that ignores any kind of a bigger image & focuses on specific details, like countering dropped sales by hiking up the price.

    Actions that anyone should be able to spot out as a bad idea had they gone to something like the middle-manager course I was on for just one year and paid any attention.

    In short: Being greedy is ineptly trying to increase profits.

    And I suspect there are a lot of people who use “greedy” the same way I do.

    • Eric says:

      I wouldn’t call it “ineptly” but when you use the word “greedy” it does imply a fundamental disrespect for the customer as well as short-sightedness. It’s the kind of “get rich quick” thinking where you’ll stoop to any low just to make a buck. However, sometimes it does really work.

      • Trix2000 says:

        The sad thing is, it’s because it occasionally works that people go that route in the first place I think.

        • That, and making money the other way is an incredible massive heartbreaking ton of work that may just wind up getting you sued and/or raided by self-righteous government officials out to protect “the little guy” from you cruelly selling them something they wanted to buy.

      • Asimech says:

        Yeah, I forgot to explain the “annoys the stones out of consumers” part of “greedy”.

        Sometimes they do work, but they’re short-sighted which is what makes them “inept”.

        Unless the executives don’t care about the company itself and are just looking for a quick buck before the whole thing crumbles down.

        @ Jennifer Snow – I have no clue what you’re talking about. I’m pretty sure there are many ways of making money, not just two.

    • I’d put in how a lot of CEOs and board members run companies into the “greedy” category. There are loads of corporations where people who didn’t start the company or who have no particular passion for what it does will do things like defer maintenance, lay off or not hire more/new people, delay upgrades, etc. to increase the bottom line until their stock option is vested and then bail out while the value is at its height.

      Then there’s capital investment firms that purchase struggling companies, make the entity take out loans they can’t ever pay back, funnel the money to the investment firm’s shareholders and management, then let the company go bust.

      I could go on, but right now a frightening amount of “business” has little to do with the product produced (if any) and more to do with a kind of video game where you find a way for your money total to increase via mathematical shell games or by liquidating assets and workers for a quick cash grab.

      • Asimech says:

        This teaches us one thing: There will always be Munchkins ruining any system.

        Any number-based system is bound to be exploited and tying that same number to power just means that the people who exploited the first edition will be shaping the second.

  9. Jabrwock says:

    It seems like EA is like Ryanair (the airline that charges you fees for every little thing), only without the discounted fare.

    Ryanair’s business model is to nickel and dime you for conveniences, in order to make up for the lower ticket price. EA seems to want to do the same, only without offering the lower fare on your initial purchase.

    So you pay more up front, AND they want you to pay for every little convenience.

  10. Neko says:

    I’m just amazed that there are still people out there who will buy an EA game and then be surprised that it’s shallower than its predecessor and crippled with DRM. The discerning gamers should know what to expect by now.

    The unwashed masses will continue to buy Modern Duty: Call of Fightman Simulator 2013 of course. They’ll be happy with whatever slightly refined version of the formula that comes out. But the people who get riled up by DRM (smart people) still seem to be buying EA games anyway. It’s confusing.

    • Jabrwock says:

      Generic-Sequel [current year] seems to be their bread and butter. As long as that market is sustained, they won’t fail, they’ll just retreat to lick their wounds.

      That seems to be EA’s biggest problem. They built up a sales model around being able to release the same crap with a slight upgrade every single year for every one of their product lines.

      When they branched out into other genres, they no longer had that built-in ability (sports team lineups that change) to justify a new version every year.

      Their solution? Pump out “pulp” DLC every year. Which of course makes them less money, because who’s going to pay $60 for DLC? Which means they need to pump out 6 DLCs per year for $10 each.

      Or 2 DLC, and $40 worth of in-game purchases.

      Their business model hasn’t changed. They just modified it to reflect the change of market (sports fans -> everyone else).

      They haven’t bothered to innovate. Just found new ways to sell the same crap over and over and over.

      • Tony Kebell says:

        FIFA 2013 is MUCH better than FIFA 12 though , the FIFA team do have a way of refining and improving the control and presentation every year. Seriously the gameplay, balancing, texturing, modeling and then the general update of rosters, is worth £40, for their efforts, in my honest opinion.

        • Felblood says:

          I can see where you’re coming from, but at the same time, not every genre really has a place for the HD remix treatment. Investing a million dollars to make a prettier version, with balance tweaks that only the most hardcore fans will notice, is not a universal solution, and treating it like one is why EA bleeds a billion dollars a years.

          Fighting games and sports games are like that, and really intense competitive multiplayer, but traditionally single player games that are less sensitive to balance and flair can’t sustain that sort of market.

          • Trix2000 says:

            I think it bothers me more than, over all this time they’ve been in other game markets besides sports, they still haven’t figured this out. But then again, big companies can move pretty slowly.

          • Kdansky says:

            And even though Blizzard is the new EA (after the D3 debacle), they don’t charge extra for non-stop patches of one of the most competitive games on the planet. Some people argue that HotS is too expensive, but I find $40 acceptable for a *big* expansion pack with new campaign, new units and a huge rebalancing and minor improvements like graphical updates. It’s certainly better value than any DLC with 2 hour play-time and $10 price tag.

