Over 250,000 consumerist readers have voted EA as the worst company in America. Ultimately they decided that the avarice displayed by the video-game publisher and developer was even worse than Bank of America in these uncertain times, as they notched up 64 percent of the votes to obtain the not-so prestigious “Golden Poo” award.
Other well-known international companies such as PayPal, Google, Apple, Facebook, and UPS all breathed a sigh of relief as Electronic Arts secured the infamous headlines.
So what exactly is so bad about EA in 2012? Most reports suggest that the fact they have been acquiring some of the respected smaller video-game companies to remove their competitors from the marketplace, as a pretty good reason.
A few passionate Mass Effect 3 fans will probably blame the infamous ending of their much-anticipated game enough to secure the award.
EA are also widely known as the industry leaders in micro transactions, DLC and exclusive add-on content to enhance the gamer’s experience. However there is a growing feeling that companies, such as EA, are deliberately holding back game content with the sole intent of charging a fee for it at a later date.
Increasingly, it feels like they are creating a meticulous and cunning plan to milk their own consumers without them even realising. Anyone that has experienced FIFA Ultimate Team will know exactly how that feels.
“After years of being ignored and relegated to steerage, game-players have voted to send a message to Electronic Arts and the gaming business as a whole: Stop treating your loyal customers like crap,” the site states.
Despite this heavy criticism, John Reseburg of EA corporate communications bounced back with “We’re sure that bank presidents, oil, tobacco and weapons companies are all relieved they weren’t on the list this year. We’re going to continue making award-winning games and services played by more than 300 million people worldwide.”
I suspect this somewhat sarcastic reply was, in part, due to their mailbox being bombarded with thousands of letters this year, in protest of the inclusion of same sex or LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) in their recent games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic and Mass Effect 3.
The right-wing homophobic conspiracies suggest that LGBT groups piled massive pressure on EA to include homosexual content in their games. Step forward Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, who advises “In a new Star Wars game, the biggest threat to the empire may be homosexual activists!”. The only thing missing was a lynch mob with pitch forks and burning torches in this ludicrous outburst.
These bigoted anti LGBT groups are organising themselves to campaign against many big companies, even the behemoth that is Starbucks have recently found themselves on the end of a “Dump Starbucks campaign” after offering public support for same-sex marriage equality. The good news though is a massive 642,000 people actually signed up to a “Thank Starbucks” campaign. It’s heart-warming to see that actually we are living in a progressive society after all.
In defence of EA, they must be given massive Kudos for their progressive stance and refusing to buckle under pressure from the powerful, and very often political, homophobic groups and their school yard bullying tactics. Religion and beliefs are very personal to an individual and not something that should ever belong in government or forced on others, in my opinion.
Despite the US-based religious groups attempting to destroy EA, it was great to see people such as Charlie Brooker and Stephen Fry offering support to the Electronic Arts: Keep Fighting the Dark Side online petition.
Brooker was on top form via his Twitter account by tweeting “Good for @EA for telling the homophobes to f*** off..” and “They should make *every* character in their games gay for a year just to wind up the bigots. Starting with the FIFA franchise,” and finally “In the next Modern Warfare, they should have a special ‘gay’ gun that’s better than all the others, thus forcing online players to use it“, before randomly mashing up some smoked mackerel fillet with Greek yoghurt and spreading it on a square of dark chocolate. Hey, that’s the crazy world of twitter.
However the big headlines neglect to inform people how we actually have two very serious separate issues to debate; the first is of course the shocking aspect of homophobia that we must all stand up against, and secondly the poor treatment of customers by companies such as EA.
The suggestion that EA only won the title of ‘Worst Company’ because they are victims of a campaign by bigots, is quite a convenient excuse that prevents them from tackling the reasons why a growing number of gamers are quickly losing patience in the way they are being treated.
Gamers are no longer kids that are locked away in their bedrooms for hours at a time, but a very sophisticated, educated adult community who are also very savvy in the digital world. A world where public-facing social networks can quickly build a united voice for the greater good.
Businesses that continue to patronise their customers will learn the hard way, so I sincerely hope that EA take this latest PR catastrophe and learn the lessons required to improve the strained relationship with their own customers.
Finally, if there really is a God out there, who is teaching us all that the art of love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and acceptance are paramount, wouldn’t it be ironic if the church-going homophobes are actually the ones that will burn in Hell?