Experienced Points: How Electronic Arts Made Dungeon Keeper A Huge Fiasco

By Shamus
on Jul 15, 2014
Filed under:
Column

This is your last chance, Electronic Arts. I swear if you don’t completely transform your entire corporate culture THIS INSTANT then my next column will be even longer and more detailed. I will list so many specific problems and cite so many shortcomings you’ll beg me to stop. I will bury you in passive-aggressive bellyaching and whining about missed opportunities. Your move, giant corporation. Your. Move.

So, yeah. This column is mostly me shouting into the hurricane and wondering why it still hasn’t responded to my grievances vis-à-vis the pile of rubble that used to be the school and the entire waterfront district.

I’m not actually surprised that EA hasn’t changed, of course. Even if I magically appeared in the EA boardroom as a pillar of shimmering light and delivered my analysis on a pair of stone tablets, and even if everyone in the room was instantly and seamlessly converted to my way of thinking, I predict it would take a very long time for people on the outside to notice. Corporate culture and company inertia are powerful forces, and you can’t change the thinking of tens of thousands of people with a couple of memos. EA will continue to burn the bridges that they’re standing on for the foreseeable future, and they will continue to stay in business because their cash cowsMadden, FIFA, Sims, Battlefield. are still giving milk and the ambient industry growth is insulating them from the brunt of their own mistakes.

It will probably take a major shift in the industry to even make them think about reform. And even if that happens, the chances are low the current leadership will have the slightest clue how to adapt. And anything large enough to rouse them to action (say, a major economic retraction or industry-wide shift) is also large enough to be the scapegoat for their failures. (Hey, you can’t blame us! The company was just fine until that recession.)

It’s a shame. They could be doing better, and we could be getting better products.

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Footnotes:

[1] Madden, FIFA, Sims, Battlefield.


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  1. McNutcase says:

    The thing that makes large publicly traded corporations so utterly resistant to change is the same thing that makes them risk-averse. They’re terrified of shareholder lawsuits. The inability to admit having been wrong is because if they admit to having made mistakes, they can have the pants sued off them for mismanagement. Executives cannot be allowed to be wrong, even when the facts indicate very clearly that they were wrong.

    That’s how you end up with arrant nonsense like the pronouncement that Dungeon Fleecer failed because people weren’t ready for its innovation. If they admitted that it was their fault, they open themselves up to lawsuits they can’t afford.

    • Mephane says:

      Turtles all the way down, until one hits the point where one might realize that the entire model of publically traded companies has been, in and of itself, a fundamental problem ever since its inception.

      That shareholders can sue you for making mistakes.
      That executives can screw up, been shown the door and still get the golden handshake, and next week they are at the top of another company to wreck.
      That executives are effectively mercenaries with no loyalty but to the shareholders and thus, the money.
      That the numbers at the end of a quarter can matter more than any long term strategy.
      That a competitor can buy you just to close you down, or to acquire your assets and leave you to die.
      Heck, that you can be bought out against you will at all.

      Edit: Lol, now I see there is a thread about this topic right below.

      • Mark says:

        That executives are effectively mercenaries with no loyalty but to the shareholders and thus, the money.

        Actually, their loyalty is only to the money, which theoretically enhances shareholder value. Economic theory recognizes a principle called Moral Hazard that says basically that people are more likely to take (bad) risks when someone else will bear the costs of those risks. (Also see GM, Goldman-Sachs, etc.)

        As you point out, executives that screw up badly still get their bonuses and – in the unlikely event that they do get fired – get enormous severance packages… and are generally well-connected enough that they are immediately hired somewhere else (and might even eventually get re-hired by the company that fired them after the dust settles!).

        So, the net result is an executive culture so insulated from the repercussions of their own bad decisions that they stop even trying to innovate.

        • Deoxy says:

          Actually, I’d say it’s worse than that. With the way golden parachutes work, and the the obvious fact that such executives can and generally do seem to get hired at another company, the best way to maximize revenue for the executive is to get canned as often as possible.

          Seriously, stop and think about that for a moment. I could work somewhere for 3 month, get canned, get a severance package worth a year of the salary… and in 3 months, I’ve gotten 15 months pay. That is, the rewards for being fired are LARGER than the rewards for not being fired, in many cases.

          Talk about perverse incentives!!

    • AtomF says:

      >They’re terrified of shareholder lawsuits. The inability to admit having been wrong is because if they admit to having made mistakes, they can have the pants sued off them for mismanagement. Executives cannot be allowed to be wrong, even when the facts indicate very clearly that they were wrong.

      You shouldn’t be able to escape a shareholder lawsuit for incompetence just because you pile lies or self deception on top of it.

  2. LadyTL says:

    This just adds more to my theory that being publicly traded ruins a company. Being publicly traded more often then not means their first priority is to shareholders, not profits, products, customers, employees or anything else that will actually keep a company around long term.

    • Tychoxi says:

      Well the thing is if you want to maximize the shareholder value you should care about your products, customers, employees, etc.

      I agree with you though, but it’s because becoming publicly traded means that the company will sooner or later (usually sooner) get a suit for a CEO (instead of the nerd that wanted to make videogames and started the company with a bunch of similar-minded people), and that’s the problem. The people in charge have no idea about the industry they work for/at, or their customers or anything.

      • Kian says:

        “Well the thing is if you want to maximize the shareholder value you should care about your products, customers, employees, etc.”

        That would be true if the shareholders cared about long term, sustainable growth. Say, someone who bought stock and intended to keep it for years on end. But too often the stock market is viewed as a get rich quick scheme. People don’t buy stock, traders sell participation in portfolios and buy and sell in a desperate bid to outperform each other.

        This creates a short-term interest instead, where what matters most is the quarter to quarter growth. CEOs have their bonuses tied to hitting certain targets, etc. It turns the stock market into a zero-sum game, and encourages companies to burn through their assets to improve the metrics in their reports.

        For example, some game companies will fire experienced developers after a game launches and rehire whoever is available when they start a new game. This leads to a loss of institutional knowledge, meaning that the same mistakes keep being made game after game instead of the development resources growing over time. This is made in the name of short-sighted profit: not having to pay for devs you have no immediate use for (which is also a failure of management, since as soon as they finish one game you should have another ramping up), and not having long time employees which grow more expensive over time (increased benefits, etc). This improves the balance sheets, but is terrible for employee moral, productivity and many other company assets that don’t fit in a balance neatly.

        • Patrick the infuriated capitalist says:

          Companies don’t know anything that cannot be quantified as a number. Happiness well-being and moral are concepts they are unable to understand. Corporate entities are in many ways like a computer, they understand 1’s and 0’s, and that’s all.

          In this context firing people is just balancing an equation. It’s just math. Math that can’t be argued with.

          • Kian says:

            Well-being and morale can be quantified as a number. They have a real impact in the world: they lower your cost of retraining, limit time spent in QA, speed up time to market, etc. There are many positive effects that come from not firing your workforce every year.

            But those are long term benefits, while firing them provides a short term gain. But they’re difficult to measure, exactly, and open to interpretation.

    • Shamus says:

      My theory, in case anyone cares: It’s a combination of two malfunctioning systems: 1) Public trading and 2) Mutual funds used as retirement savings.

      “Hey! Have you ever noticed how the market always goes up over time? That’s awesome. I’ll bet that will never change. We should encourage (through tax law and company policy) Joe and Jane Public to put their money in the market!”

      Of course, Joe and Jane don’t have the time or the expertise to evaluate companies in depth. I mean, that kind of study is worth it if you’ve got huge sums of money on the line and it’s part of your job to understand this stuff, but if you’re just some yahoo like me then you probably have better things to do.

