EA’s Problem Isn’t Greed

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Mar 13, 2019

Filed under: Column 166 comments

I’m sorry to say that if you’re a long time reader of this site, then my column this week is just a shorter, more focused version of a rant you probably read two years ago. Still, this is sadly an evergreen topic and revisiting it every couple of years is probably not overkill.

I’d love it if gaming culture would focus more on EA’s flagrant mistakes and less on the catch-all term “greed”, because greed is such an easily dismissed term. If you’re an aging executive, then an outcry regarding greed falls perfectly into the horrible stereotypes about Millennials that are popular among Baby Boomers. Meanwhile, the criticism of, “This obviously bad decision destroyed IP that was worth hundreds of millions of dollars” is a lot more damning outside of gaming culture.

Based on the feedback at the Escapist, this argument seems to have fallen of deaf ears. I think a big reason for this is that we don’t all complain about game companies for the same reason. For a lot of people, calling EA out regarding greed is an act of catharsis and they don’t particularly care if their argument is persuasive. They’re just venting frustration. For me, critical analysis is an attempt to explain a mistake so that people will stop making it. If an executive or a shareholder ever read my work, I’d want them to find it instructive and illuminating. “Ah! So it’s not that gamers are entitled babies, it’s that EA is releasing products that hurt sales and damage their brand!”

Having said that, it’s likely that we’re both just shouting into the hurricane. Some people complain about greed and I complain about lost revenue potential, but the odds against a shareholder or an executive reading what any of us have to say is astronomicalParticularly since they seem so disconnected from gaming culture..

I think there’s also the problem that the definition of greed seems to be drifting. When I was youngThis could also be regional. It’s not like I had a broad understanding of the Anglosphere when I was 12., greed was just a synonym for avarice. It generally meant “Acquiring more for the sake of having more, beyond what you need or is useful to you.” Eating so much food that you get sick is greedy. Trying to alter your Halloween costume during trick-or-treat so you can double-dip at the best houses is greedy. Working crazy hours to get more money when you’re already financially secure is greedy. It was the pursuit of more for the sake of more, with a dash of selfishness thrown in.

These days I’ve seen quite a few people using greed to mean “Trying to acquire wealth in ways that are stupid, clumsy, or counter-productive.” Under this definition, charging restaurant patrons for napkins would count as “greedy”. Self-destruction seems to be a component of this new definition.

I’m not really arguing with the new definition. Maybe people are re-purposing the word because we needed a concise term for avarice that is explicitly self-destructive, clumsy, or idiotic. After all, we still have the word “avarice” to refer to the more general concept of “always wanting more”.

Having said that, I’d still avoid using the word greed if you’re hoping to persuade others. The shareholders and executives of the world tend to be old folks, and “greed” isn’t going to upset them the way that charges of incompetence, malfeasance, and shortsightedness will.

But whatever.

I realize that using images like this to depict EA is a bit shallow and simple-minded, but then so is asking BioWare to compete with Bungie in the shooter market. At least this guy is burning $100, and not an entire game studio.
I realize that using images like this to depict EA is a bit shallow and simple-minded, but then so is asking BioWare to compete with Bungie in the shooter market. At least this guy is burning $100, and not an entire game studio.

The common argument in defense of EA is that I’m just a dumb programmer turned internet crank. I don’t have an MBA, I don’t have all the facts like sales numbers and development costs, and I’ve never run a major corporation. Maybe if I knew all the facts, I’d see the wisdom in the decisions of EA executives.

That’s a reasonable enough argument. It’s true that I don’t have the financial details that the EA leadership is using to make their decisions and it’s always possible that there’s a good explanation for the behavior we’re seeing.

The thing is, this excuse has been stretched to implausibility over the years. This theory asks us to believe that EA is making moves that, in secret, are actually sound business decisions that only coincidentally look incompetent to outside observers. If Dead Space had transformed into a successful co-op shooter then we could conclude that EA made the right financial move, even if fans of the original two games didn’t like it. But EA pushed for changes, and now the Dead Space franchise is dead. If SimCity was still selling DLC and raking in the microtransaction dollars we could believe that EA was simply taking advantage of a business opportunity when they made it always-online. But SimCity launched to disaster, Maxis was closed, and the brand is now dead.

Anthem? Mass Effect Andromeda? Battlefront? Those terrible ads that infantilize the hobby? Bullfrog? Westwood? Pandemic? Playfish? EA Spouse? The most downvoted comment on all of Reddit? Where’s the payoff for all of these things that, to us fools in the audience, look like self-destruction and waste? When are we going to see EA call checkmate in this game of 4 dimensional chess they’re supposedly playing?

Or maybe everyone is just biased against EA? Maybe they’re doing fine, but the dumb masses are just focusing on the negatives?

Except, Apex Legends just came out, and everyone readily admits the game is pretty good. If we’re all blinded by our EA hate, then why aren’t we pretending Apex Legends is trash? More importantly, why do so few EA games get the praise that Apex Legends is getting?

I can’t prove that the EA leadership is 100% incompetent, but it really is the most likely reading of events. Every other interpretation requires us to believe in massively improbable and unobservable things.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Particularly since they seem so disconnected from gaming culture.

[2] This could also be regional. It’s not like I had a broad understanding of the Anglosphere when I was 12.



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166 thoughts on “EA’s Problem Isn’t Greed

  1. Lino says:

    Based on the feedback at the Escapist, this argument seems to have fallen of deaf ears.

    You could probably say that for most arguments on the Internet these days. And, sadly, not just at the Escapist – it’s true for basically every site that allows users to comment – you present someone with an argument and facts, and instead of offering a rebuttal, they just proceed to repeat their original point (bonus points if they insult you).
    The only way I’ve seen large groups shift their opinion on the Internet is for the content creator to just repeat the same points over and over again for years. And even then, that shift in opinion is probably due to the fact that the original detractors have stopped following the content in question…

    1. Phill says:

      But that’s how changing people’s opinions works. It almost never happens that someone reads an argument they disagree with and find it persuasive enough to consciouscly change their mind. But if you hang around in the same forum with the same people for years, you do gradually notice people modifying their positions over time in response to what is put forwards.

      I’ve noticed it in myself too: I’ve never read an argument that convinced me to change position instantly. But I know there are things I said 10-15 years ago, that I hear people saying now and think “That’s obviously wrong”. As the saying goes, humans are rationalising creatures, not rational creatures. Mostly we change out mind by gradual exposure to different positions, and do so without ever letting ourselves know what we are doing.

      1. Lino says:

        Fair enough. For me, I’ve always felt that getting older is what has most often lead me to change my worldview.
        I guess life is a better teacher than even the most persuasive argument.

        1. Changing your mind about something requires you to change your mind about everything that connects to that thing as well. Depending on how well-integrated your knowledge is, this can be a LENGTHY process of re-evaluating EACH connection and what the new thing implies. People generally want to see some consequences in action before they’re willing to make a shift that big.

          The older you get, the more consequences you have access to.

          The bad part of it is that I’ve noticed much older people without conscious principles tend to become stupid and paranoid (and also gullible) in weird ways because they fixate on consequences without any broader overview. In young people, principles keep you from thinking you’re the center of the universe and can fix anything. In the very old they keep you from feeling hopeless.

    2. Water Rabbit says:

      “Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired” Jonathan Swift

  2. Karma The Alligator says:

    Typo patrol!

    the PR gaffs

    Should probably be gaffes, unless you mean the PR have sticks or apartments.

    1. Lino says:

      Wow, thanks! I just learned a new word today! Apparently, it’s also a fishing implement.
      HA! It’s also a word for underwear – https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gaff

  3. KotBasil says:

    It kinda hurts me to defend EA, but I noticed a curious detail: EA’s bad reputation is currently feeding on itself.
    Like, if something good happens it’s “No thanks to EA”, and if something bad… well, you know. Apex Legends doing good? All thanks to Respawn, EA is still evil of course. Anthem doing bad? Poor, innocent Bioware, EA is strangling them!
    Take lootboxes. If EA adds them to a game now, backlash immediately follows. But if EA doesn’t do that, there still no positive PR to be had because it’ll be treated as “greedy EA is just afraid of another scandal happening”.
    So, a real “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      I’d say it’s simply that no-one has any goodwill toward them anymore. They made too many mistakes in the past, and that cost them.

      1. KotBasil says:

        If so, I don’t really like this situation. While it’s fun to see comeuppance served, both endless adoration (as Blizzard and Valve were enjoying for the time) and absolute contempt just mess with reasonable judgement and produce biases.

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          It’s up to them to do enough good to overcome this, though. We shouldn’t forgive everything just because they seem to have done a little “good” (especially when the good is them not using the bad things they came up with).

          1. Syal says:

            For example, EA’s reputation improved* for a short time when they released Mirror’s Edge, because Mirror’s Edge was basically its own genre. There was a feeling they were trying new things, and maybe they’d hit on something worthwhile. You have to do something impressive to overcome a bad reputation.

            *At least Shamus said some nice things.

        2. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Why should people give EA the benefit of the doubt? They have yet to cease doing bad things! It’s like you’re saying “Sure, they have always been unworthy of trust and are also presently doing untrustworthy things… but wouldn’t it be nice to just trust them and see what happens?” No… that would be stupid.

        3. Ivan says:

          Well, maybe you have a point, there. But, I’d say suggesting that Not including Loot Boxes in a game is an action that deserves praise, is a pretty bad argument to use to prove bias or whatnot.

          That is not something you deserve praise for. Do you go down the street thanking ever stranger passing by for Not punching you?

          1. KotBasil says:

            I also see your point, but then – what EA can receive praise for? I honesty can’t imagine a deed that will make me say “Well, I trust EA, they are good now”. And it’s kinda hard for me to blame EA for “doing bad”, when I can’t tell how I see “doing good” for them.

            1. Karma The Alligator says:

              Because it’s not a matter of *a* deed, it’s a matter of multiple deeds over a long period of time. Them doing good would be: proper games that work, no microtransactions in a game that’s not free to play, not closing studios and killing IPs, that kind of thing. You know, the opposite of what they’ve been doing.

              1. KotBasil says:

                Ah, but are those deeds truly good? Let’s see:
                – Proper games that work. Unfortunately, current games are a mess of complex problems. Double it for big games. I’m pretty sure that EA itself would prefer their games to work, but no software engineer will ever promise a completely bug-free software. Also, shoudn’t we blame not the publisher, but developer for bugs? )
                – No microtransactions in a game that’s not free to play. Why? Overwatch’s doing fine. No badly implemented microtransactions – sure, but I never understood the crusade against all microtransactions.
                – Not closing studios and killing IPs. Again, I’m pretty sure EA doesn’t like to do that either. But from business standpoint it just a part of… well, business. Nobody likes is, but it has to be done sometimes. Also, I know that the image of EA consuming studios and then killing them is popular, but may I point out that all those studios agreed to join EA voluntarely? Is there any proof that they would exist longer without EA?

