How to Fix Electronic Arts

Sargonas42

The Doctor
Mar 25, 2010
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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.
 

Atmos Duality

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Mar 3, 2010
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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 said:
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 said:
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.
 

Canadamus Prime

Robot in Disguise
Jun 17, 2009
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Zen Toombs said:
canadamus_prime said:
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.

[small]That being said, those who hate on EA just to hate on EA aren't especially helpful.[/small]
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 said:
canadamus_prime said:
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.
 

SecondPrize

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Mar 12, 2012
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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.
 

uncanny474

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Jan 20, 2011
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Antari said:
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.
 

Antari

Music Slave
Nov 4, 2009
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uncanny474 said:
Antari said:
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.
 

Agayek

Ravenous Gormandizer
Oct 23, 2008
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Sargonas42 said:
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.
 

Dreadjaws

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Nov 29, 2011
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Sargonas42 said:
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."
 

mjc0961

YOU'RE a pie chart.
Nov 30, 2009
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Sargonas42 said:
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 said:
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 said:
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.
 

grigjd3

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Mar 4, 2011
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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.
 

Yuuki

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Mar 19, 2013
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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.
 

Sgt Pepper

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Dec 7, 2009
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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.
 

cookyt

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Oct 13, 2008
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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.
 

Sargonas42

The Doctor
Mar 25, 2010
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Dreadjaws said:
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."
I got it from listening to his quarterly speeches to the company, and from actually chatting with the guy in line to get Coffee on more than one occasion about the current weeks new release. When the guy really geeks out about a new game that came out the day before (and not even an EA one at that) you know he "gets it."
 

bug_of_war

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Nov 30, 2012
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Adam Jensen said:
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.
I agree with 90% of what you said, but I highly doubt a random member of a gaming forum would be able to run EA. EA is a big business, which means that you're feeding a LOT of mouths, they are kind of past the point where in which they can make a 180 and immediately change their ways. I'm not saying they can't, but I am saying they need someone who knows how to do what's best for both ends, and as far as forum members go...yeah I'd rather take my chances with Vladimir Putin running EA.
 

sid

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Jan 22, 2013
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I need to take the time and say that you've got to be by far my favorite column in The Escapist right now. I found the site through Zero Punctuation, got pretty hooked to Extra Punctuation and most of Andy Chalk's works, but you really seem to wipe the floor with everyone every week. Hell of a job.

Plus you get to talk about EA without making it sound like a rant and are still apologetic about it, that alone deserves a small trophy.
 

Revolutionary

Pub Club Am Broken
May 30, 2009
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I see people saying "screw it let EA die".
let's not forget the damage that would do to countless people's livelihoods and to the industry in general. No guys, as much as I hate to say it I think EA going under would do more harm than good.