How to Fix Electronic Arts

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How to Fix Electronic Arts

A bit of passion would go a long way towards repairing EA.

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well said good sir. It would be nice to see a large gaming company that is run by people who love games instead of people who only know how to run a business

This stuff is so obvious to us gamers. Be sure to send this article to EA executives.

This is basically why Valve is so successful. Anticipating market changes and what consumers want is key. That's exactly what Valve did years ago with their digital distribution platform. They knew what the future holds before everyone else did and now they're reaping most of the benefits. Valve is a company of gamers. As gamers and software developers they have the full insight into the industry and how it works. That's why they're so successful at what they do. It's so painfully obvious, which is why EA's decisions frustrate me to no end. It isn't that hard to understand gaming industry. I've seen here on The Escapist that most users can predict which games and trends will prove successful and which ones won't. That's how fuckin' obvious it is. A random member of a gaming forum could have run EA better than that moron.

Like any ecosystem, a good forest fire to clear out the dead wood to make way for new growth is needed. I think we are just watching the start of the fire that will clear out one of the big fat, slow to adapt dinosaurs of the industry and good will come out of it's corpse when it comes to rest.

But save it? No, let it die.

Blaine Houle:
But save it? No, let it die.

I vote for this. Let it die so that other companies that are not so clueless can pick up Bioware and DICE and their IP's.

The only solution to the EA problem is the company going under and freeing up the IP's to be taken up by people who actually give a shit about making a game. No matter who is at the helm of EA, its owned by investors. And they won't let off the leash of mediocre money maker titles. As a company it is totally dysfunctional to its customers. There is no fixing this level of broken. Sometimes you just have to admit that its a complete failure, and start over from scratch.

We shouldn't care for EA, just like we shouldn't care for Activision and the others. I've respected Ubisoft up to a few years ago (really, all thumbs up for making AssCreed happen), but they can go to hell too. Just as the other major publishers. Enix gets kind of a pass at this time I guess, but these big-ass western companies which only exist to make a few massive sequels a year... No, we shouldn't care about them. They can't be fixed. Not at this point. They're too far gone.

Unless some of these publishers magically changes from "make a few uber major hits a year and write off the rest as a loss" to "let's make a few modest games a year for modest profit each", they're dead to us. And they won't change because even if magically a gamer would get into the CEO chair, that person won't last more than a few months before being replaced.

I was listening to this while reading... it was like the lead up to a final battle.


Im not sure what to think about EA, they seem to cause so much trouble yet them going under would result in the loss of so many artistic endeavours, not to mention jobs. I'd like to say maybe whoevers put in charge will turn it around but I won't hold my breathe. The folk on top will most likely elect another from their ranks who will continue to make the same mistakes and it will go exactly the same way... I suppose it would be more humane to put EA out of its misery now... *gets shotgun* don't cry...

Fixing EA in 3 steps.

1) Destroy Origin

2) Stop making copy/paste games the focus and at the same time remove any/all microtransactions
**This also includes not publishing half complete games and then "patching" out the issues.

3) Make every game available as widely as possible. Including PC.

Oh EA isn't alone in making shitty decisions. Most Publishers have been making them, it's just that EA has been the worst offender.

Shamus, I can't get over how well written and level-headed your articles are. You always offer wisdom and insight where others offer only rage and vitriol.

cidbahamut:
Shamus, I can't get over how well written and level-headed your articles are. You always offer wisdom and insight where others offer only rage and vitriol.

He saves all his rage and vitriol for Spoiler Warning. In fairness, it's generally deserved.

Oh, EA.

Cash Addicted, Sociopathic EA.

if it were a person, it would be a geniune megalomaniac, that special shining example of NPD, that would sell your own furniture to you while you were in your house, and succeed.

It never seemed that EA was a small business that could turn around and change, or a small business that scaled itself upwards into a "large" boutique developer, like blizzard or any of the hundreds of small game companies absorbed into EA or Activision.

