Gamers Get Game

To the Editor: I enjoyed reading your gorgeous and well-written publication today and thought that Jason Smith did an objective assessment in his article about EA. The same cannot be said about the story about Origin, which only shows Origin’s side of the story.

It is ludicrous to adopt the Garriotts’ views about me. First, I will let history speak for itself in dismissing any charges that I don’t care about quality. This is especially true about all the award-winning games that I personally produced in that time period. Second, I never said the quote that is attributed to me about the legal dispute between EA and Origin. Yes, it is true that there was a dispute. Origin and EA had an exclusive distribution agreement and Origin violated it in a very big and costly way. The managers in charge of distribution for EA, Larry Probst and Randy Thier, decided to pursue the matter legally when other methods failed. I was not personally involved.

The result of this, sadly, was that Robert and Richard Garriott took it very personally as an insult to their integrity, and adopted the view that it was a personal vendetta from me. It was, in fact, only a contract issue that required resolution, and both sides were, in fact, using the tools at their disposal to pursue resolution. Nobody at EA intended to make any aspect of it personal, and in fact I was hardly involved and never read any of the paperwork.

The Garriotts nonetheless decided to make me out to be the villain and the scapegoat for their troubles, while clinging to various false beliefs about what had happened. In the first place, they should have been able to keep things in perspective as a contract dispute in a business setting, and just played the game. And if they were going to have any actual heartburn about it they should have directed it at the guy who was doing it to them, Randy Thier (as Randy would no doubt attest). But the Garriotts had personalized me as the company and obviously had feelings of competitive rivalry. It was emotionally convenient for them to want to believe they had done nothing wrong and that I was the cause of all their problems. In all of this there is a tremendous amount of ego and self-righteousness that needs to be exposed.

For the record, the Garriotts clung to their misperceptions for a period of years until I was finally able to sit down with them and set the record straight. It was clear that they had so much pride that they had to believe they were infallible and had done nothing wrong, and therefore any business partners who disagreed regarding a contract surely must be the bad guys. But they nonetheless came to realize that I was not playing puppeteer and they calmed down and we remained very friendly in the many years since then. Richard even gave serious consideration to coming to work for me a few years ago.

This article comes as a bit of a surprise to me. Not the lead quote, because my success with EA did indeed unnerve many competitors who wanted to externalize blame for their problems. But disparaging my commitment to quality, putting words in my mouth, and saying they never would have sold the company if I had been involved – these inaccuracies paint a very wrong picture. The truth is that when Origin was sold to EA I was chairman of the board and the largest shareholder of EA. They sold their company more to me than to anyone. That was around the time we patched things up. I’m sorry to see these inaccuracies. I have a great deal of respect for Robert and Richard and I would hope after all this time and maturing, we would all have the ability to see the truth in ourselves and in our histories.

-Trip Hawkins

PS: As a sidebar, a modest correction to the EA story is that I was very militant about establishing direct retail relationships and EA used no distributors whatsoever from 1982-1984. This was a very challenging plan but it succeeded and EA became profitable in 1984. Larry Probst joined the company shortly after that period. We increased our commitment to this strategy in early 1985 when Larry and I implemented a plan in which we phased out independent sales reps and instead expanded our own internal sales staff. Also, in 1985, I felt that we had enough strength in our retail relationships that we could blend in distributors on a limited basis on tighter margins. Despite board skepticism about my idea, Larry and I also successfully implemented that plan, while making sure that distributors did not take any direct accounts away from us.

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To the Editor: You’ve done a great job so far building a magazine that captures the interest of mature gamers. Perhaps I speak only for myself (but I doubt it), but I do believe that those who are interested in the content and focus of The Escapist can handle a four letter word uttered by someone you’re interviewing. It just feels like you’re plugging my ears with kid gloves when you [deleted] with quotations. I promise you that at least one of your readers isn’t going to be offended if you let quotes stand.

-Jerrod Hansen

To the Editor: I read “Code Union, Code Better” first with amusement, then with alarm, and then with rage and fury.

First, your comparison of the coal strike of 1902 to the plight of software developers today is ludicrous. Those men were facing death and grievous injury on the job every day; carpal tunnel, indigestion and sleepless nights just don’t measure up. The mining of coal was in the national interest; producing the next version of Madden is frivolous.

You blithely refer to tenure as a “comfortable assurance;” what it does is remove any incentive for the employee to perform at anything above the absolute minimum. Short of opening fire in the workplace with a fully-automatic weapon, there’s almost no way to fire a tenured employee. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want an industry that rewards the least effort.

Software developers are not the sort of uneducated, can’t-get-another-job types that unions were originally intended to protect. A developer who was good enough to get a job at Electronic Arts in the first place should not have difficulty landing a gig with another development shop. People work at Electronic Arts because they choose to.

Unionization is the single most dangerous idea to ever be proposed in our industry. What do you think will happen when a union comes in and everyone’s salary suddenly goes up? I’ll tell you – layoffs. The very people your union is supposed to protect – the people at the bottom of the ladder – will be fired. The people who remain, having received tenure, will have no incentive to excel. I can’t think of a better way to hand over our dominance of the software industry to another country.

This is a very bad idea.

-Duane Roelands

To the Editor: I only found your magazine a couple of months ago, and I must say I’m generally of the opinion that it is excellent. Your recent series of articles on the games industry and independent game developers by Greg Costikyan was extremely helpful to me, since I’ve recently entered the realm of independent games developer.

By entered I don’t mean I’ve released software. I, and a couple of fellow programmers, have begun the arduous process of building a game with no money. Oddly enough, I find the articles in The Escapist to be rather useful in helping me get my head around the current state of play in the games industry. The overall extremely high quality of the writing also goes some way to ensuring my appreciation of your work.


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