        • jabrwock says:

          FIFA 2013 may be a huge leap of 2012, but was 2012 a huge leap over 2011, 2011 over 2010, etc?

          My point still stands if all they did between years was a minor cosmetic improvement + roster change.

          If they have a major update every 2-3 years, then they are effectively releasing £40 ($80!!!) DLC every year, and only really updating the game once every few.

        • I’d say that sports games are “easier” than other games like RPGs or ones with a narrative because, in essence, the “story” is already written for you. EA didn’t come up with the teams (and maybe not the players? I don’t know how likeness rights are handled) or how the game is actually played. They don’t have to worry about making how the actual determination of win and loss comes about from a practical point of view, since the FIFA rules don’t change all that often.

          They may work quite hard making the simulation as close to the real thing as they can or more exciting, but it’s not like they have to create villains, heroes, and lore from whole cloth. It’s good work if you can get it, I guess.

      • Alan says:

        I routinely see people criticize EA’s yearly release system. And to me it looks like the Madden and FIFA games are just yearly shovelware. But then I look at the Call of Duty series, which is similarly criticized, and I see a series that I largely enjoy and don’t begrudge a yearly(ish) purchase. And I see discussions by people who are really into video game American football happily discussing improvements to the core gameplay of Madden. I see fans of video game association football (like Tony, above), doing the same for FIFA. And I’m reminded that just because I don’t appreciate it doesn’t mean it’s crap. EA is really evil, but they do ship games that a lot of people enjoy.

    • Scampi says:

      Actually I stopped buying games with blatant DRM years ago…it of course causes me to miss out on increasingly more AA+ titles, since there seem to be no more games without them. If I knew there were more of my kind I’d try formulating an “open letter” type mail to several publishers to show them how many customers they lost due to DRM and obligatory connection to their servers. But I suppose they are either VERY silent or there just are not that many.
      Actually, I’d even go so far to blame the players of the DRM-infested games of the same behaviour as the publishers, where access to a AA+ title is the highest priority instead of not being inconvenienced by their BUSINESS PARTNER(seriously, they ARE).

      It’s like a game theoretical downward spiral where *a* is afraid people might pirate copies of their games. They decide the correct countermeasure is to only sell games with a blatant DRM-mechanism. They push the product, which is, of course, a AA+ title. The customer can either swallow the disgusting DRM or miss out on the tasty top level game. They are not aware their paying customers might hate the idea and retreat from playing altogether. They are so afraid of being robbed that they shoot at customers. They made a ‘greedy’ short term decision.
      *b* is aware of a new AA+ game with some blatant DRM. *a* has been known to push this kind of scheme and the gamer *b* sees no hope of changing this. Therefore his optimal solution seems to be swallowing the DRM to keep playing games at all. Never does it cross his mind that he might be one of millions, who, if they didn’t buy the product, would signify a massive loss to the guys who apparently have only the interest to AVOID loss in the first place (or even turn a profit, but whatever they do, they want to make more or break even). *b* therefore buys the product, puts up with the DRM, shows *a*, that *a*’s decision was the right one. The customer made a ‘greedy’ short term decision, the system works…

      • modus0 says:

        The problem I see with your example, is that the publisher is more likely to blame piracy for any lost sales rather than the DRM driving honest customers away.

        So *a* will see that they sold less of their product than they expected (because enough *b*’s refused to buy it due to the DRM), and will conclude that the game was pirated in greater numbers, and thus the next game will require even more restrictive DRM to keep the pirates away.

        • Scampi says:

          The publisher will possibly do it anyways (either because ‘People pirated the game, therefore the DRM was not restrictive enough’ or ‘People bought the game, therefore the DRM was a success’). But I think the success of Steam was incentive for other pubs to copy the strategy. Today, I can barely buy a freaking Mah Jongg without registration, code entry, permanent connectivity and DLC for new motives *end of exaggeration*.

          The point stays valid: buying a product from someone you know will screw you because you think you might miss something is not exactly far sighted either.
          My point was: both sides of the trade only see their short term advantage. I don’t think you really made a point against that.
          Actually, I think your comment just supported it, in a way.

          Edit: The ‘piracy’ idea is not very clever by the devs/pubs either…since it means admitting the DRM was no good to begin with.

    • I think the problem is not too many sequels with EA. It is that EA has tried to branch out and make new IPs with really mixed results. See: Mirror’s Edge, Dragon Age, Dead Space, Army of Two, Skate.

      If you really want to point the figure at a company spitting out sequels, look no further than Activision. All their primary games in the past decade of been sequel machines: Call of Duty, Tony Hawk, Guitar Hero, Skylanders. They signed up to publish Bungie’s new IP specifically because it involved multiple sequels. Even Blizzard, the golden child of Activision, hasn’t made any new IPs since before the merger.

