We’ve all heard the call for gamers to boycott EA games but has anyone really sat down and thought about what that entailed? While it would be pretty easy to avoid buying any EA developed game, think about all of the games, that are actually good, that EA publishes. Not only that, but what about the games that were created before the company was purchased by EA that had sequels afterwards. Would you quit a narrative adventure in the middle of the story just because publishers changed?
Lets start with the easy boycott: anything developed by EA. In the last 4-5 years they have only made their sports titles(Madden, FIFA, etc) Medal of Honor, Command and Conquer 4, the Skate series, and NFS World/The Run. At first glance it would be pretty easy, for most people, to push these aside and not support EA by buying their titles. But take into consideration the success of Madden alone. Although each yearly iteration barely makes any additions it continues to sell. I’m not sure how FIFA does in NA but it sells phenomenally throughout the rest of the world. Tiger Woods’ golf continues to sell as well. If any of these franchises ceased to turn a budget EA would immediately drop them, or make considerable changes, whichever they found to be more profitable for them. As for Skate, you don’t have to worry about boycotting it, EA did that for you. The Skate series was incredibly popular and also well received but the audience for skateboarding dwindled leaving an empty niche market. Command and Conquer and Medal of Honor both failed to entertain the original fans while simultaneously failed to make new ones. Command and Conquer is currently doing a lot better than Medal of Honor, but I don’t think it will be long until that series gets canned as well. For the record, I loved the Medal of Honor reboot(I have not played Warfighter yet). The campaign was far better than its competition in terms of both story and character. Its issue is that it fell into the “corridor shooter” trope and had, what many people classified as, a limited mulitplayer mode(I’ll save that topic for another time though). And finally, EA Black Box hasn’t been able to make a Need for Speed game that’s good in quite some time. Pretty much, unless you have to play every yearly version of your favorite EA Sport title, it isn’t to difficult to avoid those.
Let’s bring in those acquired companies now. Since 2011 we have seen an obscenely large amount of games come out of EA’s door. We have seen good companies go under and bad game design become praised. We have seen the rise of overpriced map packs, plenty of cosmetic DLC, free-to-play “nickel and diming”, and Project $10. We have seen EA time and again make comments and tweets towards the community that shows a lack of empathy for the gamers. Yet despite all of the negative press they still released some above average games. 2011 brought us Alice: Madness Returns, Battlefield 3, Bulletstorm, Crysis2, and Dead Space 2. With 2012 came Kingdoms of Amalur, Mass Effect 3, Need for Speed Most Wanted, Shank 2, Sydicate, and Warp. So far, in 2013, we have Dead Space 3 and The Sims 3. They even ran across the genre board. While most were shooters the others fell into adventure/platformer, RPG, racing, 2d sidescroller, 3/4 isometric action puzzler, and life simulator. 3 new IPs were launched, and despite being from EA, were critically received well and were actually fun to play and didn’t have any of the shortcomings that are associated with EA. Bulletstorm turned the FPS genre on its head and looked to the past “arena shooters” for inspiration. Kingdoms of Amalur showed that you can have a vast, almost endless RPG and not have the most boring combat in a video game. Warp was an extremely well thought out puzzler that should have gotten more credit, but ended up being over shadowed by the endless array of FPS games that get launched. Now on to the difficult question: Would anyone have boycotted Mass Effect 3, on launch day, even after having played 1 and 2? The same goes for Shank 2 and Dead Space 2, maybe not Dead Space 3 with all of the negative press coverage prior to its launch. With Criterion Games behind NFS Most Wanted, and after seeing all of the tells that this is pretty much Burnout Paradise 2 under a different name, would someone who loves arcade racers avoid this because of a publisher? The Sims is pretty much the only place you can get a game that simulates a household. If you avoid the game just because it was published by EA, what else are you going to play in its place? As a gamer you could miss out on some extremely well written, satisfying games by boycotting EA just because of how much EA actually publishes. Also, we all know what happens to companies that don’t sell well these days. If Mass Effect 3 hadn’t of sold because of a nation wide boycott Bioware could have gone under. Or worse, merged with EA [whatever city is nearest to the Bioware’s city] and forced to make uninspired games thought up by EA.
Alright, so say someone has come to the conclusion that they will boycott EA produced games but not EA published games. PC games fall into a trap here. EA pretty much only sells their games through Origin. Some physical copies play from the disk but recently the trend is to require Origin to run. Origin is EA’s version of Steam, albeit with less experience behind it. They could have learned a lot from Valve on how to make a digital distribution storefront and game launcher but instead seemed to have copied Steam from 6 years ago. For those who don’t remember, Steam wasn’t always the money making machine it is today. Anywho, that means to play EA published games on PC you have to install Origin, a product of EA where EA gets all the profits. They are the publisher and storefront in this case and have erased the middle-man from the equation. To make matters worse, they were doing just fine with their products on Steam. They pulled their games from Steam to make them exclusive on Origin. This was strictly a money based decision. Its difficult to support EA for making such a blatantly obvious greed move. Amazon sells Origin game codes on deep discount sometimes or you could hope that the physical copy doesn’t require Origin to install but it becomes more difficult not to directly support EA on the PC.
While it is easy to say we should all boycott EA it is actually much more difficult in action. One could argue that there are plenty of other games to play and that is completely relevant. I have a backlog, on Steam alone, that just reached 400 titles. While I’m not sure how many of them are EA games, even if that number were 50, that still leaves me with more than enough games to play for another few years. Despite that, EA does deliver some experiences that cannot be found elsewhere. While I do cringe whenever I see the EA logo flash after I load up a game, I know that there really isn’t much I can do about it since I do want to play games by companies they just happen to own.