Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Electronic Arts: Greed Is Not the Problem

Shamus Young | 18 Feb 2014 19:00
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Company Name

Valve is beloved by customers, while EA has been voted the worst company in America. Twice. Valve took a few millions and turned it into billions. EA took billions and failed to accomplish anything with it. Valve Corporation grows steadily, while EA has a new round of grievous layoffs every couple of years. Valve invented new and popular IP, while EA took already popular IP and turned it into bad press and disappointment.

On the production side of things, Valve is routinely viewed as the dream job of aspiring game developers, akin to the prestige of getting a job at Google. In contrast, EA has had repeated scandals involving their ghastly treatment of employees. The usual EA defense is that "People who make videogames are expected to work 16 hour days, and nobody put a gun to their head to force them to take a job at EA." That's true enough, but when Valve turns out stellar products with standard work hours and EA makes standard products with astronomical work hours, there's clearly a major failing somewhere in the EA leadership.

Bottom Line

I'm not holding up Valve as the perfect company. They make mistakes and unpopular decisions just like everyone else. But I'm using them as an example of what can be accomplished when a company knows their customers, knows their products, and understands how to use their resources. They've done far more than EA with far, far less.

EA is simple-minded, reactionary, out-of-touch, short-sighted, slow to correct mistakes, and are seemingly indifferent to public opinion. They've pissed away a fortune in potential revenue and tarnished the names of valuable franchises.

All of this is reflected in the EA stock price over the last ten years, which bobs up and down based on whether or not a Battlefield or Madden came out this quarter, but in general hasn't gone up in any meaningful way. Think about that. They're one of the biggest players in the fastest-growing entertainment business, with a treasure trove of established IP and numerous exclusive licenses, and they can't generate growth?

The problem isn't greed. The problem is that this company is incompetent. If I was a shareholder, I'd be out for blood. EA doesn't need to change a few policies or fiddle with their org chart. They don't need another game of musical chairs in the boardroom. They need an executive bloodletting and a transformation of company focus. Until then, they will continue to be a meatgrinder that turns talent and potential into outrage and disappointment.

Shamus Young is the guy behind Twenty Sided, DM of the Rings, Stolen Pixels, Shamus Plays, and Spoiler Warning.

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