      • Trix2000 says:

        To be fair, a reliable franchise with sequels every year or so is VERY desirable. After all, it makes for safe investments that you can use to bank newer, more risky projects.

        Doesn’t necessarily make it a good or bad thing, really. Sometimes people do like more of the same, and sometimes they don’t.

        • Good point. Just because I don’t want more Call of Duty doesn’t mean that others don’t either (in fact, sales say the exact opposite). To use Shamus’s terms, it’s not greedy if people feel they are getting value in their yearly releases (or in sequels in general).

  11. Bropocalypse says:

    I used to think of EA as a vampire, feeding on weaker companies and their IPs, but I guess it’s more like an absurdly gluttonous guy who mooches off friends who he made just to mooch off of, meanwhile repainting their house a hideous color and driving their property value down.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I’ve been spreading for a few days now, but I like to think of EA as a head chef of a particularly bizarre restaurant.

      The chef has a fairly talented staff whose members are all capable of making very delicious meals to their audience. However, for some odd reason, the chef believes that it is good for business if they shit in the food, because business people say that shitting in the food is popular at the moment, despite the obvious stupidity of it. Sadly, the staff is under contract and can’t just leave for better restaurants.

      The customers can see that the cooks are talented and can cook, but are doing so in service to an idiot chef. They don’t agree on how to address it. Some have decided to stop going to it in the hopes it will change. Others buy the shit-meals to support the staff, knowing that the meals are enjoyable if you eat around the shit. And some others still eat the shit-meals wholesale, because they buy into the message that shit improves the meal.

      The bottom line is that the meals would be great if the chef stopped shitting in them.

  12. FortMag says:

    It’s interesting that you used the word ‘sabotage’ to describe their product/service. At this point, would anyone be shocked or even surprised if a high level EA exec in charge of User Experience turned out to be a plant from a rival company? Everything would make so much more sense!

  13. Brandon says:

    A big part of people’s perception of greed is also when they are being charged money for something they view has having little or no value. For instance, if a fast food place were to charge for napkins, condiments, straws for your drink, etc. Not only is that inconvenient, it’s ostensibly putting a price tag on something so inconsequential that it feels like it should be free.

    Now, like you mentioned, a smart company will just build those costs into the things that they DO sell, so that 25 cents worth of extras you use during your meal is just added into the cost of the meal itself. Of course, that means relying on people to only use a certain amount of extras. Obviously if you get some customers who empty the ketchup and steal all the napkins, you might take a bit of a loss on their particular meal, but you will make it up through the customers who take less than the norm.

    Something that bugs a lot of people is DLC for console games that turns out to already be on the disc. “Disc locked content”, if you will. This is an example of the same thing.. I already bought the disc, it has the stuff on there.. Having that content unlocked is so trivial, I feel like it shouldn’t have a value. Even if the content itself does have value, I bought the disc, the content is on the disc, therefore I have already paid for the content.

    Just another angle to consider. :)

  14. Tektotherriggen says:

    The fast food analogy was interesting. I would generally call the “combo meal” practice unethical, because it actively encourages you to either eat more (of something that you shouldn’t eat more of) or else waste food. I would actively prefer nickel-and-diming there, because I don’t want to eat much and thus would save money.

    Similarly, I would be happy with a game where you bought, say, single and multiplayer separately (since I almost never play multiplayer). However, I’ll cheerfully splash out above-average money for an indie bundle, even if I’m only interested in 50% of the games in it. I don’t consider it a waste in the way that buying food I don’t want is a waste, and I’ve discovered a couple of great games this way that I wouldn’t have risked paying full price for.

    • If you don’t want to eat too much/waste food, you still have the option at fast food restaurants to buy things piecemeal. You can just get a burger and a small drink if you want.

      I wish that applied to video games. I’d buy more games if I could get single-player only content at a cheaper price than it bundled with multiplayer. Sadly, there are enough people who put $60 of value on one side or the other in games that this isn’t even offered.

  15. I hate to say it, but I’m not sure this can kind of thing can always be called ineptness. We want to think that the pleasant, sustainable ways to get us to fork over money are “smart” and “good business practices”, while the annoying, apparently unsustainable ones are “stupid” and/or “greedy (but self-defeating)”.
    But I don’t think it’s at all clear that’s true. They’re different strategies with different time horizons. It’s like the difference between clear-cutting a forest all in one go on one hand, and cutting blocks gradually and replanting on the other. Do the second thing and you keep having more forest to harvest forever. So the first thing seems kind of stupid, even from a business point of view.
    But if your time horizon is short, or the executives have different interests from the company taken as a long term endeavour, the all-out strip mining approach makes sense. Say for instance your plan is to boost profits, exercise some stock options and then move to a bigger company–who cares if the company then dies?
    Even leaving that scenario aside–if you take the profits fast, even if it may seem to burn your revenue base, it may not actually matter. You have piles of cash now. You can use them to buy another forest. Or in EA’s case, another currently-well-regarded company. Then you use your marketing muscle and their not-yet-destroyed reputation to strip mine the customer base one more time. Or you may calculate that with the extra short term money you can afford enough advertising to make up for the bad taste in the customers’ mouths, and you may be right. If you can make sure your game is always the next big thing everyone’s talking about, it may not matter if they hate you.