                1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                  Your bar is so low for good behavior that it’s now actively including bad behavior with a shrug and a “that’s how it is.” Physician, heal thyself, this mindset is TOXIC. Expect more from institutions and don’t just shrug and accept it when they fail on a massive and embarrassing scale.

                2. Karma The Alligator says:

                  – I’m not talking about bug-free, as you said that’s basically impossible. I mean, games that don’t brick your console, or that need to be always online for no reason and then refuse to have their *single player* work because their server crashed or something. Both are to blame, the publisher needs to make sure what they publish works.

                  – Overwatch gets away with it due to the overwhelming amount of goodwill Blizzard produced over the years by making good games and not being dicks to their customers.

                  1. KotBasil says:

                    – I see two different problems here. “Bricking console” is very unfortunate bug, but I’m afraid such types of bugs will show up, just because software is hard :) Also, according to EA “After thorough review, we have not encountered an instance where Anthem has “bricked” a PS4 console”. So, is “bricking” true or just EA reputation working against them? As for “always online” angle – I hate it too, but I think it’s not so much EA thing, as it’s the whole industry thing.

                    – I don’t care much about Blizzard, but I like lootboxes there, as they are 1) don’t interfere with gameplay 2) are given regularely for free. And again, I hate that we should forgive some companies for the thing, but hate other companies for the same thing. Because “goodwill”.

                    1. RCN says:

                      You seem to have not gotten the memo, but blizzard isn’t being given a pass. They lost a lot of goodwill these last couple of years and the way they handle Overwatch is a large part of the reason but there are plenty. In fact, they finally caving in and allowing GOG to sell Diablo looks like damage control for me (and I never understood why they held onto the IP. They weren’t even selling Diablo anywhere anymore, physically or digitally).

                      Steam is also losing favor thanks to how badly they curate their store. That’s why everyone was so hopeful that Epic was going to make it with its game store.

              2. Mistwraithe says:

                It’s a fair point. People tend to trust things because they are reliably trustworthy. It is pretty much in the definition of the word. EA can’t regain trust from just doing one or two things right, or at least not wrong. It needs to do many things in a way that is not wrong for a period of time before people’s perception will noticeably change.

            2. Syal says:

              what EA can receive praise for?

              Well, you already mentioned that Blizzard and Valve receive overwhelming adoration, so what did they do to get it?

              Blizzard made Diablo and Diablo 2, which were so definitive of the real-time looter roguelike that for years every game in the genre was called a Diablo Clone. They made Starcraft, which was the definitive real-time strategy game. They made World of Warcraft, which became the definitive MMORPG. They made Hearthstone, basically an entry-level Magic the Gathering. And community-wise, they host tournaments for their games, with cash prizes for the top players. That’s four defined genres and positive community building.

              Valve made the Half-Life games, which are also responsible for Counter Strike and Garry’s Mod. They made Portal, which is still its own genre of puzzle platformer. They made the Team Fortress games. They made Left4Dead. And community-wise, they made Steam, and effectively created the PC-friendly discount world we live in. So, one defined genre, multiple well-received games in their genres, and the definitive videogame purchasing experience.

              I don’t know what genre-defining games EA has made. They own several markets, but they either purchased the companies who already owned the market, or got some kind of exclusive deal that locked out the competition. A lot of their games have been underwhelming disappointments. They just released a game that crashes consoles.

              Community-wise, they’ve been hostile to gamers for a long time. They were big on DRM, and tried to limit digital installs. They were so bad about loot boxes governments wrote legislation to shut them down. There were the commercials about how parents wouldn’t approve, and apparently they hired fake protesters as an ad campaign; they seem to be aiming for hatred.

              …also holy shit EA is older than I am. They pre-date the NES.

              …OH MY GOD NINTENDO WAS FOUNDED IN THE 19TH CENTURY!

              1. KotBasil says:

                Well, EA is a publishing house. Do they get recognition for Apex Legends or is it all Respawn? What about Crysis? What about Command & Conquer? They get a lot of flack for killing Dead Space, but what about praise for making it?

                1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                  EA briefly received praise for being brave and making games like Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge, despite the risk that entailed. They then lost access to that praise by making it PERFECTLY clear that they were uncomfortable with the risk and that they would mutate the games or cancel them to remove it. So we got Dead Space 2 with a terrible multiplayer mode and Dead Space 3, the action game with co-op.

    2. Hal says:

      It may not be fair, but that’s part of the problem when you violate trust: It can be very hard to gain back. When you’ve lost trust, even something innocuous or harmless can be viewed with suspicion, fair or not. Every further misdeed a confirmation of your villainy, every act of innocence just a prelude to the other shoe dropping.

      There’s a few ways to think about that, of course. One is to say, “This is the bed that EA made, so now they get to lie in it.” If they have the complete distrust of their customers, well . . . they’ve earned it. And it will take time, and good faith effort, to get said trust back.

      Another would be to give EA the benefit of the doubt, at least until they pull something egregious. The question is, do they deserve it?

      It’s kind of a moot point for me, because EA no longer makes products I have any interest in, so I ceased to be a customer long ago.

    3. Hector says:

      Well, in the case of Apex, the game sort of launched under EA’s executive radar, and they didn’t have tight control over it.

    4. Raion says:

      Take lootboxes. If EA adds them to a game now, backlash immediately follows. But if EA doesn’t do that, there still no positive PR to be had because it’ll be treated as “greedy EA is just afraid of another scandal happening”.

      You don’t get praise just for failing to do bad things. Not doing bad things is the bare minimum expected of you.

    5. Jbc31187 says:

      If we’re trying to look at it objectively, without rancor, then it’s still valid to observe that EA has a history of poor business decisions and shoddy products.

    6. silver Harloe says:

      This is Bill. Once an hour, every hour, Bill shows up to do one of two actions. 80% of the time, he punches you in the gut. The other 20% of the time, he gives you a *really* tasty sandwich.

      Lately, you think, but it’s hard to tell because you need a lot more samples to mark a statistical trend, that he might be upping his sandwich game to 25%. But one thing you’re sure of: yesterday, there were a couple hours where he didn’t show up at all.

      Tell me, do you start praising Bill every time he gives you a sandwich? Do you praise bill for not showing up at all?

      “But if EA doesn’t do that, there still no positive PR” – should someone throw me a party every day that I go without robbing a bank? Is “hasn’t robbed a bank” some great achievement I should put on my resume?

      1. methermeneus says:

        This may be my favorite analogy of all time.

        1. Liessa says:

          EA’s behaviour reminds me in many ways of a drug addict. They’ll constantly beg for forgiveness and promise to change, and sometimes they may even mean it. They may improve for a little while, but ultimately they’ll always slip back into their old habits, because they refuse to address the underlying problem. No matter how much damage it does to them in the long term, they can’t stop chasing that quick fix of easy money – and as Jim Sterling never stops pointing out, the more they have, the more they need in order to satisy that bottomless craving.

          I’m with Shamus on this: there’s no diabolical master plan here. It’s not that they want to be greedy and anti-consumer; they’re simply not capable of anything else.

      2. KotBasil says:

        Well, if somebody gives me a really tasty sandwich for free, not sure about praise but at least I should thank them )
        Interestingly, discussions about evilness and stupidity of EA strongly remind me of arguing about balance in a hugely popular game like Overwatch and LoL. Like, everyone has their own opinion about current balance, but most agree that it sucks, every time, all the time. And no matter what changes developers bring, people will still say it sucks – because it’s impossible to please everyone.
        To clarify: i’m not saying that EA is right. I just don’t like that currently EA gets only negative feedback no matter what it does.

  4. Olivier FAURE says:

    The thing is, this excuse has been stretched to implausibility over the years. This theory asks us to believe that EA is making moves that, in secret, are actually sound business decisions that only coincidentally look incompetent to outside observers. If Dead Space had transformed into a successful co-op shooter then we could conclude that EA made the right financial move, even if fans of the original two games didn’t like it. But EA pushed for changes, and now the Dead Space franchise is dead.

    I think it’s possible that you might be missing some executive-level perspective, but that doesn’t mean EA necessarily has a secret master plan either. It might just be that EA has different priorities than most publishers, that only make sense at its scale.

    For instance (and this is me wildly theorizing), I think it’s possible that by now EA considers that ever video game it produces will be a loss by default because of the huge cost of producing mainstream games, and the only way to make a profit is to find a golden ticket. If EA forces 10 game studios to make a microtransaction generator, and 9 of them fail and close, and one of them is immensely successful, then it’s still more profitable than making 10 barely profitable games with no microtransactions.

    Although, on the other hand, it would probably be more sensible to diversifying more and trying to hit underused economic models that aren’t based on pure invetory-based microtransactions (eg telltale-style episodic storytelling, mod and asset stores, arcade-style missions where you have to pay for lives, etc).

    1. Lino says:

      According to some of their SEC reports, one of the risks about the gaming industry is that it’s extremely hit-driven. This is why, in the past, they tried releasing as many games as possible. However, with the new MMO craze (sorry, “liiiiiive services”) they’ve shifted towards fewer titles (yet they decided that it’s OK for said titles to cannibalize each other… for some reason).
      The high-level reasoning is that miscrotransactions have a higher profit margin – if I remember correctly, they have about a 60% margin on games, and about 80% for microtransactions. If you’re just going by what your textbooks say, then that’s a very logical move, but if you’re going by common sense and knowledge of the medium, you’d know why this is very shortsighted and unsustainable.

      1. Olivier FAURE says:

        Is it, though?

        Don’t get me wrong, I would love for whale-based economies to prove unsustainable and for people to just learn as a demographic that microtransaction-based games are based on perverse incentives, but so far it looks like these things are here to stay.

    2. CT says:

      I think that this comment goes in the right direction to explain EA’s questionable strategy without relying on the idea that they are simply incompetent. In particular, I think that Shamus may indeed be missing some executive-level perspective. In short (TL;DR), I think that EA may be focusing on micro-transaction generators not because this is the best for the company and maximises profits, but because this is the best for management and maximises their expected career earnings.

      What may be happening is that EA’s shareholders expect returns in line with the top performers in the market – and I suspect that the games with the highest profit margin tend to be addictive games relying on micro-transactions and continuous purchases (even though I do not have actual data behind this idea).

      Now, as the CEO of EA, if you may well know that the best way to maximise the expected value for the shareholders is avoiding following fads, fill under-served market niches, create good relationships with customers, and use software talent on projects which fit their skills. However, you also realise that even under the best-case scenario the profits generated using this “reasonable” strategy are not going to impress shareholders – they want PUBG money, not Cities Skylines money. In addition, even this strategy does not guarantee success (e.g., Prey seems to be a well-made, “old-fashioned” game which had relatively limited commercial success). So you know that shareholders are unlikely to be very happy, your bonus is not going to be high, and you are going to lose your job once one of your big-budget single-player games gets unlucky and fails.