      So we let fund managers handle all that complexity for us. But now millions of us are investing in companies we don’t know or understand. Heck, in the early 2000’s, I had no idea what my money was in. I just knew it was a tech-based fund that tended to yield X percent. I didn’t understand any of the companies the way I currently understand EA.

      My fund manager is paid to find me companies with the best short-term yield. If I was personally involved I’d probably sell my stock if I found out my chosen company was making their money by selling wife-beating sticks made from endangered animal skins, assembled by Taiwanese slave labor. But now I have no idea what I’m invested in or how they make their money.

      Sure, some people would keep their stock in Wifebeater Co. no matter how amoral the company is, but a lot of people would sell. And that public pressure might help keep execs from going completely off the rails. But with our current system, companies end up with incentives to be LESS moral, instead of more.

      Of course, this isn’t the whole problem. It’s just one of a dozen little problems that results in large-scale malfunctions.

      • Look into high-speed high-volume trading sometime. It’ll make you see red.

        In short, some jerks bought a bunch of really fast computers with algorithms made to make loads of small trades using predator-prey models as well as basically gaming the system (a Canadian trader discovered a bunch of servers between him and the stock exchange that could see what he was about to buy, buy it ahead of him, and then offer the stock at a slightly higher price) to reap millions at the expense of the trading that (one hopes, but one is cynical) was more based on the quality of a company’s widgets.

        Apart from what appears to most people as cheating, it’s trading based purely on microsecond-to-microsecond numbers as opposed to real-world investment data corresponding to products, quality of the company, its ethos/outlook, etc.

        • Mephane says:

          Could we start calling this the real world equivalent of an aimbot? Feels like cheating, after all.

          • Grudgeal says:

            Well, in Counter-Strike the amount you kills you get doesn’t change your influence over the game’s inherent rule set.

            Meanwhile, in real life…

          • The problem is that there’s LOADS of cheating in one form or another that needs reform in investing and banking, but that’s where the money is so that’s where the legalized bribery comes from, basically.

            Trading rules that predate computers are used as exploits every day, and no Wall Street firm is going to let anyone regulate them away no matter how much sense it makes. It’s very much a tar-ball system, where nothing is every really upgraded, it’s just added on to, and the ways for powerful computer-driven players to mess with the system to their advantage keep multiplying.

            It’s very much like they’ve not only discovered the Peasant Rail Gun, but they’ve bribed the DM to let them use it repeatedly.

            • Grudgeal says:

              Using in-game money they gained from killing monsters with said railgun.

            • MadTinkerer says:

              “Trading rules that predate computers are used as exploits every day, and no Wall Street firm is going to let anyone regulate them away no matter how much sense it makes.”

              Except I’m pretty sure it would be even more harmful to put the already-corrupt politicians who are a part of this in charge of coming up with the new rules. The reason why there’s no National Bank anymore and we now rely on “Federal Reserve” is because it turned out you couldn’t trust U.S. politicians with a bank.

            • Somehow I assumed the Peasant Rail Gun would involve using the peasants as ammunition. Or fuel, or something.

              • Felblood says:

                The Peasant Rail Gun is actually just a method of mixing physics and gaming jargon together to squeeze a DM who doesn’t actually understand either of those languages, but will put up with any amount of nonsense to avoid admitting it.

                Social engineering as a gamebreaking tool, essentially.

        • Strangeite says:

          This, this, a thousand times this.

          We (as in the global economy) have already run off the cliff and, like Wile E. Coyote, haven’t fallen only because we haven’t looked down yet. In 2012, 84% of all trades on the US exchanges were done by algorithms. It certainly is a higher percentage now.

          A few years ago, a tunnel was dug from Chicago to New York to be used exclusively for high speed trading because THE CURVE OF THE EARTH slowed the fiber optic signal too much. This was all done in secret, but Forbes estimates they spent $300 million to run the fiber. It was successful and shaved three one-thousandths of a second off transfer time between the Chicago Mercantile and the NASDAQ. $100 million dollars per millisecond.

          I have two childhood friends that work on Wall Street and when we get together for beers, they tell me that they are scared to death of the system currently in place but don’t think it is possible to dismantle it at this point.

          • Alex says:

            “A few years ago, a tunnel was dug from Chicago to New York to be used exclusively for high speed trading because THE CURVE OF THE EARTH slowed the fiber optic signal too much.”

            No, they didn’t. That article explicitly states that that is a myth:

            “One Web hoax has a path even faster than Spread’s: boring through the earth from Chicago to New York, avoiding the planet’s pesky curvature. Spivey laughs, “They’re probably working on that already.””

            What they did was lay down cable that doesn’t zig-zag to get around rough terrain.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        The interesting thing is that public trading is originally an idea to allow everyone, not just the very rich, to profit from economic growth directly (and also, of course to invest money into untertakings that need investing).
        In the golden days that only exist in my imagination, a company’s purpose was “providing xy to customers”, and if they made money, that was of course welcome and a great motivation but not their reason for existing. Only in the last few years this has shifted, and even in public perception a car company no longer exists because people want cars and they provide them, they exist to … extract money from people and give it to their investors because that somehow is good for economy?

        One positive exception are Apple, about whom I otherwise find little good to say about:
        “We’re not interested in revenue for revenues’ sake” (Tim Cook)
        Amazing, especially in the face of some pushy investors, especially with the addition of a statement that investors who thought otherwise may want to pull out of Apple stock.
        … of course that was not entirely unselfish since otherwise Apple’s image would have suffered.

        There are also some investment fonds who specialize on ethical, environmentally-friendly, long-term or similar investements. That said: As a small guy putting who put some savings in there, you will usually have difficulty being sure that this actually happens, as well as making sure the people taking your money still have good business sense (but not to the point of screwing you over).

        In other words… yeah, I guess publicly traded companies are not very good for their customers unless they either have a lot of spine or their market is working really well (lots of competition, well-informed customers who’re not afraid to switch). Sadly, that’s not true for as many markets as I’d wish. Not many at all, actually.

        • Apple said that? Really?
          Apple recently dedicated $130 billion to stock buy-backs and related schemes; $90 bil of that to stock buy-backs alone. To put this in perspective, their horrifically underpaid subcontracted Chinese iPhone workforce would cost $5.2 billion/year to pay $10/hr instead of under $2. Not claiming they should do that necessarily. But . . . well, I guess they really aren’t about revenue for revenue’s sake, because if what I wanted was revenue I can think of a lot of things to do with $90 billion other than running up the share price.

          • Patrick the infuriated capitalist says:

            Buy-back’s are done for more reasons than just driving up stock price, though that is usually high on the list of motivations.

            And Apple doesn’t pay anyone in China anything, at least not directly. Apple pays China to make something for them and China decides how much of that they will give their citizens. If Apple offered to pay China more, absolutely none of that additional money would filter it way into the pockets of the people with calloused fingers. It may be semantics, but its important to remember exactly who the people are that are exploiting Chinese workers. It’s other Chinese citizens, not us.

            • ehlijen says:

              That may be true, but it is not an absolution of our involvement.

              We know what’s happening in china. We could stop exporting jobs there and build the factories somewhere with enforced worker rights. We don’t.

              If we paid more, the money wouldn’t go to the exploited, ok. But we are choosing to pay the exploiters for what they’re doing while unemployment remains a problem at home.

              I don’t claim to know what’s best, but I’m fairly sure the status quo isn’t.

            • Purple Library Guy says:

              It would certainly be deeply irregular to insist on getting the financials for all the workers and directly pass them huge amounts of extra money, but if that was Apple’s condition for getting their business I’m sure any Chinese subcontractor wishing to get their hands on those Apple $US would shrug and do it. Alternatively, if they had a desire to pay production workers well which was greater than their desire to pump the stock price, then they could simply *not* subcontract their production but instead do it directly and pay their own workers well. Bizarre, I know–so strange to realize that just a few decades ago lots of American companies had their very own production workers. But it really happened!