    People like to think the system only really rewards positive business practices they like and other, less enjoyable ones are aberrations which will lead to failure, but it ain’t necessarily so.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Never explain with malice what can be explained with simple stupidity… or something along these lines.

      However RE:SimCity RPS just posted a story that the “online calculations necessary to run the game” aren’t really. Also, from what I hear, and while this is third hand news even for me seeing what a mess the whole launch was it wouldn’t surprise, the population simulation that they were tooting around so much is presumably broken and can’t handle larger populations. This after there was already a lot grumbling about smaller cities… AND it being one of the game’s prime features…

      There is some breaking point where the copious amounts of stupidity that must have been involved in the process start bordering on unrealistic…

      • First off, I said nothing at all about malice. What I said was that it can be just as profitable to be a jerk as to build positive customer relationships. As they say in the mafia movies, “Nothing personal, just business”. Organized crime is actually an excellent example of exactly what I’m talking about–jerkish behaviour, plenty of profit.

        At the same time I’ve always thought that line was way overstated. Almost anything can be explained by simple stupidity, which would suggest one should rarely ever attribute anything to malice. But there are a lot, a lot of things that can be explained by simple stupidity, but for which Occam’s razor would suggest malice is a more compact explanation. And malice is a very common human motivator. Much of modern politics is driven by hate and fear. It is irrational to try to rule it out of bounds as an explanatory device. And the consequences of missing malice (or, in the case of profitable jerkish behaviour, enemy action not motivated by malice as such) can be profound–they will cause you to fail to defend yourself while under attack.
        Of course, the consequences of assuming malice where it does not exist are also profound. But one should be aware of all possibilities.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          I think you’re putting way too much thought into what I said, which I could pretty much sum up as “I’d give them the benefit of doubt and assume they were just incompetent rather than trying to milk people while consciously providing a substandard product/service but with every piece of news about the whole thing it’s becoming harder to believe nobody could see it coming.”

          Basically I’m saying that I’m increasingly inclined to agree with you that it seems likely somebody there (possibly a number of somebodies) could see this happening but after adding the numbers decided that it was still worth it financially.

          • Fair enough.
            At that, actually, in this particular case I’m quite willing to believe incompetence and organizational dysfunction had a lot to do with it. I find it hard to imagine that this is their optimum money-making scenario. Likely we’re looking at people who decided their release schedule was more important to moneymaking than customer satisfaction, not people who actively felt sabotaging the latter would be good for profits.

            I was taking issue more with Shamus’ general point and many posters’ broad agreement, which seems to have a dose of Pollyanna. That is, Shamus wants to say that when people jerk the customers around, this is necessarily short-sighted and stupid, that greed is always better served by doing good. I just don’t think that’s the case, or even very close to being the case.

            For that matter, I’d say that whether he realizes it or not, Shamus’ point is a political one; it’s actually hard for me to talk about it with any clarity without getting political.

            • Shamus says:

              I’m not sure why you think I’m saying that. The entire point of the article was that this was an issue of competence, not greed. (Which is somewhat muddled by the fact that so many of us are using different definitions for “greed” and some people have incompetence integrated with greed.)

              I wouldn’t say that greed is ALWAYS harmful to the greedy party. I am saying that it is true in the case of EA. In fact, I maintain that it’s not even beneficial to them in the short term. They could make more money right NOW by adopting more pro-consumer policies.

              Their biggest problem is Origin. I’ve said in the past that EA should be TERRIFIED of not fixing Origin. The digital marketplace is driven by network effects, they are in a very distant second place, and the major problems with the platform are high prices and privacy concerns.

              Again: It’s not greed, it’s tragic incompetence.

              • Sorry if I’ve been misreading you. It just seemed like there was a lot of equivalence being created between “Customer dissatisfaction” and “incompetence”. And a lot of people were amplifying that theme, and ending up with the idea that as it were benevolent greed which makes people like you and builds long-term customer relationships is always the competent kind, and less-benevolent greed that causes people problems is always the incompetent kind. And the implication of “incompetent (at greed)” is basically, the marketplace will punish the incompetent(people who use their greed in negative ways).

                I won’t say that’s never the case. But I will claim that it’s quite often not the case.

  16. Peter H. Coffin says:

    “I have an embarrassing number of games that I’ve never even installed, but I bought them because the price was low and I didn’t want to miss out. I allow the Steam update window to appear at launch, so that I can see if more deals show up. I know from reading what others have said that I am not alone in this behavior.”

    I do not think truer words have ever been written about the marketing of video games.

    • Trix2000 says:

      *raises hand* I blame the indie bundles mostly, but Steam has certainly had it’s share of convincing me that my disposable income is called ‘disposable’ for a reason.

      Not that I’m complaining really.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Oh yeah, I have some stuff from bundles that I’m unlikely to play but it was always bundled with something that I thought was worth the money.