      Thus, from the CEO’s perspective, it may make more sense to do exactly what EA is doing: try to create addictive games which serve as platforms for micro-transactions. You may know that on average, the expected return for the shareholders is lower using this strategy. However, the possible profits under a best-case scenario (even though unlikely) are much higher. At the end of the day, you know that you are going to be hailed as a genius CEO (and probably going to get some nice bonuses) only if you are able to provide the shareholders with a new cash cow, so as the CEO you don’t really care about maximising profits on average, you care about maximising the possibility of having a breakout success.

      In sum, EA may be focusing on micro-transaction generators not because this is the best for the company and maximises profits, but because this is the best for management and maximises their expected bonuses/career earnings, and shareholders do not know enough of the industry to realise this (a case of “principal-agent” problem)

      Now, this post is mostly based on personal assumptions – I would love to know more about the bonus structure they use – and it may not really explain all the mistakes made by EA (using Bioware to compete with Destiny is still a bizarre choice), but I think it may help rationalising a bit some of the choices they made.

      1. Blue-NINJA'D says:

        In sum, EA may be focusing on micro-transaction generators not because this is the best for the company and maximises profits, but because this is the best for management and maximises their expected bonuses/career earnings, and shareholders do not know enough of the industry to realise this (a case of “principal-agent” problem)

        Someone on the Escapist comments section has a similar argument, going the other way: whatever the CEO might want to do…they’re beholden to the shareholders.
        Even if the CEO does understand the flaws in the way the company operates – which isn’t guaranteed – the shareholders just might not care. They simply want their share prices to rise. A big name like Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs has the proven business nous/reputation to lead; they know what they’re doing and can keep the investors happy/quiet while they run the company.
        But someone else who’s inherited the position, who doesn’t have the skill necessary to get the investors to believe in them?

        You could easily end up with a situation in which neither side – shareholders nor executives – wants to rock the boat. The company’s doing just well enough, some efforts in the past have met with failure, so no-one wants to take too big a risk…
        It’d be a lot easier for both the CEO and shareholders to simply keep doing what they’re doing, treat the company like an inscrutable Rube Goldberg machine, and collect their paycheck/investment returns.

        1. CT says:

          Fair enough. After all, while EA managers may not be gamers, I suspect that the shareholders understand even less about gaming. After all, the “shareholders” are not actual people, they are just large investment funds which most likely invest in EA in the context of a broad strategy, not because they really believe in the company or want to affect its management in a meaningful way (see the list of shareholders here: http://quote.morningstar.ca/Quicktakes/owners/MajorShareholders.aspx?t=EA&region=USA&culture=en-CASo).

          The easiest strategy a CEO can follow to make shareholders happy is stating that they are entering into “growing markets”, basically imitating what already makes money. If you propose a strategy which they believe is “unorthodox”, shareholders may actually worry.

    3. Baron Tanks says:

      I think you may be on to something here, at least in part. This reminds me of how in professional football the teams at the top* contract droves of talent (teens), which on a per player basis are way cheaper than established names. All in the hopes for finding the one or two that will make the whole process worth it while writing off the rest. Seeing as how this practice is still in place over a decade since I noticed it first it must be worth it to the people pulling strings.

      *arguably this is more prevalent in teams just below the absolute top since the very cream has the financial muscle to just go for the established players.

    4. CrushU says:

      This is honestly the most plausible explanation.

  5. Thomas says:

    I do think the sales thing would count against you. A lot of EA’s critically panned games have done well. I suspect microtransactions in Mass Effect 3 made a fortune. Mass Effect 2 almost certainly outsold ME1 hugely and has wide acclaim. Dragon Age Inquisition had acclaim and sales.

    A game series running into the ground woupdnt even necessarily be a sign. Analysts seem to approve of Activision running Guitar Hero into the ground because they reckon they milked a fad effectively.

    EA failed to take on Destiny with Anthem, but they’ve nearly knocked Fortnite off its top spot with Apex – arguably a harder and more valuable achievement.

    I assume SWTOR is profitable because it’s been receiving regular updates for years and hasn’t shown signs off shutting down yet.

    The argument that they’ve shut down studios feels like the strongest. Those are costly procedures and waste a lot of talent. But EA is probably profiting. Maxis is gone but the Sims hasn’t and think of all the money EA made off Westwood before shutting them.

    Its that maybe EA could make _more_ if they kept these studios and franchises alive. And maybe this negative reputation is going to slowly build up damage.

    1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      Mass Effect 2&3 were critically acclaimed, not panned, even with the ending controversy! And just because it’s still more interesting to keep updating SWTOR than shutting it down doesn’t mean it was a viable project. It was meant to supplant WOW and had the budget for it. Obviously it didn’t.
      Apex is the only recent EA success story, and apparently it’s also one of the game in which EA involved itself the least. When the only recent success of a manager’s team was when they weren’t involved, it does not shine a very positive light.

      1. Thomas says:

        EA brought in 6% more revenue in 2018 than 2017, which brought in 10% more revenue than 2016.

        2018 and 2017’s games feel like failures, but financially they’re good years.

        1. CT says:

          Not sure just looking at revenues gives you the full picture though. If you consider the share price (which in theory shows what the market thinks about the future prospect of the company), 2017 was a good year but 2018 was quite bad (the share price fell quite a bit in 2018).

          Still, a more fundamental problem in judging the current performance of EA’s management via financial data is that (as Shamus says) a lot of the value of the company comes from the sport franchises, which do not really require much innovation and competence. Management may be doing terribly, but revenues/profits/share price may still be doing well due to high-value sport IPs. This does not mean that the company is currently well-managed – the current profitability is due to the actions of past management, which was able to create cash cows which keep the company afloat today.

        2. GoStu says:

          I think your statement here hits like the executive-logic discussed above.

          Their revenues are increasing. From the perspective of an executive in their office or boardroom, this looks like success. To the perspective of the investor, they see an upward trend and have confidence. The investors and shareholders are happy enough and the executive keeps his job.

          Down at the customer level, we see a lot of money left on the table. Revenues went up 6% from 2017 to 2018, but for all we know they could have been higher… or at least expenses could have been lower. 2015 launched Star Wars Battlefront and 2017 launched a sequel to it. Is it too hard to imagine that a better-made version of 2015’s Battlefront could still be running today, if on continuous support and expansions (sold, naturally – we’re making money, remember?)

    2. Lino says:

      Its that maybe EA could make _more_ if they kept these studios and franchises alive. And maybe this negative reputation is going to slowly build up damage.

      I think it’s already started doing damage. Thanks to the Battlefront 2 controversy, now several countries have banned lootboxes, and the US and UK are currently looking into regulating them. This is a huge threat to FIFA – one of their biggest cash cows.
      And again, the biggest problem with milking out a franchise too quickly is opportunity cost – yes, it might make you some money for a couple of years, but if you build it up carefully, you could end up with a golden goose like one of Nintendo’s franchises – a money-making machine for the ages.

      1. Olivier FAURE says:

        Yeah, I don’t see it.

        There’s no way countries ban lootboxes in a way that noticeably impacts EA’s bottom line. Worse case scenario, they have a few low months while they figure out the simplest, cheapest way to redesign their microtransaction system to make lootbox money while technically avoiding anti-lootbox laws.

        (eg, they say “From now on, you pay for special missions, and if you complete the mission, you get surprise rewards! See, it’s not gambling, because it rewards your gameplay efforts! Now give us all your money”)

  6. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    I strongly appreciate that you’re doing a sanity check on yourself Shamus, but from where I’m standing your points are excellent. The comments I’ve seen on the Escapist just strike me as people who hold dear at this complaint (EA is GREEDY!) and won’t let go of it even if it’s to switch to a more sensible one (EA is so out of touch it’s self destructive).
    And keep in mind, as disheartening as those comments are, they’re just representative of the people who commented on it, not of the vast majority of readers.
    Sure your article won’t be read by an EA executive, probably not even by an EA shareholders, but those were some valid points to add to the zeitgeist.

  7. Geebs says:

    The one EA move I really can’t explain was the Mirror’s Edge reboot. Not only was the original not terribly successful, but the sequel completely failed to grasp what was good about the first game while having to redeeming – or monetisable – features added.

    I mean, they cancel Star Wars but release a Mirror’s Edge game so awful that even huge fans of the original gave up during the tutorial? Outside of kidnapping or extortion I can’t think of a single explanation.

    1. guy says:

      Mirror’s Edge had a reasonably large group of people who were fond of the game in concept and sold decently though not spectacularly, with the main complaint being the gun fights. So it made sense to go for a sequel that improved the melee combat and removed Faith’s use of guns.

      Then they made it an Ubisoft open world game because companies just can’t help themselves. I think I quit because there was an open world race I needed to do for some reason and I suck at those.

      1. Lino says:

        I actually loved the new Mirror’s Edge. I always meant to play the original, but I never got around to it. I really liked the platforming of the sequel, got really into the story, but most of all, I LOVED the presentation. I think it was the first Frostbite game I played, and even though I’ve never been a stickler for graphics, the visuals literally blew me away. I think it was also helped by the amazing art style.
        However, I do remember also having trouble with one of the speedrunning missions.

    2. shoeboxjeddy says:

      I am baffled by a fan of Mirror’s Edge SO flighty that they would give up on the game in the tutorial. That suggests to me they were either not a fan because an hour or so is not enough to digest the changes or TOO much of a fan to where they didn’t want a sequel to begin with. Like… don’t drop any game in the tutorial unless it’s something insane like Dungeon Keeper Mobile that hits you with a multi-hour wait time right at the beginning. You’ve already paid for the thing, don’t be so wasteful with your money…

      For my money/time, Catalyst was a great time. They removed the guns that I already didn’t use from the first, added a bunch of “deliver bags or find hidden stuff in the city” side content that I considered a missed opportunity from the first one, added time trial anywhere for the people actually good at the game, and I found the plot better as well. It’s too bad the reviews and initial word of mouth was so bad. Now we’ll never get another one of these.

      1. Geebs says:

        Catalyst conveniently and very quickly makes it obvious that the new developers didn’t understand the franchise, by arbitrarily locking off some of the fundamental parkour skills. Giving up on a game early when it’s obviously going to continue to be bad is a basic time optimisation; see also e.g. DmC, Andromeda, Fallout 4, Th4if, etc.

        In the greater context of EA’s general incompetence, the really amusing thing about Catalysit is that, despite poor sales, it’s probably the last game that EA ever described as ”meeting expectations”.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          You’re saying people quit because a skill tree exists? That’s… really shallow. Yes, you can’t make competent speed runs from minute one. However, a reason to do this might be to explain how the plot and open world are going to function before setting the player on their way with the important skills. I’d agree that the skill tree is unnecessary, but it does make the side content more appealing because it allows you to improve the character much quicker if you engage with it. It’d be like someone quitting Tony Hawk at the start because you had to improve stats with cash. It’s really pitiful reasoning.