It remarkably acted as if it were a parody of every large organisation where middle management produced ideas that had to filter on down to the workers, E.g. Direct marketing via ads in games, microtransaction-heavy free to play games, always online play, creating social network obligations, microtransactions via in-game storefronts, digital deluxe packaged preorders, tiered preorder packages, preordered DLC packages branded as Premium, subscription model content for non-MMO games, regional allocations and regional pricing, sic. etc.

All terrible ideas when replicated across a broad range of games that don't need the promotional tools added in, and all generally unpopular changes that increased revenues and were mildly successful at the expense of customer retention.

The parody escalates when they really don't see problems.

Judging from the last 5 years, management would have had to be insulated from using its own products, exceptionally given the number of unrevealed DLC plans and post-game sales options in finished games, the akward backpedalling when PR, and a mea culpa is presented to the customer base after all is said and sold and done.

There should be some other reason, but i think we believe in the product more than the people selling it, and when the product fails, it really breaks that relationship too. of course, it's selective memory. EA has probably corrected it's more egregious errors internally. you'd hope so.

EA, is all about selling the short-lived experience over years.
if they fail to meet the expectations of people seeing EA and expecting AAA content too many times, the entire brand suffers. PC gamers have abandoned EA after the deleterious effect of Origin, Simcity, Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 3, etc. iOS gamers have been burned by the latest F2P model of selling repeat gameplay, MMO gamers have been burned in general, and while console gamers are pretty stoic, there's only so many franchises to tap in a year.

ive been trying for a while to word my vision of the EA board and its like them sitting at a table going "whats the most popular games on the market? ok heres $100 million dollars make us one of those with all the same elements" and they wonder why it fails.

origin is a night mare. it works at its most simple BUT i have to use origin, bioware social. oh and dont forget to buy bioware points, oh by the way you'll also need the sims3 store and buy some simspoints to buy dlc as well. its a convoluted mess.

where as with steam. i buy the game it works

I agree that EA needs leadership that "gets" games. But at this point, EA also needs leadership that's capable of saying, "Okay, investors. You know how we said we were going to do *this*, because it would make us lots of money? It was a mistake. Yes, I know it cost us a lot of money to make that mistake, but it's not going to cost us less money to keep making that mistake, and in the meantime it's shredding our already flagging reputation and alienating our long-time customers. We need to be willing to write that investment off as a bad one and turn the ship ninety degrees- if not one hundred eighty degrees- if we're going to thrive in the next decade."

I am, shall we say, not entirely confident EA is going to get leadership with that kind of guts. I think it's more likely to get more people focused on false ideas of efficiency and short-term profit. I think it's going to go through another big round of layoffs justified by its hammered profits, and those layoffs are probably going to hit hardest at the people in EA stable studios who actually know what they're doing.

Amen, brother Shamus. I have been of this mindset about EA and several other game companies for while. Whether it's age, background, work experience, or preference, I feel that the people at the heads of many of these companies are completely out of touch with the world they operate in. The growth of games being crowdfunded shows that we are getting tired of this disconnected approach. It's kind of hard to give customers what they want when you're not a customer. Also, never trust a skinny chef.

Unfortunately this withdrawal from reality is systemic among upper management in EVERY industry. People get promoted because they appeal to the lowest common denominator, regardless of actual qualifications.

EA made bad business decisions, and those kinds of decisions aren't unique to the video game industry. Are video games any more volatile than the current handheld electronics or fashion industries? Are video game consumers any more fickle than the ones for movies and TV?

Their failures are the same things that will kill any business. That they made bad business decisions indicates that they didn't have a competent leader, and while a CEO should care about their product, passion alone isn't enough to run a successful business.

Alan Mulally did a fantastic job when he went from Boeing to Ford. He has even been quoted as, just prior to taking the helm at Ford, extolling the virtues of Lexus vehicles. Since then, he's been making decisions that have helped keep Ford relevant in a way that GM couldn't do with Saturn and Pontiac, let alone their core brand of Chevy. Airplanes and cars, while both modes of transportation, have completely different factors driving their development/production/support. Turns out that despite these differences, him having solid business sense and focusing on the core brand by selling off the acquisitions they'd made under the previous leadership, it has been enough to keep Ford above water in a very difficult time for auto manufacturers.