        My biggest Steam sin is I can see four games that I already own as physical copies and normally this would be big no-no. In my defence those are Divine Divinity, which was Steam bundled with the other parts of the series that I don’t have, the first Spellforce, which was also bundled and I’m pretty sure my physical copy doesn’t have all the expansions and this one does, and the first two Fallout games, the first of which was added as a cover to a mag in 99 and the second one something like a year later, so the discs are pretty old and, tbh, I’m not sure I could find them as there’s a chance they got lost in one of the moves or someone borrowed them, still, I was missing tactics, they were bundled and at 75% sale and, just like Shamus said, it was just so convenient to grab them all. Besides, you can’t really have too many copies of the original Fallout, I just replayed it a few weeks back after quite a few years and I’m shocked how well this game has aged.

    • It has gotten so bad that I’ve tried to buy a game on super sale…

      …only for Steam to tell me I can’t because I already own it.

    • Bryan says:

      Yes, exactly, except in my case it’s GoG, not Steam.

      And I say this after having just done the get-5-of-these-games-and-get-80%-off thing that started up today. :-) Something like two thirds of the games I bought from them haven’t even been downloaded. Sheesh.

      (And I still haven’t fired up System Shock 2, either… really need to get going on that someday.)

  17. Raygereio says:

    I think it’s worth noting that their desire to make money isn’t what makes them a bad company.

    Exactly.
    Everytime I hear or see someone claim EA, Blizzard, (insert company people like to hate on here) is evil because they want to make money and companies like Valve, CD Projekt, (insert company people like to gush over here) is good because they’re not doing it for the money, I just shake my head and laugh.

    The only company, corporation, whatever organisation that does not have making a profit on the top of its list of priorities is either a company that’s about to go bankrupt, or a non-profit organisation. Valve want your money just as much as EA does. Both of them are greedy for your money.
    The difference is in the approach these companies take: In terms of competence and in how they treat their customers.

    • Scampi says:

      Apparently, they have the primary incentive to make money-but there are several ways of doing so. If you push away people who don’t want to submit to a specific business model, you obviously miss out on their money.
      Forcing me to sit down at a pizza place, where I just want to grab a slice for the way, will probably scare me away, if I e.g. don’t have the time to sit down, or if I don’t like eating in public places, or if I don’t like the ambient, or if I just prefer enjoying my meal alone and without interference by odors coming from the kitchen…
      Making money can mean to either accept your customer’s wishes or deciding to limit your offer to people who let you have your way with them.
      If coiffeurs decide to not listen to my, their customer’s, wishes and instead make my head their personal sandbox to play whatever they want, I don’t go to their place anymore…same for publishers and developers who try to rip me off.

    • swenson says:

      Yep yep yep. Valve wants (and makes) as much money as everybody else, yet their business model and attitude toward their customers makes people want to give them money. I don’t think we can explain this as simply because they made a really good game fifteen years ago and a nearly as good one six years after that. There’s more than leftover goodwill from Half-Life, Team Fortress, Portal, and Left 4 Dead going on here.

      But let’s just step back and look at that statement again, ignoring any reasons why: Valve makes people want to give them money. A major corporation makes people want to give them money. That is an incredible thing. There are plenty of people who want to give CoD or Halo or whatever other franchise money. There are plenty of people who have little problem with handing money over to EA and other companies to get games. But that’s not the same thing. When it comes to Valve and Steam, people want to give THEM money. It’s not “oh, here’s a great game, I guess I’ll get it through Steam”, it’s “oh, here on Steam is this great game! Maybe I’ll get it because it’s conveniently already on Steam.”

      That’s just… I don’t get why nobody else seems to realize this or try for it. There is nothing wrong with wanting to make money–but if you can make people want to give you money, that’s got to be the ultimate method.

    • Kanodin says:

      I don’t agree with the idea that profit must always be a number one priority. Indeed Krellen regularly makes the point in these comments that a company can be about any goal it’s owner wants it to be for, and that the obsession with not just profit but ever increasing profit is a recent phenomenon.

      To avoid entirely retreading Krellen’s arguments let’s move from the general to the specific. Looking at Valve I genuinely don’t think profit is their number one goal. Now you are free to say that that’s just me buying into their excellent marketing strategy and I’ll freely admit that’s a possibility. To me however they have always seemed like a company whose number one priority is providing a high quality product or service, with profit as a secondary priority. I can recall a statement I think was on the dota2 blog where they said they had made a great game and now they just needed to figure out how to monetize it.

      • Raygereio says:

        To clarify: I’m not saying a company can’t have goals or principles other then making money.
        The goals “making fun games and having fun making them” and “making money” are in no way mutually exclusive. And the principle of “treating the customer well” can co-exist perfectly fine with the “making money” goal.

        • krellen says:

          The mistake you (and so many others) made (and constantly make) is excusing bad behaviour through claiming that making money should be the top priority of a company. Most companies are going to have making money as a priority, if for no other reason than to meet expenses. That fact, however, doesn’t even live on the same block as “making money is our top priority” (or it’s bastard cousin, “maximising shareholder value”).