              But that wasn’t even really my point. The point is, they’re spending amounts of money on this stuff that are huge not just in the abstract, but relative to the company. What kind of design teams, ad campaigns, production facilities if they ever wanted to still do something real, other profitable companies etc. etc. could Apple buy with $130 billion? This (lately quite widespread) approach to handling corporate money says that Apple management are indeed not interested in “revenue for revenue’s sake”, they’re more interested in revenue for option holders’ sake. I’m kind of nostalgic for when corporate greed was about the rapacity of endless growth for the company. The kind they have now is just decadent.

          • Zak McKracken says:

            Could not find the report I read at the time, but this one goes on a similar direction:
            http://fortune.com/2013/12/28/apples-tim-cook-to-billionaire-carl-icahn-step-aside/

            There had been another “attack” by Carl Icahn, and that was directed (I think) at where and how Apple sources the raw materials for their stuff (they’ve got a decent environmental policy). The article I had read at the time directly quoted Tim Cook as saying that these were prioities and if you did not like that, you should not own their stock. Icahn sold his shares shortly afterwards.

            That said: Yes, Apple did buy back a lot of shares shortly after he had suggested so, albeit a lot fewer than he had demanded (Icahn “demanded” 150bn), and wanted Apple to change the product palette towards the mainstream market (i.e. cheaper stuff).

            You can argue that both would have been bad for Apple so the decision was selfisch, but this is definitely not the short-term orientation towards the next quarterly figures that many associate with publicly traded companies.

            Also, there are still investors like Warren Buffet who actually live from the dividend of long-term investments rather than by buying, influencing and selling. So … I guess it’s not completely bad, but it depends on individual peoples’ character, not on “the market forces”. If the majority of stock market investors decide to abandon ethics and go for it, they can still ruin everything.

            That said: I still won’t buy Apple stuff. For other reasons.

          • Zak McKracken says:

            Ah, this is it:
            http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/tim-cook-soundly-rejects-politics-of-the-ncppr-suggests-group-sell-apples-s

            This is’nt about not buying stock back but it’s another example of Apple not maximising quarterly revenue at all costs.
            Although — again — you could point out that given what Apple fans think and expect from Apple, a different reaction might have been a bad business decision as well.

      • Deoxy says:

        The basic disconnect is much simpler than all this other stuff:

        Stocks are (de facto) only valuable to sell – that is, “buy and hold” gets you nothing (or close enough to nothing not to matter).

        That is, it has become, for all intents and purposes, a zero-sum game, a pyramid scheme.

        When people made their money from the dividends from owning stock, then there was a reason to make sure the company made money, etc. When you only get money when you sell, perception and stock price is EVERYTHING.

        THAT is the fundamental problem. The other problems we’re talking about here developed in response to that problem.

        • That’s fairly fundamental. But the fundamental, fundamental problem is probably limited liability. Or maybe corporate personhood.

          My dad used to argue that a major but unrecognized problem was the ability of corporations to own other corporations. If you said OK, corporations are not persons and only persons can own shares in corporations, a whole lot of the galactic hyperdimensional octopus’ tentacles would get unravelled.

          (OK, the real fundamental problem is not “economic” in the narrow sense but political. Nuff said)

          • Kian says:

            Agree about corporations owning corporations. I don’t have a problem with limited liability. It’s a reasonable safeguard to put in place to encourage people to invest and be productive. Without limited liability, if I had employees and one made a mistake, I’d be personally liable. Imagine a truck driver that avoided whatever controls the company made to avoid DUIs because he couldn’t afford to miss his shift. I wouldn’t like to lose my house because the drunk driver ran someone over and the injured party sued me directly. Limited liability means I might lose the company (imagine you own a small company), but I’m not out on the street.

          • Deoxy says:

            No, both of those things existed for generations before the current problems developed.

            Limited liability is not entirely without drawbacks (and the devil of how to abuse it is in the implementation details, of course), but the advantages so far outweigh them as to be just silly to even talk about.

            Corporations owning corporations makes things more complicated, but as long as the same rules are followed, it changes nothing – a corporate owner has the same rules, limits, and benefits as a non-corporate owner.

            I will say, from speaking with people I know with direct experience, that many of the corporate shell games that companies play can work pretty well in regards to tax purposes but often fall apart when it comes to liability issues, due to the rules I mentioned – when the CEO of the owning company is also the CEO of the owned company, the “corporate veil” is clearly a joke and treated as such by the courts.

        • Zak McKracken says:

          There are still companies that will pay a dividend and play long-term, only they probably don’t make the news as often (mainly because they aren’t bought and sold that much…)
          The general perception among investors in the stock market, though, has certainly shifted, although I don’t believe that’s an absolute thing, either, there are just some very vocal people.

          That in turn has likely to do with what Purple Library Guy said: limited liability: A regular person puts money in a fond, they have a team whose jobs depend on abstract metrics, who hire a consultency, who advice based on maximising their pay which is based on performance alone, and in the end there’s a chain of people all of whom are incentivised to do only one thing with the invested money, at the expense of anything else, and that’s increase shareholder value in the short term. That, of course can mean anything in the long term, and conscience is only as much a part of the equation as people involved in the process allow themselves to have one.

          I know only few people working in similar situations, and most not very well, but my impression is that there are some who will just do their own thing after a while and those who stop disagreeing openly und “just do their joibs” because they don’t really have a choice. I know one person working in finances who was fired through no fault of their own by simply being walked out of the building by security. I thought that was illegal. In that kind of environment, you choose carefully which of your opinions you express… that said: As far as I’ve witnessed, People in the finance sector still have opinions and consciences, they’re just less visible from the outside these days.

          • Zak McKracken says:

            Example: 47% of BMW shares are owned by the Quandt family, and they have long-term interests. They don’t have the majority, but another investor who wanted to bleed BMW dry and sell it would have an extremely hard time finding a majority, and as a consequence, the main income for the owners are dividends, not share trading.

            There are actually quite a few similarly “family-owned” but publicly traded companies, and many of them have been around for quite a while.

            • Deoxy says:

              They do exist, but they are no longer the majority, much less the overwhelming majority. The behaviour of the market is governed largely by the majority and the regulations put in place to deal with the majority.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Shareholders are bad for game development for two reasons:

      1) The average person who can afford to buy shares in publicly traded companies is usually the sort of person whose time is “too valuable” to be “wasted” playing games. Thus, the people whom everyone else are beholden are utterly ignorant about the desires of the consumers who buy the products. Not all of them, but I’m presuming a broad majority.

      2) Legally-mandated Quarterly and Annual reports lead to a strong desire to have annual releases, even though annual development cycles are absolutely toxic to the process of game development. Annual releases were generally practical back when game development usually involved one to five people, 2D low-res graphics, multiple platforms only for the absolute smash hits, and large publishers didn’t exist. To try to implement an annual release schedule for anything using current technology is lunacy…

      But try explaining that to the people who have no understanding of how to actually produce videogames. And almost certainly don’t even play them. And think that throwing more people at the problem is the solution to any issue.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        Publicly traded companies are great at a lot of things -but creative activity may not be one of them (absent very peculiar circumstances).

        Movies and plays are produced by ad hoc companies, books and painting are one-creator (or small number of creators) jobs. The exception to this -the Hollywood Studio System -is one of those peculiar circumstances: a monopoly over both production and distribution. Similar thing happened with Bell Labs, when AT&T monopolized both telephone service and also telephone manufacturing.

