Gaming company Electronic Arts (nee EA) is unhappy right now. The launch of the much-anticipated SimCity got botched, after server demand overloaded EA’s systems, making the game completely unplayable. The company’s stock has been slowly plummeting for a while now, and gamers are using that as evidence that EA is employing penny-pinching tactics like digital rights management (software add-ons that prevent sharing and copying) to squeeze more money from customers. (EA’s CEO was canned recently, presumably because of the company’s lousy finances.)
Now, for the second year in a row, The Consumerist has named EA the worst company in America, based on the results of an online poll. It’s the only company in the history of the competition to receive that dubious honor. The Consumerist cited a few facts: EA makes expensive games that are occasionally broken (like SimCity), then doesn’t support the games with updates once they’ve been bought (or they charge for those updates). Pretty bad, right?
Says The Consumerist:
When we live in an era marked by massive oil spills, faulty foreclosures by bad banks, and rampant consolidation in the airline and telecom industry, what does it say about EA’s business practices that so many people have — for the second year in a row — come out to hand it the title of Worst Company In America?
Still doesn’t make EA the worst company in America. All it does it tell us is 1.) gamers reaaaaaaaaally care about gaming and 2.) gamers spend too much time on the internet. If you wanted to draw a Venn diagram, there’d be plenty of overlap between people who read The Consumerist and people who hate EA: Young, tech-savvy gamers whose hobby is being “threatened” by a gaming corporation.
But, realistically, there is no comparison between a company that annoys customers and one that actively harms customers. Imagine, if you will, two people. The first: a dedicated EA fan who can’t play SimCity, and who is (rightfully!) upset by that fact. The second: someone whose home was unfairly foreclosed on after allegedly being sold defective mortgages by Bank of America. Bank of America lost in the final round. Whoever voted for EA, please explain to the foreclosed-upon person (and me) why EA is deserving of that title.
So it’s a little silly to put too much stock in the poll, but there is a lesson here. EA isn’t the worst company in America, but even among non-gamers, it’s starting to be portrayed that way, because gamers are an audience that knows how to kick back. The dust-up over SimCity, I’d wager, was covered more widely because EA was behind it, and because gamers had been disappointed by the company one too many times. Gamers are willing to shell out plenty of cash for games, EA, but they’re not a demographic you want to mess with.