          When you have “making money” as your top priority, you practise business in a demonstrable and noticeably different way than when it is just one of many priorities, and not paramount of those, and we do a disservice to society, to ourselves, and even to those businesses when we give them a blanket excuse with statements like “The only company, corporation, whatever organisation that does not have making a profit on the top of its list of priorities is either a company that’s about to go bankrupt, or a non-profit organisation.”

          • bloodsquirrel says:

            A company represents a substantial investment of a or many human beings’ time and money. Operating for the benefit of those people to reward their investment within the law as their top priority is a perfectly acceptable and moral practice.

            Not operating in your best interests isn’t “bad behavior” that needs to be excused.

            • krellen says:

              The only major philosophy (or religion) that encourages self-interest as the paramount virtue is Objectivism. The vast majority of people do not particularly accept Objectivism’s values. Altruism and holding other people’s interests before your own are almost universally accepted as the standard for moral behaviour.

            • microwaviblerabbit says:

              The problem is to whose benefit is a company operating to. EA is definitely not operating to the benefit of its rank and file employees, as shown by its hire and fire culture.

              Investors may get a short term reward, but aggravating the customer base and destroying long term prospects makes a volatile baseline. Plus hampering growth limits how large return an investor can make. EA isn’t growing exponentially, and the value of its IPs will be under harsher scrutiny following THQs fire sale. That created a benchmark for what could be recouped by investors realistically following a company collapse.

              The Mass Effect Trilogy is over, Medal of Honor failed, Dead Space is still on the fence, the Old Republic was a gamble that didn’t pay off as expected. All the company has its sports franchises and the Sims(Not including Simcity)to fall back on, and the sport licenses would default back to their respective organizations if EA couldn’t pay to license them. From an investment point of view there is a lot of dead weight.

              Maybe the current path is enriching the executives, but unhappy employees and unhappy investors is the hydraulic metal press for management.

              As you said “A company represents a substantial investment of a or many human beings’ time and money”. I agree they should be able to reap the rewards, I just don’t see how they are here. The employees fired after each development cycle, the investors money that went into surefire projects such as Medal of Honor and the Old Republic, the people who still work there that see colleagues disappear and observe the slow downward descent of the business. The company is bleeding talent from its studios and struggles to keep IPs alive.

              Then again I may be over-thinking this, as the blight of Red Alert 3 and C&C 4 keeps popping to mind.

          • Raygereio says:

            The mistake you (and so many others) made (and constantly make) is excusing bad behaviour through claiming that making money should be the top priority of a company.

            I did no such thing. The mistake you’re making though is not reading (well, that or a flimsy attempt to place words in my mouth, but let’s be charitable). I condemed the notion that making money is evil as childish and dumb. Every company’s primary goal is making money. It’s neither good, nor evil.

            The difference is in how the company approaches reaching that goal, what other goals and principles it has beyond making money, how it treats its customers, etc.

            • krellen says:

              You’re wrong. A very large portion of companies are made for a primary purpose that is something other than “making money”. Very few people think “I want to make money, so let me come up with something to sell people”. The thought process of most people, and most businesses, is “I want to do X thing; how can I make a living off that?”

              I never said making money was evil, but you never said it wasn’t, either. You said, quite plainly, that the top priority (your words, not mine) of every successful company is to make money. That is patently false.

              Unless you’re using “top priority” in some many that means something other than “number 1” or “most important”, I’m pretty sure I read exactly what you wrote.

              • Raygereio says:

                *shakes head*
                You are seriously failing your comprehensive reading check and from the looks of it are combining it with some cluelessness about what a company is and how it works and what the role of money is in society.

                Frankly, I don’t feel like repeating myself again and I have neither the time nor the inclination to start teaching economy 101 and basic business philosophy.
                So let’s just agree to disagree on this topic, shall we?

                • krellen says:

                  You’d have a much easier time communicating with people if you didn’t spend so much time insulting their intelligence.

                  To be clear: you being wrong doesn’t make you stupid. It makes you mistaken. Smart people can be wrong. Einstein was wrong – his theories quite clearly showed an accelerating universe, and he introduced a factor to correct that “mistake” because it couldn’t possibly be true. Except that it was.

                  Business schools have for a long time quoted “Dodge v. Ford” as a ruling that determined once and for all that companies exist to make profit for their shareholders, because it’s a simple answer to a complicated question.

                  It’s also a WRONG answer to that question. Not only did Dodge v. Ford not even say that, even if it had, it still has been rarely cited as precedent in case law, and was decided in a court that has very little bearing on American business law in the first place.

                  I don’t need your condescending reference to “econ 101”. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve studied this stuff. I’ve worked for a large variety of companies. I’ve known business owners. I’ve known people. “Making money” is the top priority of a vanishingly small number of people; why do you think that once they start a business, this suddenly changes?

                  Here’s a secret: It doesn’t.

  18. MikhailBorg says:

    The Disney Parks Experience.

