Electronic Arts is the winner (loser?) of The Consumerist‘s annual Worst Company in America tournament this year. Following a round of nominations and weeks of head-to-head, March Madness-style voting, the Redwood City, California-based videogame publisher was named the top vote-getter in the finals today in which it was squaring off against Bank of America.
Before going any further it’s important to note this is an Internet poll, and as such can’t be taken as an actual indication of what the population believes is the worst company around. Yet even with that caveat in mind, it’s hard to fathom that a company responsible for making games could be loathed so vociferously.
Yes, EA has certainly done its fair share to draw the ire of gamers. Origin has been condemned by many as an unneeded hurdle for playing PC games, a copy of Steam that does a poorer job and offers nothing in return even when its usage is mandatory. Others deplore the way it has monopolized the football market, acquiring the exclusive rights to the NFL and effectively killing off the excellent NFL 2K franchise while failing to innovate with its annual Madden releases. There are those who detest the way in which it sells downloadable content. Online passes have been a frequent target of criticism, and it was EA that pioneered the concept with Project Ten Dollar. The company has acquired a number of developers and been accused of forcing them to compromise or alter the way they develop games, or worse yet closing them down. Online servers for its games (even ones carrying online passes) have been shut down more rapidly than they should be. Most recently, Mass Effect 3 has been surrounded by controversy whether it be for the availability of launch day DLC that some felt should be in the game for free or because of the allegedly terrible ending (which almost certainly was the driving force behind EA coming out on top in this tournament).
Even if all of these points are accepted as fact, there is no way EA or any other company in the games industry should be beating out Bank of America or many of the other companies in the tournament. (Walmart, GameStop, PayPal, ATT, and Comcast were among the 32.) It’s difficult to even begin to pick out examples of the things Bank of America has done to make it more worthy of this dishonor. But however dissatisfied you may be with how Commander Shepard’s story concluded, false foreclosures are surely a much more serious matter.
This is not to say EA is or isn’t undeserving of gamers’ hatred; I do feel the reaction to Mass Effect 3′s ending was over the top, I don’t blame EA for snatching up the NFL license even as someone who greatly preferred the 2K games, and I think Origin might be pretty good some day. But especially when it comes to matters of objecting to downloadable content or the games it puts out, you are more than welcome to not spend on your money on those things — no one is forcing you to be nickel-and-dimed, as EA and others are accused of doing. Yet those in the games media who choose to point to how silly EA winning this tournament is are guaranteed one thing, and that is to be accused — baselessly, I might add — of being bought off or bribed by the publisher.
Again, feel free to dislike EA and its business practices all you want while keeping in mind that EA is a business (and accordingly does want your money) and that it doesn’t owe us anything (regardless of whether or not that is a smart long-term business decision). But also remember that this is, after all, the videogame industry, and to suggest that a bank with a deplorable track record is worse than EA is not an indication of bribery or blindness, but an attempt to put all of this EA hate in perspective.