So how to fix EA? Get them a CEO like Mulally. Bonus points if s/he understands the video game industry intimately, but that shouldn't be the requirement, because there are certainly industries with greater volatility, more fickle customers, and greater costs for production. EA needs to stop trying to be the "old Ford" with competing product structure, and sell off their Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volvo investments. They need to trim down if they're to change the inertia they've already got in the wrong direction.

canadamus_prime:
Oh EA isn't alone in making shitty decisions. Most Publishers have been making them, it's just that EA has been the worst offender.

The article talked about that.

Lots of really big companies have squandered fortunes making EA-type mistakes.

And it's important to focus on EA because

they're a massive company that controls a huge portion of the AAA games that make up our hobby.

I agree that it's important to hate on everyone who is making bad decisions. But when one person or group is leading the charge to stupidity, it is useful to focus fire on them so that hopefully others won't follow them.

That being said, those who hate on EA just to hate on EA aren't especially helpful.

Not to poop everyone's party, but I'm going to poop everyone's party.

I think this is going to go EXACTLY as the recent Roman Catholic conclave:

Meet the new boss...same as the old boss.

To borrow a different phrase from Maximilien Robespierre

With regret I pronounce this fatal truth: Louis must die so that the nation may live.

So I suspect it is with EA and the games industry.

238U

The irony of this article is that J.R. DOES get games. He DOES stay up late at night playing Battlefield and Assassins Creed. He DOES understand what gaming is all about, and his "money making background" aside, before he was CEO he was also COO/President of EA for nearly a decade. He gets it.

You guys are clamoring for leadership who gets gaming and does not pander to investors... well guess what? That's EXACTLY what he did. He told investors to sit down, shut up, and be patient and trust him to make a long term bet that focusing more on gaming than on the money would make a long term return. It didn't, and that's why they eventually removed him even though he slowly tried to shift closer to their ideas and walk a fine line between the two, and that's why he was replaced (temporarily) with his predecessor Probst who is more of "an investor guy" and truly doesn't give a shit about gaming, based on my personal experiences.

You can't fix EA.
EA has tried to "fix EA". At least twice since they've become a major player in the gaming industry.

Their organization is too business-centric to do anything other than milk their IPs for all they're worth and too bloated with operating costs to take the necessary risks to change that. And they've reached the point where the backlash to their money-grabs have started outweighing the revenue from their annual blockbusters.

Contrary to the claim, EA IS too big to change.
Even if EA replaced all of their upper management with gamers who understand the market more implicitly, they still have to answer to non-gamer shareholders and would have to completely restructure the way they operate (which is ridiculously difficult and very costly, even for a giant like EA).

I have no doubt there is creative spark and passion among those EA employs, but it will never make it past marketing focus groups and the suits behind them.

Shamus Young:
Ubisoft had a horrible time with their always-on DRM and eventually abandoned it. Blizzard generated a ton of negative press when the always-on requirement of Diablo III became problematic. Then EA repeated those mistakes, only more seriously and on a grander scale, even though they had recent events to inform their decision-making.

You know why they keep trying to force the matter even in the face of overwhelmingly negative buzz?
Because whoever manages to make Always-Online stick with all kinds of games (not just service-centric games like MMOs and F2P games) wins big.

Always-Online offers market power the likes we haven't seen since Steam took off. I could list the myriad of benefits BEYOND combating piracy (none of which are good for the customer), but in brief, it's the Holy Grail for publishers.

That's why Ubisoft tried forcing it in AC2, that's why Blizzard raped the Diablo franchise chasing it, it's why EA rushed SimCity for it (and proved they have absolutely no idea how to create an ACTUAL Always-Online system).
And it's why I wouldn't bat my eyes in surprise if Microsoft tries it with the next Xbox.

The point is: This isn't a problem specific to EA. It's a gold rush. Everyone knows there's gold in there hills, but nobody has struck it rich...yet.

canadamus_prime:
Oh EA isn't alone in making shitty decisions. Most Publishers have been making them, it's just that EA has been the worst offender.