        Which would imply that EA should focus its attention on distribution (which Origin demonstrated they stink at), like Universal or New Line, rather than also trying to make games. For that, being publicly traded is probably fine.

        • Well, yeah, except that EA wouldn’t be able to get away with sucking if their main business was head-to-head competition with Valve. Someone better be pretty dashed innovative if they’re going to break into Steam’s business.
          And of course they’re utterly unsuited to compete with Humble, not being particularly humble, or with GOG (after all, their lack of understanding of Good Old Games is what brought us this column in the first place).
          Maybe EA should just take their wads of cash from their core cash cows, invest it all in index funds and call it a day.

          • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

            There are multiple distinct issues here:

            1.) Does being publicly traded destroy a company? Publicly traded companies have existed for 5 centuries, give or take a couple decades, and there’s a good argument that without them, the New World never would have been colonized -so they do appear to work in certain circumstances.

            2.) Do those circumstances include creative activity, either artistic or R&D? Based on how other artistic and R&D based fields act, the answer is no. There actually is a research literature on this -which is not my specialty, but my recollection is that publicly traded companies are pretty good at routinization -so, once the idea exists, figuring out how to scale it up. But actual development? No.

            3.) What does this imply for EA? That developing games is not something they will be good at -and therefore they should focus on the routine parts: marketing, manufacturing, and distribution. Trying to keep the artists on staff doesn’t work. Their relationship should be like the relationship of director and studio. Peter Jackson pitched Lord of the Rings to MGM, who passed on it, so he pitched it to New Line, who bought it. Then, when he made the Hobbit, he pitched it to New Line, who passed on it, so he took it to MGM -who then worked out a deal with New Line to co-finance the film. EA should do similarly -preferably with fewer lawsuits.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “(As if someday the public will develop an insatiable hunger for terrible empty gameplay.)”

    When* that happens,I wont be surprised at all.

    *Yes,when.Not if,when.

    • Ciennas says:

      Oh, you cynic. The market will crash well before then- it would be a world where the game making ‘resource’ has been so exhausted that the ONLY games available would be that soulless shilling.

      A world where the publishers get everything they wished for- no indie competitors, no used or old game systems viable or easily made to function, no way to play but through their purse strings.

      And then… We’ll quit. We’ll find some other way to spend our time, until they either wise up or starve to death.

      People are easily distracted, but they’re not stupid, and you can’t stop us from being clever fence hopping monkeys.

      If games became a chore on every level… Why even bother?
      After

      • nerdpride says:

        I’ve heard of some people would argue that this has already happened in FarmVille or Bejeweled or Angry Birds or some casual thing. Personally, I don’t see how people buy so many games in Steam sales (my library since 2011 has 24 items) or whatever when I get plenty of entertainment out of a Humble Bundle (no I didn’t buy all the humble bundles) and maybe a really neat thing like Kerbal Space Program or something free online like a real Roguelike.

        I think you should find something else to do with spare time if you have any complaint. Making things requires more effort up front but it’s much more rewarding. I never regret not buying a videogame. Especially since Spoiler Warning started playing Skyrim I’ve been like, I made a good call not buying Skyrim, I’m happy I saved many an hour for something else. I kinda want to see Josh play Kerbal Space Program just to see if he would make that game look terrible too or if KSP is something that transcends the normal videogame space. Especially with the new budget and missions update coming out. That would be impressive to me.

  4. Kian says:

    Unfortunately, if EA management had the ability to review their mistakes and learn from them, they wouldn’t be making this kind of mistake in the first place. In other words, what causes them to make these mistakes is what prevents them from stopping.

    • Patrick the infuriated capitalist says:

      I think what WE (users, consumers) determine to be “mistakes” is vastly different from what EA considers mistakes. As long as they are making money, then they haven’t made any mistakes and all of the belly-aching and whining (passive-aggressive or otherwise) is just fanboy gibberish.

      Look at it this way: If at the end of the meal the waiter brings you your check, would you choose then to complain about the soup being cold? His response to that would be “Well….if you didn’t like it, why did you eat it all?”

      EA’s response to our misgivings is much the same: If you didn’t like it, why did you play the whole game? And to them…that is a perfectly logical question.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        Which begs the question: Did they actually make money from DK mobile?

        I guess EA become more or less like the Michael Bay of gaming: Bombastic presentation of hot air, no love for the medium, reviled and hated by those who care, but still rather successful because a large enough number of people still fall for it.

      • Kian says:

        As Shamus has said several times, the problem isn’t that EA doesn’t make money. The problem is it doesn’t make as much money as it could be making. Take Origin for example. Steam and Gog are examples of digital storefronts that make a great deal of money. It’s actually fun to browse new games there, see what’s on offer. I’ve bought many games I haven’t even played yet on both platforms. I actually once meant to buy a game I saw on offer only to find out when I logged in that I already owned the game.

        Origin, on the other hand, I only use when I absolutely MUST. It repels me. It even keeps me from playing the few games I actually bought from them, in the literal sense that when I try to play a game Origin will throw up a hundred loading screens, disconnect, crash the game or find other inventive ways of keeping my content from me. When I have about an hour per day to devote to my hobby, I don’t appreciate that hour being taken up by updates I didn’t want for a game that worked just fine the last time I played it.

        If Origin was even remotely usable, they could make a lot more money. I might enjoy browsing EA’s storefront. But I don’t, because I know any games I could buy would be held hostage by that unusable pile of fail. The only thing that gives it any traction is that the bastards keep buying companies that made good games before being swallowed, and since publishers hold monopolies over their IPs I can’t get more of them without paying them.

        And not even holding those monopolies is an excuse. Sure, buying the IP is a good business decision, but it’s only good enough to limp by. For example, I’m probably going to buy Dragon Age: Inquisition. But I won’t preorder (which is a change from the Original Dragon Age, for example) because I hate their fucking store, and after ME3 I’m not willing to fork over any cash until enough reviews say it’s good enough. And even then I might not buy it until they drop the price.

        That’s a considerable loss that they caused by being a shit company. All that bellyaching is keeping someone with a strong attachment to their franchises from throwing his money at them, and that money is instead going to their competitors. I should stress, I buy more games than I can afford to play. I could be throwing that disposable income at EA, but I’m not. Because they suck.

        So, sucking has costs. And as such, sucking is a poor business strategy. I’m sure that what I consider a mistake is different from what they consider a mistake. That’s why they’re wrong in the first place.

  5. James says:

    No mention of War for the Overworld? Or did I miss it.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Indeed, no mention of it, I was expecting one too. It does look like a labour of love and I heard a lot of good about it so let’s hope it goes better than Impire or Dungeons.

      • Grudgeal says:

        The current build is still really rough. I mean, *really* rough and lacking in lots of features. They’re still on the engine-building and implementing core mechanics stage last I tried it.

        Also, it’s basically Dungeon Keeper with prettier graphics and some names swapped around. Not that that’s *entirely* a bad thing mind you, but innovative it isn’t.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “The recent reboot of X-Com shows that there’s a viable market for revivals of classics.”

    And fallout 3 shows that you can even reboot a classic with switching the gameplay around drastically,and new vegas shows that you can even be praised by the fans of the original for what youve done.But only if you do it well.

    Really,the problem wasnt that they did the freemium thing,settlers did that a while back,the problem is they did it so poorly.I usually dont play freemium games,and Ive gotten my fill of web browser ones back when they were just starting,but settlers online Ive played a lot.Heck,I was on the verge of pouring money into it(something I am yet to do for a free game).I only managed to stop because one of the things broke.

