Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Stop Challenging Everything!

"I've been around this here internet a few times" and have definitely played witness to more than a few instances of anti-Electronic Arts sentiment. Common criticisms are cookie cutter games made for cheap profit, bastardization of smaller studios upon acquisition, and inferior product being pushed out due to deadline priorities. Sounds like your typical corporate America company. EA breaks the mold and not in a good way necessarily.

Gamers have been relatively spolied by a good abundance of titles that generally sport solid back end coding. A lot of this rests with the 1980s Nintendo limiting releases from third party publishers to no more than a few per year and setting a quality bar. Not every game for the NES was deemed a critical success - but the back end code was good, as opposed to the wildly varying subject matter. Generally your character would not spontaneously fall through the floor, explode, fly into oblivion, or randomly die in any manner. With EA taking more of the market since the late 1990s, however, the term "Getting EA-ed" has been coined on Xbox Live, to indicate when some spontaneous error has occured that should not have.

It is not uncommon now to purchase an EA-published game or game by its second party developers on release day only to find that an update has been released through Xbox Live or the Playstation Network the second you pop in the disc. For $60+ a pop gamers deserve better than this. Perhaps this is where the Wii wins - Nintendo does not allow for game patches on WiiConnect24 and so developers must more ruggedly test their code.

Another common criticism of EA is their forcing of gamers to upgrade to newer editions of franchise games by limiting or completely shutting down online play once a new edition has come out. Recently this was done for some of the older Burnout games and is regularly done with EA Sports-brand titles. This is no new strategy either - EA planned this years ago when they wrested control of their titles' online components from the primary Xbox Live servers. EA again screws gamers - for $50 a year games deserve to have access to online functionality in their games as advertised. On the flipside some speculation does exist as to if Xbox 360-based EA titles can be so easily fettered with due to Microsoft's strict Live-Experience requirements and underlying console dashboard in all games. This theory is further supported by the restoration of Burnout 3's online capabilities due to the recent re-release of the game in the Live Marketplace. Only time will tell.

I'm getting so very tired of this BS coming out of the biggest American publisher. This isn't good for the industry, good for gamers, or good for other publishers. EA is setting precedents that only contribute to the lowering of game standards and the value per dollar that I dish out for games and online service.

EA, get with the program. You're starting to lose your market share from a combination of bad ideas and practices and you missed the Wii entirely. Bring back the days of Nerf Wars and get back to the industry's roots - unfettered creativity. After all, a cookie cutter is a cookie cutter and you're far better than that if you want to be.

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