I don't know about "worst", but EA is certainly the most visible.

Zen Toombs:

canadamus_prime:
Oh EA isn't alone in making shitty decisions. Most Publishers have been making them, it's just that EA has been the worst offender.

The article talked about that.

Lots of really big companies have squandered fortunes making EA-type mistakes.

And it's important to focus on EA because

they're a massive company that controls a huge portion of the AAA games that make up our hobby.

I agree that it's important to hate on everyone who is making bad decisions. But when one person or group is leading the charge to stupidity, it is useful to focus fire on them so that hopefully others won't follow them.

That being said, those who hate on EA just to hate on EA aren't especially helpful.

Yes, I know. I was agreeing with Shamus. I also felt the need to say that since I'm usually one of the first to slam EA.

Atmos Duality:

canadamus_prime:
Oh EA isn't alone in making shitty decisions. Most Publishers have been making them, it's just that EA has been the worst offender.

I don't know about "worst", but EA is certainly the most visible.

Well one of the worst anyway.

canadamus_prime:
Well one of the worst anyway.

Agreed.
With the fall of Zynga, they've certainly risen in my "Biggest Bastard Gaming Companies" list.

The kind of leadership EA 'needs' is incapable of becoming a leader in EA. It's a catch-22. In a public company, the people who rise to the top do so because they're good at corporate politics and making money for shareholders. If that company makes video games, those people are in the positions which determine what games get made, what directions IPs move toward and how the games need to make money for the company. Those people are using their knowledge of selling products to make these decisions. You think they're going to step aside and allow people who actually have a knowledge of games to call the shots?
EA employs plenty of passionate game developers. The problem is they all work for the studios and the products they put out are formed by the hoops they have to jump through because of guidance that comes down from on high.
What you're saying EA needs from it's leadership is absolutely spot on, but it's ridiculous to think that a corporate board, answering to savvy investors who know bidness, will ever pick leadership based on anything other than the ability to move stock prices upward.

Antari:
The only solution to the EA problem is the company going under and freeing up the IP's to be taken up by people who actually give a shit about making a game. No matter who is at the helm of EA, its owned by investors. And they won't let off the leash of mediocre money maker titles. As a company it is totally dysfunctional to its customers. There is no fixing this level of broken. Sometimes you just have to admit that its a complete failure, and start over from scratch.

All companies are run by investors. Ubisoft, Vivendi (who owns Blizzard), Take-Two (who owns 2K), every publisher who makes games (With the exception of Valve, which is privately-owned by Gaben), and almost every multi-state company in America are corporations, which means that they are owned by investors and their stocks are publicly traded on one stock market or another.

Your company being run by investors is no excuse for that company failing. Most if not all of the Fortune 500 companies are corporations.

uncanny474:

Antari:
The only solution to the EA problem is the company going under and freeing up the IP's to be taken up by people who actually give a shit about making a game. No matter who is at the helm of EA, its owned by investors. And they won't let off the leash of mediocre money maker titles. As a company it is totally dysfunctional to its customers. There is no fixing this level of broken. Sometimes you just have to admit that its a complete failure, and start over from scratch.

All companies are run by investors. Ubisoft, Vivendi (who owns Blizzard), Take-Two (who owns 2K), every publisher who makes games (With the exception of Valve, which is privately-owned by Gaben), and almost every multi-state company in America are corporations, which means that they are owned by investors and their stocks are publicly traded on one stock market or another.

Your company being run by investors is no excuse for that company failing. Most if not all of the Fortune 500 companies are corporations.

If the investors demand changes that piss off the entire customer base. Then its not an excuse its a cause.

Sargonas42:
The irony of this article is that J.R. DOES get games. He DOES stay up late at night playing Battlefield and Assassins Creed. He DOES understand what gaming is all about, and his "money making background" aside, before he was CEO he was also COO/President of EA for nearly a decade. He gets it.