    No,the problem is that they made a bad game.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      That’s a good point. Why do you think it worked for Fallout 3 and not Dungeon Keeper, or EA’s recent Syndicate FPS? I would assume fans of a brand would have certain expectations of that brand (e.g., proto-tower defense for fans of the original DK, RTS squad-based combat for oldschool Syndicate fans), and when those weren’t delivered the older fans cried bloody murder. Meanwhile, younger fans–and these are old brands as far as games go, almost 15-20 years since the last installment–have no knowledge of or nostalgia for these games, so they’re not going to be sucked in on brand recognition alone, so it seems short-sighted to use the name but not deliver what the name promises.

      Is it just, as you say, that Fallout 3 is a good game and the new DK and Syndicate are not? (Arguably Syndicate isn’t a bad FPS, just not interesting enough to stand out from its competitors.) Or is it that the appeal of the Fallout brand is the setting and premise moreso than the gameplay? Maybe it’s a genre thing, where RPG fans tend to be more invested in story and setting while strategy-players are more interested in systems? I don’t know if there’s any way to quantify this, but I wonder how many single-player RPG fans in general rate gameplay higher vs. those mainly interested in setting and narrative elements.

      • Ciennas says:

        Fallout 3 also had the wherewithal to do several other things that EA hasn’t accounted for:

        1) Fallout 3 had a built in understanding: No matter what, the game would at least give you an entire campaign without asking for another dime, plus hours of bonus content, plus whatever additional campaigns were brought in as DLC would almost certainly be available as a big bundle pack eventually. That proves there’s value and faith in your product right there, and at no point would it pressure you to buy the extra content other than having it be there, existing.

        2) The much reviled ending of Fallout 3 was fixed in the next add-on campaign, and all was well. they heard it… and yes, they demanded money to fix their mistake, but they also gave you an entire campaign in addition to fixing their mistake, plus all the other content they had made to that point. In other words they listened, and turned their biggest controversy into a really nice profit and appeasement.

        3) The game was fine as it was, and stood well enough on its own feet that you’d have never needed to have been a fan before, and you’d still be able to not only keep up, but enjoy yourself and converse with old hands on more or less even footing. If you took all the trappings of Fallout out, it would have still been a fun game regardless.

        EA did none of that, of course. They’re not listening to anybody and just fumbling easy passes.In sportsland, this is the point that a coaches/players/teams contract gets put up to review.

        Tl;DR: Bethesda listened and made an effort from the get go to prove their product. They listened to their fans and customers, and EA… EA is deaf and blind and clumsy.

    • Mephane says:

      No,the problem is that they made a bad game.

      Which is rooted in the pay-or-wait model in and of itself. It could have the most awesome game mechanics, but if at every second step you’d have to throw in some real money or close the game until tomorrow, it’d still be a terrible game.

      I have only ever seen a single incarnation of such a model that works without turning the game into either a frustrating slog, a money hog or directly pay-to-win, and that is the crafting system in Warframe. In this game, you can wait a day for a gun to be built, or pay some premium currency to have it immediately. And that only works because the actual game happens regardless, you can just have the building process run in the background while playing with any of the bazillion guns you already own.

      • rofltehcat says:

        In theory those waiting games can work well in PvP strategy games by creating parity between people. So people who have good micro and a lot of time do not stomp casual players as badly. Also the idea of a game that you play 3 times a day for 5 minutes, then do your work is not that bad in and of itself.
        However, it requires good execution and even the games doing it kinda well have other issues. Once pay2win-style BS is implemented or the model is applied to a single player game (with payments to skip waiting time), the whole thing falls apart and is exposed as the soulless money trap that it was designed to be rather than just a game with parity-creating and time management mechanics.

    • Grudgeal says:

      Personally I think it lies partially in the marketing and expanding to other, well-known, markets.

      First of all Bethesta had nothing to do with the death of Black Isle; Interplay went bankrupt on its own and Bethesta bought the rights (they did beat out Obsidian and Troika for those rights, but again that’s not their fault). Secondly, they were well-known for The Elder Scrolls at that point, so they had a market for “another Elder Scrolls game IN A POST-APOCALYPTIC FUTURE” both partially from Fallout fans and Elder Scrolls fans and overlap from the general cRPG fandom. Finally, they had the rep for RPGs that made games journalists and fans/gamers listen to them.

      By contrast, EA killed Bullfrog, they tried to use the Syndicate IP to break into an already over-saturated FPS market that probably has low overlap with the fans of the original Syndicate and finally, it’s EA. By this point the gamer zeitgeist was already filled up with EA scandals so we all *knew* which direction this would go.

      By way of a crude analogy, Bethesta making Fallout 3 was sort of like them going up to us and saying “hey, remember that toy you liked when you were a kid that got discontinued? I’m going to bring that back. It’s not going to be exactly the same, but you’ve seen the other toys I make and if I say it’s going to be a remake made in the spirit of my current toys, you’ll like that right?” and we[1] went “Yaaay!” and bought it. By contrast, EA (feel free to make EA sound like he’s voiced by Handsome Jack. I know I am) would come up to us and say “hey, remember that toy robot of yours you liked? The one I dropped on the floor and set on fire? Imma bring that back. As a My Little Pony.” And we went “screw you.”

      I see it as a complete disregard for speaking to your audience, one that the gaming press and the gamers picked up on: Neither Syndicate nor Fallout 3 are what I’d consider triple-A that you could sell on “you MUST own this cool thing” alone and that means establishing brand loyalty first, which Bethesta managed well enough and EA never had a chance at. I don’t think quality really mattered all that much (although it certainly had some influence); Syndicate was dead from the conceptual stage.

      [1] = Well, most of us. I actually went “boo” and never bought F3. I bought New Vegas though, but for basically the same reason as I outlined above: Brand loyalty.

  7. Doomcat says:

    Can I just point out, if your going to revive an old classic, or at least poke a specific type of game not done in a while innovation and change in and of itself is possibly a good thing that can change how the game works and is played

    Innovation is NOT doing something ENTIRELY DIFFERENT and adding one or two visual callbacks with creatures that barely resemble the original characters

    I’d like to note, Dungeon Keeper was a game I played when I was young, and I’ve played a few times over again through the years, I find that EA phone game a monstrosity…

    • mewse says:

      I don’t know. I’m okay with going way out into left field in a sequel.

      I mean, Super Mario 64 wasn’t anything at all like Super Mario 3, and everyone was okay with it because it was a great game on its own merits.

      Hell, I was okay with Zelda 2 being a side-scrolling platformer (although I’ll concede that mine is a minority opinion). And I was completely on-board with Dreamfall and Resident Evil 4 being largely played from a behind-the-shoulder-3D perspective, and with Saints Row IV being Crackdown 3.

      For me, the “not actually being a good game” thing is a much, much bigger problem than the “not enough like the original game” thing.

    • And while I enjoyed Fallout 1 and most of 2, I like the “Elder Scrolls with guns” Fallout games as much, if not more (apart from F3’s writing for the main quest, natch). I’d even say Fallout became a better match for the Oblivion-style engine than Skyrim did, overall.

      One thing I liked in a few games (I think LucasArts did this with Zak McKraken) was that they’d put the previous game in as an easter egg for the new game. I think Zak had a computer somewhere that let you play Maniac Mansion… or was that in Maniac Mansion 2? I forget.

      • MrPyro says:

        Day of the Tentacle had a computer that let you play Maniac Mansion IIRC

      • Ranneko says:

        Maniac Mansion is playable in most copies of Day of the Tentacle via a computer in game. Apparently the reason it is missing from at least one release (might have been a console port?) is that to include it would have required them to QA Maniac Mansion along with Day of the Tentacle, and that was too much work.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        Zak McKracken only had the fuel for the chainsaw in Maniac Mansion. Which does not exist in that game. Day of the tentacle contains MM on someone’s Computer

  8. Ciennas says:

    One of the most interesting things you did with this article was demonstrate how EA is clearly NOT doing well at all, Shamus.

