Can EA ever turn its image around?

Dear old EA Games. It's the company we love to hate, but has it bought into its villain role a little too willingly? It seems that no matter what happens EA shows up in the headlines every couple of months for doing something not only dumbfounding, but irritating to most gamers.

In the last year and a half alone, it's launched a version of Simcity without an offline mode, that was unplayable around launch because of its online only DRM; it launched Battlefield 4 without adequate testing and it's been buggy ever since; it released Dungeon Keeper on mobile platforms with endless nudges for real-money investment despite being “free to play;” it announced The Sims 4 would come with no swimming pools because it ran out of development time and of course, it continues to push for expensive, limited DLC.

It's not like we don't give EA hell for any of this either. It's been voted the most hated company in the world several times and it gets a beating in every comment section, on every social network, every single time it screws up and yet it continues to do so. It does not care about gamers, or at least it doesn't seem to.

But surely there's some people that work at EA that think like us, right? There must be some executives in there that grew up playing games and hate the image the company has. I guarantee there's one person in there trying to do some good somewhere.

So this article is for them. What could they do to turn the company around if given the chance? If Andrew Wilson, current CEO at EA games was given the boot and that lone voice in the company was given the position, what could they do to make us think of EA as the good guys?

Listen to your fans

If there's one crime that EA is horribly guilty of, it's not listening to its fan base and if it ever does, it does it far too late. This would have to be the first directive to go out from the new leader as it would foster increased trust from the people that still happily buy and play EA's games, but would also give the company a focus on making the experiences that their fanbase wants.

Now I'm not suggesting that EA start implementing every little idea the fans want, that's stupid. If Henry Ford had asked people what they wanted, they'd have said faster horses, but in this case, EA could do with listening when people say “no online only DRM,” and “we want swimming pools.”

Sometimes, people have a point.

Stop panicking that the industry is collapsing

Peter Moore recently spoke out about EA's relationship with its player base, suggesting that it wanted to focus less on the hardcore gamers. That's not a problem, that's perfectly within the company's right to do, but where he made far less sense, was when he said that the games industry was like the music one.

In his mind, piracy could cripple video games like it has the music industry (his words, not mine). Of course the music industry is still kicking along, but this is the reason EA is pushing for micro-transactions so much and online-only, because it thinks the Napster of video games is coming and then it'll bottom out.

Clearly Mr Moore needs to look at the differences, the main one being, that the music industry was forcing listeners to buy albums when they didn't want to, so piracy was a beautifully simple alternative. In the case of games, nobody has a problem buying $60 titles, what they have a problem with, is splitting the content across that initial $60 and then another $60 worth of DLC and add ons, or making the game “free to play” and then putting so many hurdles in that people pay you to remove them.

That's not combating piracy, that's making your fans pay for a problem that's not there yet.

Adopt a “when it's ready” approach

One of EA's biggest issues, is that it gets itself locked in to production schedules. It releases games on time, which is great for its bottom line, but it's horrible for gamers. Development is a notoriously tricky thing to get right, especially in the final stages when it enters crunch mode.

Nowadays you can rope the community in to help you alpha and beta test a game before release, which is great for those that want to take part and it's absolutely a valid strategy, but there is no reason to release a game as finished only for it to be full of game breaking bugs. The odd one sure, but the amount of problems Battlefield 4 has had is criminal. And The Sims 4 should have swimming pools. Just push the release a month and make the game right.

EA should look at Valve and others for an example of how to do things: release a game when it's ready, not just when it'll sell well.

Get charitable

Sometimes a bit of goodwill goes a long way. With EA, it would take a lot and people would call it for what it was once, maybe twice or three times, but after a while, if EA continued to be altruistic, it would really help change it's image in the public's eye.

Take the recent closure of Gamespy ending a lot of old EA games. What if instead of just ignoring the few thousand people that play these games, EA invested a few grand in some little servers that could run it all for a few more years, or at least partner with a company like GameRanger or the new C&C Online service.

Show that you care EA and you'd make it possible to overlook the odd pricey bit of DLC, or that time you locked us out of a new game because of awful DRM.

It wouldn't go the whole way of course, none of these steps on their own would be enough, but together they would make a huge difference.

What do you guys think would be a big change EA could make to turn around its public image as one of, if not the worst gaming publisher out there today?

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