EA: Disney makes a bad deal

by manylaughs on May 8, 2013


A sweetheart deal for EA. Not so much for Disney.

Electronic Arts (EA) was up, again, today, rising $3.15, over 17%, on the news the Disney had signed EA to make Star Wars video games.

It’s a sweetheart deal for EA. It’s not such a good deal for Disney.

Disney might know something about making movies, but this deal makes it clear Disney doesn’t know much about gaming. Any gamer could’ve told them: Hiring EA to develop Star Wars video games is the equivalent of hiring Uwe Boll to make the next Star Wars movie. (Never fear. J.J. Abrams is on board for that one.)

In the insular land of corporate mind-think this deal makes sense for Disney. EA is the publisher of some incredibly successful games – Battlefield, Madden NFL, Crysis, Deep Space, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect, just to name a few. And to quote from EA’s fourth quarter, fiscal year 2013 press release, “EA was the #1 publisher in Western retail markets in the March quarter, and the #1 global publisher in the iOS game market for FY 2013.”

No doubt about it. EA is one of the big dogs in gaming. Up in Disney corporate ivory tower this deal makes sense. Down in the trenchers where gamers actually play EA games and have lived with them for years, this deal makes no sense.

There’s a reason for two years running has been voted The Worse Company in AmericaWhen their ire is up, gamers will turn up in droves to vote. And when it comes to EA, gamers have good reason to have their ire up.

EA: We’re just fuckups in suits who know nothing about gaming

EA is a steaming battleship plowing through a regatta of graceful sailing ships. The course they’ve charted through gaming history has left behind destruction, wreckage, and a lot of shaking fists. In their wake, EA bought up, ruined, and sometimes obliterated some of the best known names in gaming. Origin Systems (creators of Ultima and Wing Commander), Westwood Studios (Command and Conquer), Maxis (SimCity and The Sims), Mythic Entertainment (Dark Age of Camelot), and BioWare (Mass Effect and Dragon Age) have all been victims of EA.

No one would ever say EA wasn’t smart for purchasing these properties; it’s what happens afterwards that sticks in just about every gamer’s craw. Once one of the studios is bought up, EA in its we’re-just-fuckups-in-suits-who-know-nothing-about-gaming wisdom starts either shutting down some beloved gaming properties, such as Wing Commander, or, as is often the case, simply leaves many games to wither on the vine.

And those properties that do get some support seem to start steering toward mediocrity or worse. There’s little doubt both the Dragon Age and Mass Effects franchises are on a downward spiral. EA has effectively killed BioWare, just as it did Mythic before it, and now all of BioWare’s properties are starting to feel and reflect the less-than-deft handling of EA’s management.

All of this doesn’t even begin to touch on the debacles, either. EA has captained some of the most spectacular shipwrecks in gaming history. In fact, Star Wars: The Old Republic, costing more than any other MMO by most reports, was probably the biggest failure in gaming history. Warhammer: Age of Reckoning rates pretty high up there, too.

Let’s not forget the latest EA fail, either. Gamers were thrilled the venerate SimCity franchise (A forgotten Maxis title.) was being resurrected. It was a golden opportunity for EA to resurrected some good will with gamers, too, and maybe let Bank of America be the worse company in America, next year. But corporate greed got in the way, as it usually does at EA, and they decided to use alway-on DRM in SimCity, you know, like Blizzard did with Diablo III (D3). Evidently not learning a lick from Blizzard problems with D3, EA wasn’t ready to handle the load on their servers and a whole lot of gamers were unhappy.

The difference, though, is Blizzard is a gaming company run by gamers, not just suits. It doesn’t make these kinds of mistakes that often. EA makes them all the time.

Knowing all this, gamers don’t expect too much from this deal. They know the end result will probably be some blah Star Wars games. Sure, they’ll sell. They’re Star Wars after all. But they’d sell a whole lot more if they were good games.

Maybe next time Disney will ask for advice from actual gamers, cause gamers could’ve told the suits at Disney this: EA might know business, but it doesn’t know squat about games.

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