    That link to the stock analysis was the most damning thing I’d seen for the ‘they’re making money’ argument.

    They’re… They’re melting and corroding away. If even your investors are being warned off, it’s high time and beyond to start changing approach. Maybe fix some of that damaged infrastructure and customer goodwill you’ve been so hard at work corroding.

    Say what you’d like about Ubisoft, they’re at least trying to do something unique and not just imitating endlessly.

    • Bubble181 says:

      Yup. They’re still making money for some, but they’re growing slower than their market, they’re clearly underperforming and so on. If I was heavily financially invested in EA, I’d be clamouring for them to either get rid of all their losing departments (i.e. practically everything not sports or distribution) and return to core business, or for some serious changes in upper management.
      Mind that “EA returning to core business” wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing. It’d almost certainly mean closing down most of their development studios and seeing many an IP go the way of the dodo.

      • Ciennas says:

        Yeah. that’s where I start to get mad about the scenario.

        EA’s the equivalent of that guy who ran through the buffet and gorged himself on a lot of delicious food, to the point that he would push somebody over and run off with their tray, even after it’s apparent he’s just a glutton.

        Of course, I chose a metaphor just a hair away from useful- but the “If I die, These all die too!” Bureacratic clusterfuck that is corporate intellectual property rights always always ALWAYS drives me nuts.

        It would be a great model of business if it weren’t run like a terrible game of Monopoly- where all the players are sitting on all the evenly divided properties, but refusing to trade to speed up the game.

        Have developers come to you to build a cool game instead of the other way around. Ya know, like how Marvel has multiple continuities being done by different people?

      • Patrick the infuriated capitalist says:

        They are a VERY attractive software company for some investors. Their long-term contracts with major sports and licenses for titles that have brand recognition mean that even if they never invent a NEW game ever again, they will still be profitable 2, 5 and 10 years from now. They are probably one of the safest investments in the entire software industry. An industry where safe investments are much more rare than other sectors.

  9. “I will bury you in passive-aggressive bellyaching and whining about missed opportunities.”

    You keep using this word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

    Actually, it’s not you specifically, I’ve just been seeing a lot of people refer to things that aren’t passive-aggressive as if they are passive-aggressive. Whining and bellyaching aren’t passive-aggressive behavior, which is INDIRECT. Complaints are DIRECT. If you were whining and bellyaching without ever specifying EA, that’d be passive-aggressive (although weird in these circumstances).

  10. Cordance says:

    Im starting to think that big companies like EA and alike do not follow their projects with a debrief. I mean even Xbone seemed to suffer from it when it was first announced.
    It seems like a simple thing to do everyone you dont let go after crunch time you should probably spend a day going over what went right and what went wrong. Then a month later when the PR has come in do it again so your next project doesnt suffer from the same mistakes. It doesnt feel like the company is worried about its share holders it seems like it is just trying to create a game that will print money like wow did in its day. I mean half the world industries use peer review at some point in the evaluation of projects.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      They already have games that are printing money.Their sports game are basically that.Every year they just pay the players so they can update the names,touch the graphics here and there,and voila,new madden,fifa,or whatever.And everyone buys it because…I have no idea.

      Then there is the sims,and its infinite dlcs.

      • Ciennas says:

        I mentioned this on Chocolate Hammer, but a first-person Sims would be very interesting- it flips to isometric old view for you to build stuff or edit worldspace like before, and then you wander through it directly. Take all those mishmashed genres and make it more than just a virtual goldfish tank, and you could have an AMAZING game, without even needing to do much to the already extant resources- you just have to leverage them properly.

        Make some kind of plot about stopping the evil bad guy from buying out the local hangout and turning it into his personal clubhouse, while a wizard and an alien duel to try and become mayor- and you could help either or take on mayorship duties yourself.

        All of it done with that goofy description writing being used for the main dialog.

        Any thoughts? Could any other EA Game have something interesting done to it?

        • TMC_Sherpa says:

          EA actually owns the IP for a game that let you do that. You would build up a little world and later could view it in first person by taking control of one of the population. I can’t think of the name off the top of my head…

          • Ciennas says:

            If you mean Spore, there’s a big flaw with it: namely, it didn’t get more than a ‘meh’ response from the audience, and it was the number one pirated game of its year because of its odious DRM that they never fixed.

            If it had been critically acclaimed despite the DRM… Sure, they be sequelizing the hell out of it like everything else that own. But it left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, and set the stage for all future EA/Customer interactions.

            I don’t think it will be back for a while. If it does, it would be an excellent chance for them to show they’ve changed as a company: no DRM that punishes the customer, a gameplay model that’s always fun (perhaps the galactic stage would turn into mass effect style space opera with more to do in the end, like space stations and whatnot as well to explore. I never played Spore because I didn’t want a crippled software on my computer. You’ll have to come up with improvements yourself.)

            But anyway, if they did actually show they could listen to their customers, I could see Spore being the perfect product for that.

            • Ingvar M says:

              “Build a world in top-down perspective” and “optionally take direct control of inhabitants” are two important game mechanics in Dungeon Keeper and Dungeon Keeper 2.

    • rofltehcat says:

      Well, they are basically firing whole teams after a project is finished, then rehire a whole new team for the next project. It is no wonder they end up repeating mistakes, their best people probably aren’t rehired because they want a raise or are hired by other companies.

      Just looks at Battlefield 3 -> 4 -> Hardline: Several previously known problems with the engine that had been fixed in the old game resurfaced in the next ones, in the case of BF4 actually crippling the game. I bet the people who had made the fixes before weren’t working on the new games anymore.

  11. Where’d the Reginus Youngbert art go from the last column? I miss your rippin’ pecs and apparently impressive body count.

  12. Ranneko says:

    The “innovation” that EA did was seeing that Clash of Clans is really popular in the mobile space and trying to make a clone, then using Dungeon Keeper as a theme to try to differentiate it from their source.

    They both use the same mechanics, base building, PvP raids where you deploy troops that are not able to be directed.

    You can kind of understand the reasoning, since the dungeon keeper series was also (kind of) about building up and defending a dungeon. If you saw that as the core of the experience then the conversion to Clash of Clans clone makes sense. But the mechanical and thematic changes required give you a completely different experience, you are no longer a bad guy protecting yourself from the Heroes and fighting it out with other keepers. Instead you are a petty raider, building up a fort and striking out with small forces to help bring in cash.

    I actually picked up Dungeon Keeper Mobile when it was in pre-release (They put it out in Australia and a couple of other territories to do a market test). Honestly I had a lot of fun with it, though it really was not what I was expecting. I really enjoyed being part of a small community exploring the game space and making discoveries rather than arriving to a game already explored with wikis containing the most effective strategies.

    That said they really didn’t seem that interested in actually responding to community feedback, it seemed to me more that they wanted a group of engaged players spread across the level spectrum so that when the game actually launched there would be some players at the mid and end-game levels, but not too many. Each patch seemed to apply the brakes a little bit more, making it harder and take longer to get to the final levels. Each new system seemed to actively disincentivise actually defending your dungeon too, I quit when I realised that the best path was to ensure that the first attacker did enough damage to put my dungeon on a protective cave in rather than try to ensure that no one could take my heart or treasuries.