    3. GoStu says:

      I understand the reboot. It was a game that didn’t sell well initially but retained a following nonetheless, and deserved to be iterated upon. Going down the “reboot” route rather than “sequel” might avoid some of the perception that you needed to have bought/played the first to enjoy the second.

      I enjoyed both games, but still have to dock points for the over-bloated sandbox, and the dodgy storytelling. The gameplay is quite solid and still unique. There just isn’t another first-person-parkour style game. I don’t miss the gunplay at all.

      I think Raycevick said it well in his “So I’ve finally played…” video; they had a C+ game in the original, decided on a reboot, expanded the scope, and got the same grade on a harder test.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        You know, now that I think about I really haven’t heard a lot about the sequel. That said, far as I remember the original largely rode on the artstyle and somewhat on the core concept that a lot of people felt was not realised that well. I specifically remember that a lot of people were actually pointing out that considering the setting (“the oppressive police state controls the world on street level, couriers run free on rooftops passing banned information around”) and parkour being the key mechanics the game should have been openworld stressing the freedom of movement as opposed to a set of linear set pieces to run through, so on paper it does seem like something people asked for… though again, it seems that Catalyst mostly slipped past me so I don’t know what the execution of this idea was like.

  8. Kdansky says:

    If the last twenty years of economics history have us taught anything, then that MBAs CEOs make so much money that it results in civil unrest, and provide zero or negative value to the company they are employed by. This is pure-form capitalism without restraints, and we can feel the shockwaves so far as getting worse games for more money.

    These people are not at the helm because anybody expects them to be brilliant. They are there because they are drinking buddies, and they are lining each other’s pockets while bumbling around at the job because they don’t know better, and they don’t care enough to learn.

    In that light, it is really all about greed: Personal greed. Making multiple millions in bonuses before jumping the sinking ship, which is only sinking because you sold the keel (aka put loot boxes into competitive shooters – hoping for a quick buck before people catch on).

    1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

      That, and the everpresent demand of shareholders.

      Quite often, shareholders aren’t actually interested in the welfare of the company. They’re interested in the value of their shares.
      And share value is often determined by optics, not the actual state of the company, because shareholders just happen to own a piece of paper. They’re not experts in the company, or even in the products and environment the company operates in.

      So if some short-sighted strategy brings in a lot of sudden cash, or even if it just looks good on paper to a layman (see the recent layoffs), then the share prices rise, and the shareholders accomplish their goals.

  9. Echo Tango says:

    pork in everything from milkshakes

    The Solyent Pork-Shake is a golden-goose, waiting for somebody to snatch it up!

  10. Blue Painted says:

    I REALLY don’t want to sound like (just) a smartarse but have you tried sending the text of your columns to …

    [email protected]

    … and well, pretty much everyone on this page ..

    https://www.ea.com/executives

    Worst case, your email gets spam-binned: best case Shamus becomes a highly paid consultant and saves the industry from itself.

    1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

      Crazy enough to work!

    2. Hal says:

      One wonders just how much unsolicited advice (among other things) they receive on a daily basis.

      1. Blue Painted says:

        Probably a lot … but I hazard a guess most of it is useless fluff, probably verging on abusive, whereas Shamus’s columns have the benefit of being fully thought out.

  11. Asdasd says:

    If SimCity was still selling DLC and raking in the microtransaction dollars we could believe that EA was simply taking advantage of a business opportunity when they made it always-online. But SimCity launched to disaster, Maxis was closed, and the brand is now dead.

    Worse still, the SimCity fiasco provided an opportunity for the Cities Skylines developers to step in and revitalise the genre, turning their franchise from also-ran to leader of the pack. So EA’s actions directly benefited their competitors while hurting themselves. You could make the same arguments of survival horror, narrative-led RPGs and more, with EA’s failure to service niches with the ready-made studios and IPs they own stimulating demand for other companies to exploit.

  12. Hector says:

    I will partly agree and partly disagree with Shamus. Odds are very good that some investors in EA will hear you; they just can’t easily change the behemoth’s approach on much without some coordinated action. It’s a public company, but that means the stock is all over the place and difficult to steer in a particular direction. At least, it’s hard to do that unless the board thinks the current direction (and captain) is a bad choice.

    And well, EA’s awful at managing properties – it’s not getting nearly as value as it could – but it has been good at making money ever since it stuffed microtransaction trash into things. Those lootboxes probably did make billions. The backlash and financial deadweight off that is also very likely, but c’est la vie. The board may well question the executives closely about their public and private decisions, but as long as they’re making money it’s hard to seriously challenge those choices.

    FInally, I wanted to mention Jim Sterling, becaue he’s defintiely a *personality* and one of his commonplaces is railing againt the stock market, at least in the context of video game companies. I don’t have to think the market is perfect to point out that he doesn’t really understand how they work, and many others seem to share his views.

    1. Geebs says:

      Could you elaborate? Not that I think the man is infallible, but broadly speaking the people I’ve seen who say that Sterling doesn’t “understand” something frequently seem to have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

      By way of example, I heard “doesn’t understand” a lot when he was arguing that loot crates were going to attract regulatory attention; in that case, the denials from the game industry were very obviously a thinly-disguised attempt to buy time to grab as much money as possible before they got shut down.

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        Seconded.
        I’ve become very suspicious of internet comments that denounce people with broad, unsupported accusations.

        And Jim’s predictions are usually pretty accurate in my experience. Especially the ones that assume the AAA executives are all greedy bastards.

        1. Ander says:

          “Visceral is going down” and “Piranha Plant is coming to Smash” are the kind of predictions, sometimes hilariously-accurate, that come with observation of the industry over a decade. While some theory is needed for the Visceral prediction and the current in-limbo prediction that Bioware is going the way of Bullfrog, immersion in the market can give that theory. His thoughts on the stock market/capitalism as a whole are not unique to him, and they aren’t things he’s uniquely and exceptionally capable of analyzing. The premise “Capitalist businesses rely on infinite, endless growth” and the proposition “Endless growth is not possible” may seem intuitive (they certainly do to Jim), but many economists disagree. And while Jim has the domain knowledge to make predictions abut the video game industry, the economic theory he’s been using lately to condemn EA’s practices seem stretched a bit outside that wheelhouse, at least when he says that his comments apply to Comcast and capitalism as a whole. Right or not, his economic predictions don’t seem to be coming from the knowledge he has a uniquely insightful grasp of.

          1. shoeboxjeddy says:

            An economist who is seriously arguing that infinite growth is possible is a liar, straight up. That person is trying to sell people on something impossible to increase the value of their own investments. See every bubble that then popped in short order while economists argued that housing prices would NEVER fall.

            1. Ander says:

              There are two statements there. “Capitalism requires endless growth” is the one Jim seems to subscribe to unique from certain (but not all) other people who analyze markets, and that’s the one up for serious debate in a world jaded by that housing bubble. I included the part about endless growth being impossible to clarify why the point was relevant; sorry if it seemed like it was meant to stand alone

          2. Ravicale says:

            Not sure where you’re getting the slight at economists from, one of the basic assumptions in any economic model is that there are finite (scarce) resources. Economists are usually more concerned with the incentives placed by markets and government to innovate to make use of those resources more efficiently.

            1. Ander says:

              I’m confused by the word “slight.” That an economist would disagree with the combination of points (not both points in isolation but both points combined; that seems to be the source of disagreement with my comment) isn’t meant to be a slight against anyone, not even Jim.

      2. Hector says:

        For one, he doesn’t get how stock valuation works, and I’m not altogether sure he understands how public companies work. Which I wouldn’t bring up but so many people share that issue. (Pun intended.)

        I’ll post something tonight but the short version is that markets don’t value or push game companies any differently than others, and pressures on EA or Activision aren’t unique to them. Stockholders aren’t calling up the CEOs and demanding layoffs or made them treat employees badly for years. They so these things because that’s the kind of culture the executives have, and markets can price that as well as anything.

        1. Hector says:

          OK, so I’m back to fulfill my promise.

          Jim Sterling often confuses “trying to do well” with “insane greed”. And “doing business” with “all the evils real or imagined of free markets”. He’s certainly an intersting character, and I wouldn’t bring him up if I didn’t pay attention to what he says, but that doesn’t mean everything he says is right.

          First, public companies aren’t very much influenced by their stockholders. You need a board seat to change much of anything, and that’s more in terms of very high-level oversight. It’s really executives who are responsible for the company’s performance and bear the blame of questionable policies.

          Markets, and stockholders, just value the stock based on the company’s performance. EA, despite probably being able to do better if they displayed a modicum of human decency, has performed financially. They’ve performed unevenly perhaps, but there it is. And despite that so many people seem to hate EA, they’re in no danger of going out of business. Their stock is basically worth what people, on average, think it will be worth over time (net present value). But companies don’t need to grow infinitely to be valued – or valuable. That’s just silly.

          And for companies of EA’s size, they need huge wins just to stay solvent. Do I think they’ve managed their resources well? No. But they do exist to make money. (Nothing is stopping people from starting their own companies with other real goals, of course.) And shareholders do want to make money, which is why they’ve chosen to invest in this company.

          1. Hector says:

            Here is a non-EA example that made the news a little while ago. Activision-Blizzard laid off a huge number of people while making a fortune last year. Is this a bad thing?

            It’s obviously bad for those peope. I feel really sorry for them, and hope they get new opportunities quickly. It’s unclear what, if anything, A-B offered them (probably not much, but I didn’t see reporting on this specifically).

            Is it bad for the company? That’s more complicated, and here I want to distinguish between good behavior and bad behavior. A good leader would have the guts to stand up and say, “This company needs to trim down, and while I don’t want to do it, we have to let people go in order to focus. We’re going to offering a lot of support so that nobody’s personal finances are hurt as well as helping people find new jobs.” This is important because it tells you what the company’s values are and allows you to make a case for why the company has to make this choice. It’s not wrong to slim down a company that just can’t make the best use of a division or group! It sucks for everyone involved, but that’s exactly the decisiona responsible leader does make.

            A bad leader will do this for a short-term gain, or because he or she is flailing around. And their message is more along the lines of “Sucks to be you!” All they care about is making some number and they have no real plans past that. But markets tend to be pretty clever about these thing and get a *little* smarter every day – the days when you could slash headcoutn and see a big stock boost are gone. In Activision-Blizzard’s case, mismanagement has led to rapidly declining stock over the last year. EA didn’t have quite the same drop but they also faced a pretty big backlash when the market decided that they were not as good an investment.

      3. GoStu says:

        For this specific example (“companies are too greedy!”), Jim pushes the narrative that greed is the source of all their problems, in the sense of “we make money, but need to make ALL THE MONEY”. I think he takes a moral stance on it too.