I have no idea if that's actually true, but he certainly didn't act the part. Under his leadership, EA got more and more ridiculously anti-consumer. It's entirely possible he's a gamer and understands the market, but if so, his attempts to effect meaningful change were blocked at best and ineffectual at worst. He clearly either didn't care about the market, didn't know it, or was prevented from leading the company he was in charge of towards the market.

Two of those three mean he doesn't get it, and the third means he's just flat-out incompetent.

Sargonas42:
The irony of this article is that J.R. DOES get games. He DOES stay up late at night playing Battlefield and Assassins Creed. He DOES understand what gaming is all about, and his "money making background" aside, before he was CEO he was also COO/President of EA for nearly a decade. He gets it.

I honestly don't know where did you get that idea from, but every single thing I've heard the guy say implies the opposite. He's aware of what games are, yes, but that doesn't mean he understands the media at all, or that he actually play games other than to test them for five minutes and blurt "Yeah, it didn't crash. Sell it."

Sargonas42:
The irony of this article is that J.R. DOES get games. He DOES stay up late at night playing Battlefield and Assassins Creed. He DOES understand what gaming is all about, and his "money making background" aside, before he was CEO he was also COO/President of EA for nearly a decade. He gets it.

You guys are clamoring for leadership who gets gaming and does not pander to investors... well guess what? That's EXACTLY what he did. He told investors to sit down, shut up, and be patient and trust him to make a long term bet that focusing more on gaming than on the money would make a long term return. It didn't, and that's why they eventually removed him even though he slowly tried to shift closer to their ideas and walk a fine line between the two, and that's why he was replaced (temporarily) with his predecessor Probst who is more of "an investor guy" and truly doesn't give a shit about gaming, based on my personal experiences.

...

I'm not sure you're talking about the same company that everyone else is talking about. If he got games, why microtransactions? Why so many scummy DLC practices? Why online passes? Why always-online DRM? Why Origin? If that was his idea of a "long term bet focusing more on gaming than money", then you're only furthering this article's point that he (and likely everyone else at EA) had absolutely no fucking clue at all about games.

Agayek:
I have no idea if that's actually true, but he certainly didn't act the part. Under his leadership, EA got more and more ridiculously anti-consumer. It's entirely possible he's a gamer and understands the market, but if so, his attempts to effect meaningful change were blocked at best and ineffectual at worst. He clearly either didn't care about the market, didn't know it, or was prevented from leading the company he was in charge of towards the market.

Two of those three mean he doesn't get it, and the third means he's just flat-out incompetent.

Dreadjaws:
I honestly don't know where did you get that idea from, but every single thing I've heard the guy say implies the opposite. He's aware of what games are, yes, but that doesn't mean he understands the media at all, or that he actually play games other than to test them for five minutes and blurt "Yeah, it didn't crash. Sell it."

And these, just to further drive home the point of how utterly ridiculous the claim of "J.R. did get games and focused more on gaming than money" is.

Sounds great. They aren't going to do it though. Investors want known quantities and there are very few individuals in the gaming world that provide that sense of comfort the investors desire.

EA hiring someone who actually plays and cares about videogames is nothing more than a pipe dream. The odds of a whole group of businessmen-in-suits being led by someone who has the spare time to play games for fun? It's interesting to envision, but I just don't see that happening.

At any rate, the chairman is always beholden to the rest of the board.

I suspect it's not so much the background of game company CEOs but their approach.

EA seem to acquire studios and become too hands on; Contrast this to Zenimax who have made acquisitions and allowed their new divisions a large degree of autonomy.

EA could have left Bioware pretty much alone to get on with making games as they always had and then just sat back and reaped the profits but it was clear that alot of directives were sent down to Bioware, which resulted in a tangible change of design philosophy.

Shamus, you truly are a shining beacon of reason in this cold, reasonless world. You really think it should be obvious that you want to hire people who understand what their jobs entails, but no. We're saddled with an upper management which is completely out of its field, and doesn't even know where to start. I would prefer that EA starts making good decisions and recovering from its current slum, but I'm really doubting if that's possible at this point.

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