  13. Klay F. says:

    I think your article highlights a major problem I have with EA and companies like EA. Its not that I have a problem with them being a publicly traded company, I don’t, other companies not related to videogames have demonstrated that being publicly traded doesn’t mean you automatically go to shit. No, the problem I have with EA and their like is that when they speak, they never speak to US, the people who buy their products. I think they know just how savvy most gamers are, so they refuse to even engage with us, instead always preferring to talk through their PR to their shareholders. They know who they can and can’t bullshit, and have come to the conclusion that bullshitting ignorant shareholders is the preferable option to trying to bullshit savvy gamers.

  14. TSi says:

    Why do you use “vis-à-vis” instead of “about” or, in this case, “related to” ? Feels weird reading French words so often out of the source language context when it doesn’t seem needed.
    Does it have some special meaning in the US ?

    If you want to use the single “vis-à-vis” expression in this context, then you need to add “to” right after because we would use it like “vis-à-vis de [quelque chose]” (related to the [thing]). In fact, “vis-à-vis” is nearly always followed by “de”. Nearly, because it has other meanings such as to describe two buildings facing each-other for example. You would describe the building across the street as being “vis-à-vis” to the current one.

    About the pronunciation in english, it would be something like “vee za vee” just in case people wonder. ; )
    (The “Z” is because we are used to phonetically link the first word to the second when pronouncing this. There are many similar cases mostly due to the presence of an “S” ending some words )

    • Shamus says:

      In English, vis-à-vis is seen as kind of highbrow, and maybe even pretentious. Something you’d use as a lawyer or an academic. Something for really formal debates. This is probably because those are the sorts of people who have training in other languages. Joe Normal (scrubs like me) would just use “about”.

      So the joke here is that I’m arguing with a hurricane. Not just shouting at it, but trying to have this formal cultured debate with the thing while it’s just blowing the town apart.

      Also, even highbrow academic types seem to use vis-à-vis as a stand-in for “with regards to”. I’ve never heard someone say “vis-à-vis to…”. So in this usage the “to” is… implied? I don’t know.

      The point is, it’s a joke that probably only makes sense to native English speakers of a certain economic standing.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        “Something you’d use as a lawyer or an academic. Something for really formal debates. This is probably because those are the sorts of people who have training in other languages.”

        Isnt it actually a remnant of history,when nobility in england was of french descent?Just like pork and beef instead of pig and cow.

        • Chargone says:

          Most of that comes not from french nobility in england, but from a century or three later when french was the standard language of diplomacy in europe (much as english fills a similar slot for commerce today).

    • krellen says:

      English stole your phrase and now we use it as a synonym for “about”. English steals a lot of things, and French is a popular victim for our thefts. You should see (or, rather, hear) what we did to croissant.

      • McNutcase says:

        But don’t try eating what we did to it, because it will break your heart.

        • It was a happy time in my life when recently a few bakeries in my city finally started making good croissants. God those things are so good when they’re done right, I don’t care how bloody pretentious it might be to be into them.

          • evileeyore says:

            Why anyone would ever eat a crescent roll is beyond me (yeah, it isn’t pronounced correctly in my America).

            • KMJX says:

              Is it actually pronounced as “crescent” ? Because in that case it’s not possible to pronounce it any better, considering it’s the literal translation of the term.

            • Rick C says:

              Ham & Turkey sandwich on a butter croissant. Yum. That’s why.

            • That’s because you’ve never had a good one, obviously. They’re quite rare in North America. I happen to live in a city with a huge amount of racial and cultural mixing and a lot of foodie yuppies. The night life may not be that amazing here, but man we’ve got food. And even here there’s only been decent croissants for a couple three years now, and that only at a very few places.

              Thing is, real croissants don’t taste like bread. Simple as that–if you’re eating a “crescent roll” and the general impression you get is “bread” then they’ve done it wrong. Even if it’s good bread; not the point. The impression you should be getting is “flakes and butter OMG nom nom nom”.

  15. WWWebb says:

    Meh…EA’s not quite as bad a game company as we complain. They consistently churn out games that many, many people buy (see the cash cow list above). They are very, very good at incremental improvements and offering additional gameplay to existing games (i.e. DLC). Give them a game with a sensible annual update path and they can churn out quality stuff. Not all that different from Ubisoft really only they don’t feel compelled to rebuild their engines from scratch for every sequel.

    WE get miffed because they don’t “innovate”, but that’s not their thing and we shouldn’t expect it to be. Dungeon Keeper mobile WAS innovative for them. It was a whole new sales model with an uncertain path to future revenues.

    Don’t get mad when they say they’re not going to pursue any games that can’t be turned into a franchise. That’s just them recognizing their own strengths.

    It’s probably best if you look at every new game from EA as an attempt to discover a new cash cow. In that view, they are a HUGELY risky company because they try and fail A LOT.

    • Bubble181 says:

      The problem is that EA is looking for a cash cow, but since they learned that goats eat less and cheaper stuff and produce more milk compared to the needed surface area, they’re continuously trying to invent the cash goat. UNfortunately, goat milk isn’t as useful or as yummy as cow milk. They’ll still try to convince us all we want goat’s milk, though.

      • Patrick the infuriated capitalist says:

        it’s hard to argue with their logic sometimes. How much time was spent playing Candy Crush and Angry birds? Both games were hollow remakes of games that first appeared on Coleco.

        I guess what I’m saying is unlike you (and most others on this site), the vast majority of americans aren’t able to differentiate between cows milk and goats milk. Hell you could give them white water and they wouldn’t know the difference.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Except Shamoose addressed that.The problem isnt that ea is not making money with their poor treatment of their customers,its that they could be making even more money.

          And again,I will mention fallout 3.Bethesda bought the franchise for the same reason ea bought dungeon keeper.But instead of trying to emulate the popular stuff that was closer to the original,like dragon age,or even mass effect,they did their own thing.And while it wasnt as good as new vegas,it sure was a well received game.Not only did it bring them money,it brought them critical acclaim and customers praise.Especially because,like someone mentioned above,instead of saying those who critiqued the game didnt understand their “vision”,they accepted the negative and tried to fix it.

          • Patrick the infuriated capitalist says:

            I loved Fallout 3…well….except for the whole purify the entire Potomac river basin thing. The story was dumb as shit. But i thoght the game play and interactions were great. Gameplay was different but still held to the traditional gameplay enough to appease the purists that wanted to play turn based. I thought just the idea of allowing the gamer to play the game however they wanted(turn based or FPS) was amazing in itself. I mean, who goes to the lengths to design a game to be played two ways? I gave them points just for that.

            As to your first paragraph, well, its not that easy. Its actually VERY difficult to figure out how much MORE money you COULD be making. It really isn’t as easy as looking at the entire industry, deducting the amount you ARE making and assuming that the remainder is potential profits. There is no doubt they could be making more, but HOW MUCH more, and more importantly how much more would it cost them (production time, people) to get that amount. if it costs them another 5% to POSSIBLY earn another 7%, well, you can see why they might decide to sell it as is.

            Mind you, I’m not saying that’s right, not saying it’s wrong, just saying that they make business decisions for business reasons. And given their financial success over the years its hard to argue with their approach.

            • Shamus says:

              Think of it this way: If EA spent several million bucks building a huge house and then burned it down, you could make a pretty good case they could be making MORE money. How much could they have sold the house for? One million? Ten million? You’re right, we don’t know how much more they could have made. But we have pretty good evidence that they’re screwups who aren’t doing their jobs. That’s basically the point of my column. They are clearly building games and burning down IP, and they’re idiots for doing so no matter how much they make.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        “UNfortunately, goat milk isn’t as useful or as yummy as cow milk. ”

        Funny thing:it actually is.

    • Patrick the infuriated capitalist says:

      This makes some sense. There’s a reason why Ford and Chevy don’t make motorcycles.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “They consistently churn out games that many, many people buy”

      And mcdonalds consistently churns out foot that many,many people buy,that doesnt make it quality stuff.Same goes for their innovation.