    “How the hell did we spend so much money when we were at Disney?”

    “Wanna go back next year?”

    “Oh, hell yes.”

  19. Blackbird71 says:

    With a combo meal, you could just order a single item for a single price. Sure, maybe you used to get a small drink and now you get a medium and you didn’t usually get fries and now you do, but by gathering up the items under a single price point the restaurant can make things more convenient, get you to buy more food, and leave you with the impression that you somehow saved money.

    This is why I never order combo meals. I’ll take the extra few seconds it requires to order exactly what I want, rather than what the restaraunt tells me I should want, thank you very much.

    Valve’s Steam sales are the videogame equivalent of a combo meal: A system designed to get you to spend more, while somehow leaving you with the impression that you saved money.

    It’s probably also at least part of the reason I don’t bother with Steam (DRM being the other part).

    And yet, I still find EA’s practices abhorrent, and I haven’t bought or played an EA game since they sabotaged Earth & Beyond in 2004.

    • Neither do I. But then, I hardly ever go to a fast food restaurant in the first place. Nobody’s marketing catches everyone.

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      This is why I never order combo meals. I’ll take the extra few seconds it requires to order exactly what I want, rather than what the restaraunt tells me I should want, thank you very much.

      The choice of what goes into combos isn’t just for the upsell potential, it’s also giving you a discount for fitting into a precise mold. That is, it’s MUCH FASTER to order “combo #4 with diet cola” than it is to say precisely what you want, it’s much faster to assemble, and (in the cases where cash is still involved) there might even be already little stacks of coins ready to round out to the next bill to make change for the price of the combos. Which means they can pace the flow of fries and sandwiches more evenly, and do six orders in the time otherwise for five, which means a “free” extra order taken care of, and the restaurant is happy to share part of that time back to encourage people to fit the mold.

  20. Ariel says:

    Something I am curious about is how many people don’t buy EA-published or EA-developed games out of principle, because they don’t approve of the way EA does its business, and how many simply don’t have interest in the kind of products they offer. The same question really applies to any company with a similar culture and attitude towards their customers(Activision and Ubisoft, I am looking at you).

    Almost every time I hear of a game that initially appears interesting and later find out that it is published by EA, I know that I am not going to like it, and I have never been wrong on that judgement. The kind of company culture that breeds these inane and offensive business practices that EA displays is the same kind of company culture that would release games I find uninspired and uninteresting.

    At the same time, I have to wonder: if EA are as inept at their business as I (and Shamus) seem to think, how come they are still in business? My theory is that they are propelled by the power of inertia given to them by their early successes, and that it won’t carry them forever.

    So, to those who don’t bother with EA/Activision/Ubisoft, do you avoid buying their games because you dislike their business practices, or because you don’t find their games interesting in the first place?

    • MikhailBorg says:

      I avoid buying their games because of their business practices. Specifically, because (except for Blizzard) EA/Activision/Ubisoft likes to think of making games for my OS to be an afterthought best handled by an under-supported porting studio.

      Blizzard, OTOH, wants my money bad enough to make extra effort to get it. As a result: they do get it.

    • Scampi says:

      I avoid their titles out of principle, though many have appeared interesting to me.
      I’ve never been a sucker for EA, but I’ve always had a knack for Bioware Games, I own a good few, some multiple times for several reasons. The only EA title I own at all was DA Origins, and I feel lucky for not having had to register it over Origin back then. But, as mentioned, there was a number of titles I would have bought, were it not for the DRM, not all of which were Bioware games.
      About Activision: I own pretty much every Blizzard IP before the takeover, except for WoW, but didn’t buy anything afterwards. Go figure.
      Ubisoft, to me, was not a company I was a fan of. I realized they occasionally published titles I liked and I used to buy those. They just only rarely publish titles of big interest to me, but sometimes I found some rare topic with some awesome idea. I also thought, Assassin’s Creed might fill the platforming hole left by Prince of Persia(which was from Ubi in the first place), but I only got into the 1st one, since it required no registration. Considering the platforming in AC was not really all that stellar, I don’t think I missed out on something all that remarkable.

    • LunaticFringe says:

      The last EA published game I purchased was Mass Effect 3, but I bought it used. Most of Activision’s and EA’s titles don’t particularly interest me, but if a game does I tend to wait until I find it used. The last EA games I bought directly were Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space, both out of interest and because I wanted to encourage new IPs. That’s about as close as I come to voting with my wallet.

    • RTBones says:

      For me, it is no longer about the games, but more principle. I’m sure if you took the obnoxious DRM out of the equation that I could find several titles in EA/Ubisoft’s collective catalogs that I would be happy to play – or at least try. The problem, as Shamus has pointed out over and over again, is that when I see a title from one of those publishers I am interested in, what goes through my mind is not, “that looks like that could be fun,” but rather, “how many hours of frustration am I going to have before I can actually play the game?” Add to that I would have to potentially deal with Origin (EA) or uPlay (Ubisoft), Day One DLC, servers going down so I couldn’t play the game, potential forced multiplayer to get SINGLE player content (at least until a patch and yes I am looking at you, Mass Effect 3), secondary DRM (meaning extra DRM apart from steam, much like Rockstar did with Max Payne 3), social integration (the world does NOT need to know I am playing Skyrim, Uncharted, or what achievements I do or dont have), etc. Its just a pain in my arse that I am not willing to put up with.