        Shamus’s take on it seems more realistic to me. Companies are still gonna exist to make money, and they’re always going to try and make as much as possible: it’s what they do. It’s just the means by which they go about it is clumsy, destructive to their own IP, and isn’t making as much money as possible OR happy consumers.

        I have mixed feelings about Jim. He’s definitely an insightful guy (if you read his written work, it’s nearly the quality of Shamus’s), but he definitely puts on a character for show on YouTube, and I find the persona irritating and it detracts from his work often. I got a laugh out of the Cornflake Homunculus, but for the most part I can happily skip the first forty seconds and the last three or four minutes of his videos. Long story short, he’s a smart man with interesting things to say, but the sex toy on a stick doesn’t help credibility.*

        *I do concede that it helps him stand out in a competitive market like YouTube though, so fair enough.

        1. galacticplumber says:

          A man that thoroughly, undeniably right about predicting the future that often has earned the right to be smug.

      4. Redrock says:

        Times like these, I really miss Daemian Lucifer. The guy would swoop in to defend Sterling by now and would be absolutely relentless about that. I really hope he’s okay. But I digress.

        The problem with Jim’s approach is very much encapsulated by the disagreement he and TB had over lootboxes and microtransactions in Overwatch. Back then Jim had this whole speech how the mere act of offering a product, in this case, some skins, is some terrible predatory psychological manipulation that makes people feel inferior and forces their feeble little minds to buy anything and everything you offer. To Jim almost any form of marketing is evil and greedy. Listen to him scoff at any and all forms of promotion, advertising and brand partnership. Jim is the kind of gamimg personality that would criticise all types of additional monetization regardless of whether they hurt the actual gaming experience or not.

        And here’s why that’s bad – that sort of attitude makes it easy for gaming execs to dismiss most complaints as “unreasonable”, “hysterical” or whatever. And that’s real lost opportunity, because with the amount of reach Sterling has, he could potentially be someone whom execs would pay attention to. Remember how TotalBiscuit convinced Gearbox to drop their partnership with G2A? He managed to do that because he had a reputation for being reasonable and being able to distinguish between acceptable and bad business practices.

        1. Leocruta says:

          Actually yeah, what happened to DL? It’s been a few months since I last checked in here, and his absence in the comments sections had me wondering.

  13. Chris says:

    I’m close to Shamus’s age, and I’ve always understood greed to imply a degree of short-sightedness and self-destruction above and beyond simple avarice. There was a fable I read as a kid about a dog with a bone who saw his reflection in a pond. He thought the reflection was another dog with another bone, and he starts barking to scare the “other” dog into dropping its bone so he could have both. Of course, this results in him dropping his bone into the pond and ending up with nothing. That’s greed, so I’m not convinced that the definition has changed recently.

    1. Asdasd says:

      The fable I’ve always remembered about greed was the kid who tried to steal sweets from his grandfather’s jar.

      He was able to sneak into his grandfather’s room, and he was able to get the jar down from the highest shelf. But when he reached into the jar and tried to withdraw a fistful of sweets, his hand got stuck, and in his panic he cried out, waking his grandfather.

      The moral of the story is that if he’d been less greedy he could have stolen a smaller number of sweets without getting caught. This actually lines up with Shamus’s protagonist from the Other Kind of Life, who looks down on short-sighted criminals who lack the restraint to keep their law breaking under the radar. Although I think he describes them as reckless rather than greedy.

    2. Lars says:

      Acquiring more for the sake of having more, beyond what you need or is useful to you.

      Isn’t that gluttony? Greed would be the need to have everything, no matter the worth. While envy is the hate towards others for having something you don’t have.

  14. Joshua says:

    IMO, Greed is a word that is thrown around way, way too frequently and used incorrectly. As Shamus said, it’s meant to refer to wanting to acquire more than you could reasonably use or need, but it’s thrown at companies not because they’re doing well or acquiring more, but in the unethical, illegal, and/or foolish means they’re using to get it.

    Example A: A burger joint decides to expand its menu into also offering fries, chicken and milkshakes. Revenues have increased in such a dramatic fashion that the ROI has gone from a solid 10% to an eye-opening 20%!

    Example B: A burger joint decides to expand its revenues by charging by the napkin (as someone above suggested), by the ketchup packet, and by the minute a customer spends sitting at one of their tables. They lost a lot of business, but overall their Net Income has increased by $50 for the year.

    Example A has dramatically increased their profits by increasing Customer Value, and the owner could easily retire a multi-millionaire in a decade or two. Example B has increased their profits by only the most miniscule amounts, but is more likely to be called “greedy” due to their obnoxious business practices. I think we need a better word than “greedy”.

    1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

      I think it still fits. The problem is that the greed causes their unethical behaviour. The companies want as much money as possible, and allow that desire to override any practical and ethical concerns.

      In your example A, the company might still be greedy, but it doesn’t actually cause any problems, so people aren’t motivated to adress it. After all, our economic system basically demands that everyone be greedy. In example B, it does cause problems, so people complain.

      1. Joshua says:

        That still doesn’t work. In Example B, imagine that the company’s making a mediocre 5% return. Or, imagine that the company’s pulling losses year over year is what leads the company to institute these absurd policies. It’s not greedy to not want to go out of business or to earn a normal profit. The problem still is with how the company operates (ethically and/or intelligently) vs. what is motivating the management.

    2. CT says:

      I think the problem really lies in using “greedy” in reference to companies. Using it in the sense of “wanting to acquire more than you could reasonably use or need” is not really meaningful when used for a firm – firms are supposed to maximise profits as much as they can, and you cannot really determine what is their “reasonable need”.

      I think this is why the term has shifted/is shifting in meaning when talking about corporations – I feel that often it is used as a synonym for “short-sighted”, i.e. a company is greedy if it tries to maximise current profits at the expense of long-term ones. In some other cases, it is used in a less well-defined way, as if greedy meant “short-sighted and EVIL”.

      All in all, I do think it is not too problematic to use “greedy” as an analogue of “shortsighted” in the case of companies – just because using “greedy” in its classical meaning in the case of corporations is not really meaningful at all.

      1. Kyle Haight says:

        My problem with using “greedy” as a synonym for “short-sighted” or “incompetent” is that it tars a valid motivation (the desire to make oneself better off, to have more) with the harms caused by bad choices made from that motivation. It attacks the end because some choose bad means. I think it’s important to keep that distinction clear in thought and word, so I prefer to characterize such behavior as self-destructive, short-sighted or exploitative, rather than “greedy”.

        1. CT says:

          Doesn’t “greedy” have a negative connotation also in its “traditional” meaning, though? I think that, if I wanted to describe a person who wants to earn money/be financially successful in a neutral or positive way, I would use terms such as “ambitious” or “hard-working”, rather than “greedy”. Regardless of the specific connotation, “greedy” still seems to imply that a person/company is somewhat reprehensible. I am not an English native speaker though.

          1. Shamus says:

            “I am not an English native speaker though.”

            I am always flabbergasted when I get to the end of a comment full of flawless English, discussing nuances of individual words, and then read that the author isn’t a native speaker.

          2. Kyle Haight says:

            “Greedy” does have a negative connotation generally, yes. My point is that it has that negative connotation precisely because it bundles the concepts of “wants to earn money/be financially successful” and “does reprehensible things” together, implying that the former is bad because it leads to the latter. And we do in fact see people and organizations criticized for “greed” when they exhibit the first part of the package deal without the second.

      2. RFS-81 says:

        There’s also greedy algorithms, where the word is also understood in the sense of short-sighted. I tried to look up when the term was coined to see if it fits with Shamus’s theory of definition drift, but no success. Looking at the references on the Wikipedia page, all the ones that actually use the word are newer than 2000.

        1. Sannom says:

          There are also greedy regular expressions, which just grab everything until the very last pattern is encountered and they’re generally useless to me.

    3. Syal says:

      My take on greed is “more reward for less work”. Increasing how many types of food you sell is not greed, because you have to actually make the new food to sell it: it’s creating more work in order to get more reward. While charging more money for the same food is greed, because you’re increasing your earnings without increasing your workload.

      1. Joshua says:

        That would be called “lazy”.

        1. Syal says:

          Laziness is just “less work”. Pure laziness will give up rewards to avoid work, where greed will usually do the work if the rewards require it.

  15. DungeonHamster says:

    Astronomical means really big. Replacing “of” with “against” or “astronomical” with “infinitesimal” might be better.

    1. Shamus says:

      Good catch. I never would have spotted that one on my own. Thanks.

      1. CT says:

        Thanks for the nice comment Shamus!

        1. CT says:

          Sorry, reply fail – this was meant for Shamus’ comment just above.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      or “astronomically low” or “astronomically small”

      1. Dan Efran says:

        You could, but the connotation is “as high as the stars below you, or as tiny as they aren’t” — not as clear as actually using a word for “small”.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Incorrect. “The odds against a shareholder or an executive reading what any of us have to say is astronomically small.” is both syntactically correct, and meaningful. There are many things which have very small odds out in nature, because of the vast size of the universe/galaxy/other-things-studied-in-astronomy.

  16. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    I continue to be a fan of the argument style -that EA’s problem isn’t greed, it’s being bad at videogames. And I think there is a lot to it. Organizations begin life with a particular talent, and if they drift off that talent, there is good reason to think it will be bad for the organization. EA began life as a videogame maker, and has since transformed into a diversified conglomerate. Problems are to be expected, and these problems are plausible.

    I am also, however, reminded that organizations do not make obviously stupid decisions -they make subtly stupid decisions. If it is obvious to you and 9000 EA employees that EA is making mistakes, it is likely that the EA execs know this, too. So why aren’t they acting on it?

    There are many case studies on this. It is usually because they can’t. Sears/K-Mart knew it had financial problems competing with online retailers, but there was nothing they could do about it, given they had leases on property they couldn’t get out of, and it was the rents that were killing them. Blockbuster likely got hit by the same problem. AOL-Time Warner merger made zero business sense, but it allowed AOL stockholders to trade internet bubble era AOL stock for more stable Time Warner cable stock. The company failed, but AOL made out very well. GM went in heavy for SUVs and Trucks because legacy personnel costs from the 1960s made it impossible for the company to make money on low-margin vehicles, and as legacy costs (pensions, basically) continued to grow, GM developed GMAC to increase the profit margin on SUVs by financing the vehicles themselves and taking the interest payments, too, rather than giving them to another bank. When the financial crisis hit, the organization was in too deep to adjust and went bankrupt.

    If I were guessing, and I would love a business analyst to really take a crack at this, I’d guess that EA’s shift from computer game studio in 1982 to corporate owner of other game studios in the 1990s is the original source of the constraint. It looks like EA made that shift in order to deal with the rise of new consoles -the 3D0 and the Playstation -that allowed third party development. Wikipedia tells me that EA was the only studio that routinely made money in the late 90s, so the strategy paid off for them. Changes in the videogame market since 2000, however, may have made those decisions -reasonable at the time -a massive legacy cost that EA still can’t quite break away from (appears they tried from 2007 to 2013, according to Wikipedia, and the result was mass failures of their studios in 2008).