      “Not all that different from Ubisoft really only they don’t feel compelled to rebuild their engines from scratch for every sequel.”

      And who says ubisoft is a good company?I like plenty of their games,but I would not dare to call them good.

      • evileeyore says:

        “And mcdonalds consistently churns out foot that many,many people buy,that doesnt make it quality stuff.”

        Mmmmm, I love me the smell of McD’s foot…. smells like…

        well…

        McDonald’s burgers actually.

  16. Scott Schulz says:

    From the Escapist piece:

    “It’s like getting the rights to make a sequel to Blade Runner and using it to make an indie-styled rom-com about disaffected post-college millennials living in suburban Ohio, looking for love and careers while searching for meaning in a world of infinitely prolonged adolescence. (Starring Michael Cera.)”

    No, it isn’t ’cause that would be AWESOME, and so much better than the endless pendulum swing between “darkness” and “camp” and endlessly repeated origin stories that most movie reboot sequences churn through.

    Let’s break this puppy: as I see it, we have to make it ambiguous whether the Cera character is a replicant, and the female lead (Chloe Grace Moretz – 17 now, but 18 by the time we’re filming) will almost certainly be a replicant. Both will be passing as human in any case, and may or may not know it. There will be a running thread about cronuts throughout the dialogue, and why hybrids in general are often superior.

  17. Patrick the infuriated capitalist says:

    I actually don’t think the cliff is as far away as EA thinks, or that that one couldn’t suddenly appear in front of them at any moment. When you are as heavy and bloated as an entity like EA is a sink hole is only the next step away. Just ask Atari.

    I know i mentioned before in previous posts about casual games and the impact they have on console games. How much time was NOT spent on EA titles because the user decided to play Angry Birds #45? How much longer can a corporate entity the size of EA be able to lose users to the next Candy Crush?

    The end of EA will come due to tertiary circumstances. In the same way that the hostage crisis drove up gas prices, thus dooming US automakers and giving Honda a sudden surge in sales, the end of EA will be due to an unforseen event not of their control or vision. That’s always the way monoliths like EA fail; lack of vision, not quality of product.

    Also: Shamus was guilty of pilfering thousands of McDonald’s happy meal toys for the sole purpose of selling them when their value reached critical mass. That never happened, and he was stuck with garbage bags filled with Ronald McDonald trading cards and Hamburglar beanie babies. Thus depriving an entire generation of western PA children of the joy of their happy meal toys. Friggin jerk….

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “I know i mentioned before in previous posts about casual games and the impact they have on console games. How much time was NOT spent on EA titles because the user decided to play Angry Birds #45? How much longer can a corporate entity the size of EA be able to lose users to the next Candy Crush?”

      Except that those arent overlaping markets.You sure dont neglect your xbox because you are playing on your iphone.The games you play on one are vastly different from the games you play on the other.

      And that is exactly why ea screwed up.They thought that because they knew stuff for consoles and home computers,they must know stuff for hand helds as well.Which obviously they have no clue about.

      • Patrick the infuriated capitalist says:

        They aren’t COMLETELY disimilar markets though. If I rode my bicycle to work I wouldn’t call it “neglecting my car”. But in any given day there is only 1 way I can go to work.

        And in the course of any given day there is only so much time any person can spend playing video games, regardless of format. When you are EA, the thin you are competing for more than anything is people’s TIME. There is a finite amount of time any person has to dedicate to playing games. How many people stop playing time intensive games like WoW because they simply do not have 3-4 hours a day to dedicate to playing games anymore. They DO HAVE 20-30 minutes on the train to work every morning.

        In some ways its like buying time-share property to a condo you only have one weekend a year to go to. Or buying season tickets to the local sports team when you only have 2 days a month that you could go.

        There is a HUUUGE demographic of consumers that WANT to play games but simply don’t have the time.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          “How many people stop playing time intensive games like WoW because they simply do not have 3-4 hours a day to dedicate to playing games anymore. They DO HAVE 20-30 minutes on the train to work every morning.”

          And thats precisely the thing.Two different markets for two different places.Its like saying that me spending time reading a book on a train cuts into my drawing time because both involve paper.Just because current phones are basically mini computers doesnt make the games on them the same as those on a console or a home computer.Sure,the same company can make games for both,but it needs to first understand that what people want from one is not the same they ant from other.They are being played at different times and for different reasons,and rarely does a game translate from one medium to the other,and even then its not without changes.

  18. I love the two [1-4 stars] [5 stars] buttons.
    The only problem there is the left button is way too large, but I’ll assume the hitbox for it isn’t working anyway :P

    But still, that statement they made is ludicrous indeed it’s like saying “We made it so good it became crappy.” *facepalm*

    You know if the universe is expanding, that means the distance between atoms are getting larger too right? Does that not mean that the distance between cells and brain cells get further apart too? And if brain cells get too far apart then you get literally neural misfires.

    This might explain why stupidity seems to be on the increase, either that or stupidity is a rampant mutation and it’s spreading with the rise in the Earths population. Or is stupidity a virus? How many are infected?

    Certain choices that involve millions of dollars are just mind-boggling dumb these days, and people have extreme short term memory as well it seems.
    I wonder if I can do a running start and jump to Mars the next time Earth and Mars pass each other, what speed would I need to do that?, and would I survive the landing? (ignoring the lack of breathable air on Mars)

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Well if something can be so bad its good,why not so good its bad?It makes total sense!

    • Adeon says:

      Well it’s a little tricky. The problem is that the most energy efficient way to get to Mars is actually with a Hohmann transfer. This requires you to leave before Mars is at closest approach so that it essentially “catches up” with you when you arrive in it’s vicinity.

      Now as for speed (numbers from Wikipedia, I’m to lazy to do the math myself). You’ll need 11.2km/s of delta-v to achieve escape velocity from Earth. Once you have that you only need an addition 0.6 km/s delta-v to put yourself on the transfer orbit to Mars. Once you arrive at Mars you’ll need an to apply and additional 6.8 km/s delta-V to safely deorbit so make sure to have some mass you can throw to achieve this (actually 6.8 assumes that you enter low Mars orbit before landing, you can probably do it more cheaply if you don’t enter orbit first but I can’t find the values easily).

      So your total velocity budget will need to be 18.6km/s but you can’t do it in a single jump and you’ll need to start a bit earlier.

    • Hal says:

      Oh, that was a controversy as well. Apparently, if you hit the “1-4 star” page, you were sent to an EA feedback form. Only hitting the “5 star” button would send you to Google Play (etc.) to leave a review.

    • MichaelGC says:

      I don’t think expansion affects things at local scales (due to gravity), with “local” here meaning “about the size of a galaxy or smaller.”

      One thing that is different now compared with the past, as you say, is that there are more of us. I know I certainly have my moments…

  19. SteveDJ says:

    Too many comments — TMC_DR

    A typo makes a confusing statement: “The game was was just “too innovative”. ” I think one of those ‘was’ is supposed to be a ‘not’ (rather than just a duplicated word). But loosing the ‘not’ this way changes the intent of the statement — you might want to fix this.

    Edit: Or, maybe it is a double-was… see, even I’m confused.

  20. Cilvre says:

    I personally have quit spending money at all with EA, even if they make a game I want, I refuse to fuel that machine any longer.

  21. Steve C says:

    Is this seriously an image from the game? I hope it’s a parody photoshopped image. A futile hope I’m guessing given what I know of this game but still…

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      No,that was actually in the game.There was a huge controversy about it and how you couldnt even leave a review unless you rated it with 5 stars.Hal linked the article about it a few comments up.

  22. Do I sense a mrbtongue influence/shout out in your opening paragraph?

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