      All this can be summed up like this:

      uPlay adds third party games

      …then take note of the last line:

      “At the time of publication, Uplay is down for maintenance.”

      • Eskel says:

        It would be more about a principle for me, but it’s not only about EA. Few years ago I have decided I don’t want to support ANY from of DRM, which covers most current high profile games.

        Surprisingly, my backlog of unplayed games have increased since then :)

        Edit: This was meant to be reply to Ariel

    • Blackbird71 says:

      I definitely avoid EA on principle, not just for the current DRM issues, but because of their past record; it’s one of those “fool me once” scenarios.

      I loved Bioware games. I used to look forward to each release, and highly recommended them to anyone who would listen. But the day that Bioware was acquired by EA was the day I vowed to avoid all their new titles, because I will not go near another EA game.

      And do you know what? I’ve never been disappointed with that decision. I’ve looked at what has come out of Bioware since then, and the effects of the EA taint on their quality is readily visible.

      As for the why and how EA is still in business, I don’t think the answer is that complicated really. By and large, I don’t think that the population of gamers as a whole really cares about principle or quality. They just want to be distracted for a couple of hours, and companies like EA are only too willing to oblige. If the customer base actually cared about the quality of the product they were buying, then EA would either clean up its act fast, or quickly find itself out of business. But as long as gamers are willing to pay for mediocre crap, then that’s what they will continue to get.

  21. Nersh says:

    Did they *paint* that shirt onto you in the new header image, Shamus?

    • Paul Spooner says:

      It does look funny doesn’t it? Could be a “painter” or “leveling” filter, but it seems to be applied only to the shirt. Also, could just be a really silky smooth shirt. Another thing that grabs the eye is that there’s a front “seam” but no buttons or other visible fasteners. There are shirts like this of course, so it’s still possible that it’s a real shirt.

      But then note the magenta haze on the top edge of his right forearm, and the purple splotch right above it (2 px wide, 3 px tall). Also a bit of magenta along the bottom edge, near his right elbow. That really seems like a touch-up remnant to me. If it is painted on, my guess is he was wearing a bright colored (probably magenta) shirt with some brand name on it which was then hue-sat-light adjusted, smeared, and touched it up into a collared shirt. Perhaps to make him look more collegiate?

      A quick image search brings us this page: http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?page_id=15033 with a near identical image. However, this shirt is already black, which doesn’t explain the magenta outlines! Also, different facial expression. With that in mind, I call “programmer art hi-jinks” on the whole deal.

      Now I’m curious too… any chance we can hear the full story behind this picture?

      • Shamus says:

        This is my fault. I suggested updating my image, since the old one is three years old. Then I give them the PAX photo you linked to. It was all I had to work with at the time. I kept meaning to take a better one, but it kept getting shoved to the side by the move.

        So they did what they could with what I gave them.

        • anaphysik says:

          Well, they /COULD/ have just used the image you gave them instead of making a ridiculous-looking photoshop of it.

          Also, they dyed your hair.

          (Then again, you’re smiling in that photo, so the whole thing might be a scam ;D)

    • Mephane says:

      Yepp, it definitely looks photoshopped!

  22. StashAugustine says:

    Speaking of EA SimCity problems: I’m trying to register my copy of ME1 so I can get the DLC. Last time I was on EA’s live chat, I got a person in less than 5 minutes. Wait time is now 30 minutes, and they’ve got a big banner telling everyone to go to a specific place for SimCity help.

  23. Astor says:

    Or in the words of a better man: Not greedy, just a FUGPUSC.

  24. Scampi says:

    Just wondering: in the last days I saw a few of my comments disappear without any explanation. Has there been something wrong with them so they had to be deleted? Just asking, so I can avoid such things in the future if possible.

    Edit: Huh…and reappear out of thin air…nevermind I asked-but I still can’t really explain it:-/

    • Most likely, it’s to do with browsers caching the site. Shamus corrected an archiving plugin to make the site faster, but in the process, it seems to have created the need to occasionally refresh one’s browser or what have you.

      I still can’t get this site to remember my login fields, but that’s no biggie.

      • Scampi says:

        The irritating thing about it is, that comments that had already been visible for a while may suddenly disappear for up to an entire hour.
        I use Firefox V19 and I regularly refresh the window if I see the need to do so (which was a lot recently). It doesn’t remember my login either, but I really don’t need that (after all, I still remember who I am;) )

  25. Kdansky says:

    I think your point is called Hanlon’s Razor:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon's_razor

    “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

  26. Nevrmind says:

    I’ve been searching for a word, and I’m not sure I got it right (since English is not my native), but anyway, here’s a succinct form:
    EA is not greedy: Valve is greedy. EA is miserly.

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