    Today, they are like GM -they need the cash cows, and the lootboxes, and the servers -to keep the lights on. They are no longer a videogame publisher, they are a server farm with attached IP licensing business, just like GM was a bank with an attached car manufacturer.

    Again, that’s just a guess, but I think it would be fruitful to explore it further -well, someone who has the business knowledge to do so. I’m a bit out of my field, here.

  17. Kylroy says:

    I think the Playfish debacle is something you should play up more – they were EA’s ticket to making precisely the kind of microtransaction-laden games that gaming culture despises, and whose lucrative successes (Candy Crush, Clash of Clans) make investors swoon. But they couldn’t do that right either.

    In general, don’t mistake for malice what can adequately be explained by incompetence.

  18. Andrew says:

    but the odds of a shareholder or an executive reading what any of us have to say is astronomical

    I think you probably mean “astronomically small”. Or at least, I would say that as written, the above means you think the odds are very high.

    1. Asdasd says:

      I’m pretty sure Shamus is correct here. The higher or longer the odds given on something, the less likely it’s considered that it will occur. So astronomical odds = essentially no chance.

      1. Shamus says:

        “The odds of this happening are high.”

        “The odds AGAINST this happening are high.”

        I think these both mean the same thing in informal discourse, despite the fact that they should be opposites. Or maybe I’ve been staring at this sentence for too long and now I don’t even know what words are anymore.

        1. BlueNINJA'D says:

          Or maybe I’ve been staring at this sentence for too long and now I don’t even know what words are anymore.

          I think the chances of this being true might be astronomical.

        2. Ander says:

          There’s a certain accusitive use of “against” that would fit here, where “against” is used in the context of applying something to something else. Kind of “Google define against” definition 2 (“in anticipation of”). But the phrase “odds against,” I think, seems as a unit to usually mean the opposite of “odds of.”

        3. Dan Efran says:

          Sorry, they only mean the same thing in sloppy, not-paying-attention discourse. They’re opposites if you want to be understood correctly. It’s not like “I could care less”.

  19. CrokusYounghand says:

    As if on cue, Microsoft just announced Halo series would be coming to Steam. Even Microsoft seems to understand gaming world better than EA.

    Also, any one else thinking that Steam might finally be retalliating against Epic Launcher? This one deal essentially eclipses all the exclusives they managed to gather.

    1. Asdasd says:

      I’d be interested to see what revenue split Microsoft will be getting. Not saying necessarily Valve cut them a special deal, but as you say, when this is surely going to be worth more than all the lost revenue from Epic’s exclusives combined..

      Edit: actually, reading up on it further, the catch seems to be that they plan to sell each game separately, making the ‘collection’ a glorified store within a store.

      Between this and the rumours of Microsoft Game Pass being streamed on the Switch, it seems Microsoft’s strategy is to establish a presence on popular platforms outside their control through a series of what might be (uncharitably?) called Trojan horses.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Remember that Valve has that deal that if a title sells enough the revenue for developer/publishers is higher than usual, and I’m sure Microsoft can tell this game will sell like hotcakes.

      2. CrokusYounghand says:

        Yes, they will seemingly be releasing games in chronological order (Reach – 1 – 2 – ODST – 3 – 4). There is still a chance they’ll mess this up.

        Trojan horses

        Still better than Embrace Extend Extinguish, I’d say.

    2. Sannom says:

      This gives me some small hope that the games made by the studios recently acquired by Microsoft won’t be exclusive to the Windows Store as we all expected.

  20. Dreadjaws says:

    The common argument in defense of EA is that I’m just a dumb programmer turned internet crank. I don’t have an MBA, I don’t have all the facts like sales numbers and development costs, and I’ve never run a major corporation. Maybe if I knew all the facts, I’d see the wisdom in the decisions of EA executives.

    That’s a reasonable enough argument.

    I actually disagree with this. It’s a popular argument, for sure, but so are cigarettes, and they’re literally poison. I don’t think the idea that you have to be an expert in a field to know when someone is doing well is reasonable, despite the fact that it might sound like it is at first glance.

    Like comedian Steve Hofstetter pointed out once about parents who claim that you don’t get to tell them if they’re doing a bad job if you don’t have kids:

    “I’ve never flown a helicopter, but if I saw one in a tree I could still be like ‘Dude fucked up'”

    Sure, you might not know all the details, nuances and intricacies, but the outcome is usually pretty easy to figure out. If you’re closing down studios, killing franchises and constantly getting into “worst of the year” lists it doesn’t take an expert to notice you’re not really a secret genius.

    1. Blue-NINJA'D says:

      The problem is when you start trying to diagnose what’s wrong and give advice from the sidelines. Sure, that helicopter crashed. But why? Pilot error? Mechanical fault? Sabotage? A bird crashed into it? If you’re not a helicopter engineer/pilot, how helpful IS your opinion?

      I’m not going to say Shamus is wrong in his analysis*, but I’m conscious of the fact that he might be wrong and doesn’t know everything.

      *It sounds pretty accurate to me, but then again I probably know even less than him.

  21. Scampi says:

    I can’t find a link for it all these years later, but at the time I read an article alleging that the multiplayer idea came from the developers at Maxis and not from the EA leadership.

    I’ve seen this claim as well and I’d imagine it might have happened like this:

    “We would like to make a new Sim City game, kind of a modern version of a classic gamers have come to love for decades.”
    “How will this game build a community and how can we enforce an online requirement?”
    “If that’s what you want, we might make it into a multiplayer game?”
    “So you say it’s a multiplayer game? That’s an interesting idea, Mr. Maxis. We will credit you for your bold idea in the future.”

  22. Scerro says:

    The sad part is that Apex Legends is still marred by poor decisions. The loot box system is predatory, much much moreso than at first glance. At first it seems very, very generous as you get a loot box every level like Overwatch, but at level 25 you get one every other level, and at level 35 or so it cuts down to one every 3rd level, and at 50 it’s every five levels, and at level cap (100) you can’t get a single new lootbox for free ever.

    Meanwhile the skin and banners/emotes/etc pools are insanely diluted. 12 common tier tiny recolors per legend? Awful.

    In terms of the lootboxes themselves, they’re far more reasonable than most in the industry. $1/box, 3 items, no duplicates, and a published 7% legendary rate.

    EA continues to prove to me that they are incapable of designing a progression system that doesn’t penalize you and piss you off eventually.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Ouch, I’m not particularly interested in Apex but I’m a grinder who really, really likes when games give you these continuous little bonuses for “overflow levels” (or whatever the equivalent is in a given games), especially if they’re stuff that you can get either by grinding or by paying money for. Way back when the whole Battlefront 2 lootbox controversy exploded and people were talking about how long it takes to unlock stuff by playing I thought I’d be into that if I was into the game itself (for the reason of enjoying the time investment I stick to one or at most two such games for years).

  23. Shamus says:

    In the interest of feeling out this ever-so-slightly different definition of greed, I’d like to pose a question. And because it’s a little too easy to hate on distant executives and make assumptions about their situation, I’ll use myself as an example.

    Being a Z-list internet celebrity does not pay particularly well*, especially not compared to what someone with my background ought to be able to make as a programmer. But I’ve chosen the internet thing over money, so therefore I’m not greedy, right?

    However, I chose this line of work because it’s rewarding in a way that (say) taking care of someone’s application codebase is not. I’m trying to maximize my personal happiness, it’s just that I put a high value on fulfilling work and personal comfort. You could argue that’s just as greedy as Andrew Wilson, it’s just that the things we’re trying to acquire (working from home vs. increasing corporate profits) are different.

    Moreover, there’s probably some threshold of money that someone could offer me to lure me back into an office, so it’s not like I’m this idealized artist that’s above money concerns. I’d be willing to sell out, but my asking price is more than anyone wants to pay. Does that make me more greedy, or less?

    Now that I’m thinking about it, this seems less like a question over definitions or economics and more like philosophy. So I dunno.

    * This is not a complaint, nor am I trying to guilt anyone into giving to my Patreon. I’m really grateful to ALL supporters.

    1. Shamus says:

      Bonus question: Let’s imagine that Andrew Wilson’s plans worked. Dead Space 3 became a hit shooter, even if it was a massive disappointment to fans of the original. SimCity 2013 is still raking in DLC money today, even if we resent the always-online stuff. Anthem was a smash hit. The loot boxes in Battlefield made a billion dollars, and even though everyone hates them the political will to ban them never materialized.

      In this universe, is Andrew Wilson still greedy? Or would be use another word for these successful attempts to maximize profits?

      1. Asdasd says:

        Well, that’s the beauty of language, isn’t it? If Andrew Wilson’s vision for EA fails, we can call him greedy, invoking the definition where greed is avarice + folly. If he succeeds, we can call him greedy in the older sense of pure avarice. And if the future remains uncertain we can still call him greedy, meaning avarice with a dash of recklessness or what we perceive as short-term myopia. I think all three are workable definitions simply through usage and a certain amount of post-hoc rationalisation.

        To get personal… I don’t think 20 Sided is a greedy operation (it’s free!) and I don’t think simply acting out of self interest or trying to maximise personal happiness is inherently greedy. Were you to plaster the site in ads or throw it behind a paywall, I expect you might get some accusations of greed. For some people, simply the move towards extracting greater revenue would count (the ‘sell out!’ crowd). For others it would be an assumption that the monetisation damage the long term prospects of the site if it drove people away. A paywall would probably be more likely to actually kill the site than ads, so the accusation would be variably appropriate.

      2. Geebs says:

        As a Z-list internet commenter – he would still be greedy because his desire for wealth would be still be excessive in that the social cost of his wealth accumulation (teaching kids to gamble, employee burnout, etc) is not proportional to the net amount of benefit accrued by everybody as a whole.

        You would not be greedy by the same metric because your increased income would not be balanced against a disproportionate cost to society.

        1. Kyle Haight says:

          The concept of ‘social cost’ doesn’t make sense to me. Good and bad apply to individuals, first and foremost. The cost of ’employee burnout’, for example, is borne by the specific individuals in question, who made their own individual choices as to whether to take and keep employment in such a toxic work environment. I don’t know what the contexts of those individuals were, what their value hierarchies looked like, and what trade-offs they faced. I can look from the outside and say “that looks like a bad choice to me”, and I might even be right, but in the end it’s *their* choice, not mine and not anybody else’s. The cost here is still a cost to individuals, not to ‘society’.

          Here’s another thought on ‘greed’. The standard definition being used in this conversation is some variation of “desire for more to an excessive or unreasonable degree”, but we haven’t dug into the standards we’re implicitly appealing to to decide what is ‘excessive’ or ‘unreasonable’. My intuition is that no amount of money is ‘unreasonable’ *as long as you earn it*. If you can create enough value through your thought and effort to earn a billion dollars, or a hundred billion dollars, more power to you. Well done. Conversely, if you want a 50 cent raise for no additional value creation at all, i.e. you want more without doing anything to earn it, that is unreasonable.

          What this suggests to me is that instead of trying to figure out whether someone is ‘greedy’ or not, it is more fruitful to ask “what kind of value is this person creating, to whom is it valuable, how valuable is it to them, and what are they asking for in exchange”. From this perspective, EA’s lootbox behavior looks pretty bad. They’re creating games that suck you into a gameplay loop, then gradually make that loop unpleasant, so they can charge you to temporarily reduce the unpleasantness. The ‘value’ of the lootbox is in removing a pain that they themselves caused for no reason other than to charge you to alleviate it. That’s kind of like breaking someone’s leg and then kindly offering to let them lean on you.

          I, at least, see no value to me in such a proposition, which is why I don’t buy those kinds of games.

          It has been noted elsewhere in this comment thread that the purpose of companies is to make a profit. That’s true, but in my opinion incomplete. Good, well-run companies have the goal of “make a profit by creating value X”. The nature of the value being created and offered for trade is a key part of what differentiates one company from another, and is something that the senior management of the company must understand. I take Shamus’ point to be, in part, that EA is a company whose goal is ostensibly “make a profit by creating games”, but whose senior management has no understanding of the nature or value of the thing their company creates.

      3. CT says:

        Well, considering the first question, I would say that probably twenty-sided and your work as an internet thinker is unlikely to be considered greedy. This is for two reasons: First, “greed” is normally used in reference to the desire for “material” goods, such as money; the desire to spend time with loved ones is not normally associated with greed (unless you are Gordon Gekko). Second, even though you might be open to pursuing better paid jobs, you are not actively trying to maximise your material wealth as of now. I think that, if took a well-payed job at EA, leaving your “internet celebrity” activity, you would be considered greedy by some. However, until something along those lines happens, I think you are quite safe on that front.

        Considering the second question, I think the answer is really ambiguous. People who use the term as meaning “short-sighted and self-destructive” would probably not call Andrew Wilson greedy. However, he could still be considered “greedy” in the sense of “maximising short-term profits in an ‘evil’ way”, because he would have “betrayed” fans of the previous entries by drastically altering the genre of the series. So it would depend, but I think there would be less of a consensus – especially because your judgement on how ‘evil’ the strategy was depends on how invested in the series you were, and in general on your preferences. It is arguably easier to agree on whether a business strategy is successful, compared to agreeing on the ‘morality’ of it.

        Now, one related question for you which I think could be interesting: would you consider EA “greedy” for having allowed the sharp change in tone and themes between Mass Effect 1 and 2? It is possible that the company wanted to increase profits, so it (arguably) favoured a shift from “classic” sci-fi to “action-hero schlock”, and doing so it betrayed the original artistic vision of the franchise and the expectations of the original fans. Would you use the term “greedy” in this case?
        If the answer is “yes”, then EA’s problem is really not greed at all, because some “greedy” actions can be commercially successful after all.

      4. shoeboxjeddy says:

        In that universe, Andrew Wilson is still greedy but he’s also clever and a good businessman. It’s like, if you go on fourth down a lot in football, win or lose you are a risktaker. But if you make it a lot, there’s adjectives for that, and if you fail a lot, there’s adjectives for that.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      I wouldn’t be so concerned about this, Shamus. It’s the internet, misinterpreting the meaning of words is a basic past-time. Hell, look at poor “irony” and “literally” and how people take them to mean their exact opposites.

      1. Asdasd says:

        This is very inescapably an ‘on the internet, all discussion ends in an argument over semantics’ type thing. But for some people that’s the best part!

        1. Ander says:

          …guilty maybe. Although once a descriptivist liguistic view reins supreme among the populace (we don’t have much in the way of a rallying cry), I can lay down my sword.

          On topic: I don’t know how most people use the word greedy, but given the apparent ambiguity, the discussion re:EA should involve more explaining words and fewer uses of “greedy”. e.g. “EA desires a larger market share than they can service effectively” or “EA wants to make more money than they made last year”

      2. Ander says:

        Do people actually take “literally” to mean its opposite? I would like feedback on this because I’ve heard that before but not observed it. And with irony…I think people are using it without precision, not in opposition to its “correct” literary usage.
        People may use “literally” in the context where its opposite might be more clear, but that might not be the same as using the word to mean the opposite. “I literally died” is (usually) not in line with the historic use of the word, but the force of the word isn’t “figuratively.” The force is more like, “Without exaggeration.” “Died” has the same force as, “We died,” in reference to laughing after a joke. Thus, “I [without exaggeration] [had an extreme response].” Someone saying, “I literally died,” when the response was not extreme would be using the word “incorrectly” because it would not be in common usage (at least, as I’ve observed that usage). The adjective would have the same force as in “He literally died” where the person referred to did die. Thus, “He [without exaggeration] [experienced the end of his life].” Different, but not opposite in meaning.
        Anyway, if people really are saying, “literally” to specify, “figuratively,” please someone confirm it.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Words can change meaning over time, but ‘literally’ and ‘died’ already have established meanings. The usage you’ve shown is wrong for both words’ definitions.

          1. Ander says:

            Those meanings were chosen by usage I observe around me as a native English speaker in Midwest America. The examples are intended to represent what people say. Meaning is established by usage. Usage can change over time. How much time? Hard to say. But if the words chosen allow the listener to know what the speaker means, then the words are not wrong. Here’s how to know if my hypothetical speakers are using words wrong: were the examples comprehensible? Would a native speaker understand what the hypothetical speakers meant? You need context, but a native speaker can understand what “We died” meant in the context of a comedy. Sure, you need context for understanding, but that’s true of lots of words. “I bought a bat” could refer to an animal or a tool. That doesn’t make bat a bad word.

            1. Syal says:

              But if the words chosen allow the listener to know what the speaker means, then the words are not wrong.

              That’s a crock of outlaws. Surrounding words being able to provide context doesn’t mean that all the words are symbiotic.

            2. Echo Tango says:

              Yes, usage can change over time, but in the interim period until the meanings of those words are changed, using them to mean the opposite is still incorrect!

              1. Ander says:

                It’s not used to mean the opposite. That would be using literally to mean “figuratively.” It’s used to mean “without exaggeration” or to mean emphasis, neither of which are equivalent to the idea signified by “figuratively.” Yes, the context is figurative, but the word isn’t there to signify “figuratively.” (This doesn’t address correct/incorrect, of course)

        2. Syal says:

          People don’t say ‘figuratively’, because an idiom is already assumed to be figurative. ‘Literally’ is supposed to mean ‘it actually happened just like the idiom’. “I literally fell on my face” is when you actually fall on your face while embarrassing yourself. Any use of ‘literally’ to describe an event that has no metaphorical implication is an incorrect use. Any hyperbolic use of ‘literally’, like “I literally died”, is the opposite of the word’s meaning.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            Personally I have been trying to pay a lot of attention to how I use “literally” but I am not a native speaker of Englis hand I know I am prone to picking up various verbal habits both in English and Polish and I like using words correctly. For example I’m now trying to get rid of the habit of interjecting “like” into my English.

            For clarification, I am also a linguist by education and I fully believe in and support language change over time, there are, however, certain uses that I consider incorrect and using “literally” for hyperbole strikes me as such. Again, my opinion might be of limited value because I’m not a native speaker.

            1. Ander says:

              Wow, thanks for the input. I second Shamus’s earlier comment about being impressed by the flawless comments of a non-native speaker. That happens a lot here.

              Literally in a figurative context is nonstandard, yes. And it can be confusing. I agree it’s a less useful usage, though still a valid one. Unfortunately for the accuracy of language, it’s how many people are using it. The only difference between temporary slang and a general usage change seems to be widespread acceptance (as that great ancient linguist Thor said in Infinity War, “Every word is made up”). At this point, “literally” to mean “without exaggeration” hasn’t made it to the second group yet.

              Recognizing that people aren’t merely speaking incorrectly but are using the word for something specific is important to me because people can go years without realizing that a word is being used in a different way by a lot of people (like Shamus acknowledged for “greed”). That doesn’t make the use better or even good (in fact, it can be confusing); it just is. I’ll go back to my initial position: people don’t use literally to signify “figuratively” (they don’t need to; as Syal said, an idiom is assumed to be figurative), but many people use literally in a figurative context.

              1. Sleeping Dragon says:

                Haha, that first sentence was anything but correct, could use some commas at least. I think part of the thing about us non-natives writing well is that we spend more time thinking about what we’re writing, that mess actually came up from me rewriting the sentence a couple times and then not doublechecking the final version.

        3. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Younger people use literally in the same way someone might use an expletive for emphasis. Sentence examples:
          -It was LITERALLY 100 degrees outside! (this just means that it felt very hot, the speaker might not have checked what the temperature was).
          compare to
          It was like 100 f****ng degrees outside!
          -I’m so hungry, I’m literally starving to death!
          compare to
          I’m so hungry, I’m f***ng starving!

          etc.

          People will say this usage is “incorrect”, but that’s actually sophistry. Words are always changed from one thing to another over time. “Awesome” used to mean something like “shepherds witnessed the appearance of the host of heaven, it was awesome” (it created the feeling of AWE in them). Whereas now, “Did you see Captain Marvel, it was awesome!” is both a correct and common usage (meaning it was above average good). So the usage described above is less established, but that doesn’t actually make it wrong. It just makes the people complaining about it old.

          1. Syal says:

            It wouldn’t bother me as much if there was a viable replacement. ‘Awesome’ is a shadow of its former self, but “awe-inspiring” and “magnificent” are still pretty close (and ‘awesome’ was always about how the speaker felt). ‘Titular’ morphed into its own opposite, but ‘defines the title’ is a specifically useful term and ‘technical’ fills the old ‘in title only’ meaning pretty well. But ‘literally’ means “it could have been a fable”, and close stuff like ‘actually’ or ‘truly’ doesn’t hit that note.

    3. krellen says:

      The meaning of Greed, at its base, is derived from its position as one of the Seven Deadly Sins of Catholicism. As such, we should look to their beliefs to guide us towards its meaning, which has become corrupted in modern use. “Greed”, in Catholic dogma, is defined as “excessive desire for material possessions”.

      It’s basically wanting stuff, as opposed to other nouns like power, or sustenance, or sex (which were defined as Pride, Gluttony*, and Lust), and differentiated from jealousy (wanting what others have), which was called Envy. It’s not Greedy to want your neighbour’s cow – that’s Envious. But it is Greedy to want an eleventh cow when you already have ten, particularly if you just want that eleventh cow to have eleven, instead of because you need an eleventh to fulfil your needs.

      A desire for fulfilling work and personal time cannot be Greed, as those are not material things. It might be Sloth (avoiding exertion or the callings of duty), depending on how you define duty.

      *It’s not Gluttonous to be hungry. It’s Gluttonous to consume when you are not.

      1. krellen says:

        Note: all attempts to maximise profits are Greedy, by the dogmatic definition.

      2. Kyle Haight says:

        Although, again, what constitutes ‘excessive’? By the standards in play when the Catholic Church came into existence the vast, vast majority of people in economically-developed nations today have an excessive amount of material wealth, and we consider that a good thing. It’s also worth pondering whether the sinfulness of the Catholic concept of greed makes any sense outside the context of a religious metaphysics that elevates the spiritual (City of God) over the material (City of Man). The Catholic Church had theological reasons to discourage a focus on the material world, as it drew attention away from God. Do those concerns make sense outside of that religious framework?

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Disdain for greed makes sense out of a religious context in consideration of the greater good or the common welfare. What else would you call it but greed when those at the top have hundreds of time the salary of those at the bottom? It’s a shameful example that full time employees at certain wage slave jobs also rightfully draw benefits from the government just to maintain a non-homeless, non-starving lifestyle.

          1. Kyle Haight says:

            I would say it depends on how much value the respective people are creating. If one person is a hundred times more productive than another, they deserve an appropriate reward. I’ll draw the line there to avoid moving into forbidden territory.

        2. krellen says:

          Cultural standards. Wanting many times more than the average person has is excessive. If everyone has more, wanting that much is not excessive.

      3. Asdasd says:

        Note that attempting to conflate jealousy and envy would itself get you pulled up in many places where they’re considered distinct (fear of losing what you have vs coveting or resenting what others have). Including the Bible, where God describes himself as jealous (of his followers’ exclusive faith).

    4. trevalyan says:

      You’re clearly not more greedy, because you chose a less optimal path to material wealth instead of selling out. You just have a high price to overcome that. That isn’t greed. Whatever people, including yourself, believe a “fair” price is for your services? Immaterial. You could monetize this site to the point of being unreadable, and only then would you hit peak EA.

    5. Syal says:

      I’m trying to maximize my personal happiness, it’s just that I put a high value on fulfilling work and personal comfort.

      My definition of greed is maximizing personal rewards while minimizing the provided value that brings those rewards. If the work is its own reward, it’s never greed. If you were running the blog because you viewed it as an easier path to fame or fortune (whether or not it is), that would probably be greed. If you were pressuring other people to produce content for the blog so you could become more famous, that would definitely be greed (even if everyone found it fun).

      I think selling out would depend on the why. Is it to get the money and the status of having money, or is the money/status a means to make things more comfortable in the long run? Having enough savings to survive emergencies or retire isn’t greed.

      In a situation where all of Andrew Wilson’s greedy plans paid off, they would still be greedy, since he’s increased the company’s reward while minimizing the value to the consumer. But people would also probably use a different word for it, at least people who agree his job is to make money. Greed is selfishness, and in a situation where we aren’t just defining words you only call something greed when you want to discourage the practice.

  24. eldomtom2 says:

    EA had a lot of success with loot boxes (née card packs) in the FIFA and Madden franchises, so the leadership decided to put them in a completely different game in a totally different genre aimed at a different audience. Mistakes are understandable, but apparently nobody understood the business well enough to know they were doing something inherently risky. If even one of the executives played an online shooter or followed the culture around those games, they would have been aware of how prickly the community can be about balance and unlocks. Messing with those mechanics is inherently perilous. Just because FIFA players are willing to pay for random content unlocks doesn’t mean this other audience will be.

    That EA thought they could get away with loot boxes is less surprising when you consider that COD has been successfully getting away with it since 2014.

  25. ElementalAlchemist says:

    To add to the point about Maxis making repeated claims that the SimCity debacle was all their idea, not EA’s, Bioware has also claimed the same thing for Anthem. And in that same vein, we also know that a lot of the boneheaded decisions in Mass Effect, certainly as far as narrative choices go at least, were driven internally rather than by EA executives. As you say, there is probably an element where the studio is trying to proactively adapt to what they think Papa EA wants, and there’s certainly the spectre of EA parachuting yes-men managers in to an otherwise established culture, but I also think that people are often too quick to blame EA directly for decisions that aren’t always entirely of their fiendish design. Of course on the other hand, these massive multi-million dollar decisions have to be signed off on by EA execs, so I suppose ultimately the buck does stop with them. But I think that just reinforces the idea that greed alone is an insufficient explanation. There are a lot of moving parts under the hood, and it’s not as simple as Wilson sitting in his golden throne, rubbing his hands together and cackling with glee.

    1. Syal says:

      I also think that people are often too quick to blame EA directly for decisions that aren’t always entirely of their fiendish design.

      The question at that point is, is there any example of EA contributing positively to a game’s development? Were there ideas a developer had that EA overturned and the game came out better for it?

      Even if they aren’t directly ruining things, it’s not good if they’re leaving their developers to hang themselves.

      1. ElementalAlchemist says:

        is there any example of EA contributing positively to a game’s development? Were there ideas a developer had that EA overturned and the game came out better for it?

        I’m not sure about that exactly, but a lot has been made of the fact that EA supposedly gave Respawn a completely free hand with Apex Legends, which is what people are attributing to its success (while simultaneously pinning all Anthem’s many faults on EA interference).

        Like I said above, I don’t think it is ever that simple. I seriously doubt they just gave Respawn a blank cheque and walked away. There would have had to have been approvals and milestones, the same with any game development. Simultaneously, I seriously doubt they were constantly in Bioware’s ear, micromanaging every aspect.

  26. Gurgl says:

    Dead Space 3 in coop is a fantastic experience, nothing about survival horror precludes cooperative gameplay. If anything, we kept wishing we could have played 1 and 2 together as well, it’s not like the game is denatured to accomodate for coop.
    Of course playing with randos or Youtubers who fake-laugh every few seconds will kill the mood, but no variant of this puts the blame on the game.

    The series started off great and got better with each installment, whatever killed it cannot have been the coop aspect in itself. Judging from the (unjustified) anti-coop stance, it rather sounds like the pre-release hype was killed by a hate bandwagon of people who somehow felt that the coop was going to be forced upon them and turn a tense shooter into Destiny 2. LOL-H8 bandwagons are fun and all, until you miss out on great games.

    I’m sure the studio was tempted to make more, but as much as I liked it, I’m glad it’s over. There is nothing more to say, humanity lost and that’s perfectly appropriate: there is just nothing you can do against sentient meat-harvesting planets. We don’t need more sequels, prequels, filler and padding just because the story lacked a happy ending.

    Anyone who missed out on Dead Space 3, just go for it, and if you can play in coop that’s even better.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Strong disagree. Dead Space 3 was a fun game in its own right, but it was a COMPLETELY different experience than the first two. If you didn’t want a scary game in the first place, maybe you preferred the experience of 3, and that’s okay. But I find it disingenuous to say that a completely different game in many ways (pacing, challenge, style of gameplay, storytelling style, etc) is just “better.”

      1. Gurgl says:

        I don’t know where you got the “not wanting a scary game” part, Dead Space 3 still has a lot of tense and slow sequences where you explore dark environments; implying it has become a sort of bro shooter like in the article is false beyond the suspicious of good faith.

        Action has more screen time but plot-wise that’s a perfectly reasonable evolution, the aliens aren’t going to keep attacking isolated spaceships.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Because playing a game with another person as your helpful teammate is inherently less scary. What’s more scary, hearing a scary noise and having to slowly approach the noise, in the dark, by yourself? Or missing a scary noise because your co-op partner just made a legitimately funny joke about a horse in a hospital and you’re trying not to spit liquid onto the TV screen through laughter? Even if your co-op partner FREAKS OUT and screams, the worst that’s going to happen is a slight startle on your own part. While I was legitimately made uncomfortable, nervous, and stiff backed by Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space 2 multiple times, this NEVER happened in Resident Evil 5/6 or Dead Space 3. Co-op games are basically unscary as a pretty hard rule. And if you meant “I played Dead Space 3 alone”, you missed some of the best content in the game and the game was not properly balanced around that mode, so you still got a sub par experience.

          And to be clear, I LOVE co-op games. I’m constantly hungry for more of them and enjoyed the heck out of Resi 5 and 6 (even though 6 was VERY stupid), all of the Army of Twos, Syndicate, and more. They aren’t tense, well paced horror experiences though. They’re the equivalent of Point Break or Surf Ninjas for me.

    2. Paul says:

      I think Dead Space 3 is a bad example because they were really just following the industry standard of survival horror games: Resident Evil.
      Capcom understands games far better than EA but for some weird reason they always try to push co-op into Resident Evil.
      Dead Space 3’s co-op was far less obnoxious than RE6’s co-op. Which I gave up playing after dying a dozen times to a co-op door my AI buddy refused to operate. Nothing in DS3 was anywhere near that bad.

      1. Gurgl says:

        Absolutely correct, in fact since they were probably just following Resident Evil, that makes it even worse because Resident Evil 5 is actually a terrible example of cooperative design.

        RE5 is choke-full of got-you instadeaths, and in that game one player dying means you both have to start over. RE6 is even worse, the gameplay went full Rambo and yet you cannot go ten minutes without some scripted escape sequence requiring tight timing from both players. Playing these games in coop was a stressful and frustrating experience.

        Dead Space 3 was merely trend-chasing and yet it schooled them on how you do coop: just add coop.

        Exploring a dark derelict facility? Floating around in space looking for an entry point? Slicing zombie limbs and using them as projectiles? Cool, now let me do that with my friend.

        Just add coop.

  27. stratigo says:

    you’re making the assumption that anything you or I can say will sway the minds of an EA executive, even if you and I and a thousand other people all say the same thing. And, honestly, I don’t think it can. There is nothing no amount of consumers or reviewers can say that will make an EA executive care because, well, they largely lack empathy and don’t consider people to be, well, people. They will always ALWAYS dismiss any amount of commentary from the public because they don’t see the human value of people. The only way to really ‘get’ to them is to have a pile of money that you are directly taking away from them. Not just the implication, they have to see the direct loss of personal profit or some other sort of personal failure (like Kotick and his inability to pick of chicks) for them to, frankly, give a shit.

    1. Syal says:

      you’re making the assumption that anything you or I can say will sway the minds

      You should always assume this, because assuming it can’t work is a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you don’t put the words out, they can’t exceed your expectations. Even if things escalate past words, you should assume words can affect the outcome, because you don’t have perfect information, you don’t know what you don’t know, and the worst-case scenario of trying is the base scenario of not trying.

  28. Xander77 says:

    “Based on the feedback at the Escapist, this argument seems to have fallen of deaf ears.”
    It’s definitely the kids Escapist commenters who are wrong.

  29. Bryan says:

    I like Apex Legends, but the characters are very unbalanced. Like, it is clear no one at the design table really sat down and though about how to make characters with huge hitboxes equally viable. Whether I stay with the game or not depends on whether or not the devs actually bother to fix this problem.

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