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Electronic Arts, most commonly known as: EA, is an American video game company, based in Redwood City, California. One of the most, if not THE most, controversial VG companies today, due to a slew of unethical business practices. Also they're rated as one of the worst companies in America, so go figure. If ever it was appropriate to use an alignment system in real life, EA squarely goes into that special zone of Neutral Evil which sees no redemption.
However, their most infamous and unique practice that everyone absolutely hates is acquiring smaller studios with popular games like Bioware and Westwood, to assume direct control of their IPs. This is pretty common in business, if it wasn't for the fact that EA will do everything in its power to gain complete control over development of its games, in order to maximize short-term profit, by force if needed (by firing or shelving people who disagree). They will strongly encourage these studios to produce highly-monetized games in the popular flavor-of-the-month, at the expense of what fans liked about them. Once the studio's series are drained of all life due to mismanagement, its dead husk is then abandoned as a grim tombstone of what was once heralded as fun, as the EA then scouts out new franchises to ensnare and devour, in its unending, ravenous need to feed its coffers. Woe betide any franchise absorbed by, or will be absorbed by EA, as foreboding and destructive as a looming Tyranid Hive Fleet.
Then, since EA holds the rights to these IPs now, its next-to-impossible for anyone else to pick-up their slack and try to revive them with new talent, unlike what some other people did recently with another classic game.
- 1 The Corpses of Past Studios
- 2 So, what's the direct relevance to /tg/?
The Corpses of Past Studios
In /tg/'s vidya gaem scene, EA has been responsible for the decline and death of some of our timeless classics and their creators, such as:
Possibly the most historically notable, as Bullfrog is the first example most people go to when discussing EA's shutdowns, although it's also relevant that Peter Moloneux was also involved.
/tg/ relevance: Dungeon Keeper 1&2 are usually held to be "recommended reading" for many different kinds of DMs (in particular, ones looking to do an Evil Party Campaign) and designers of certain kinds of board games, for subtly different reasons.
Likely the second example of EA's meddling in successful series that people will go to. For /tg/ purposes, they only made two series of note: Ultima, and Wing Commander.
The Ultima series was one of the original CRPG series to explore complicated morality, and could likely be said to be the grand-daddy of the morality systems that plague today's games. Later games also had incredible depth and variety of content for early sandbox RPGs. At least until EA bought the series out for games 8 & 9, widely regarded as some of the worst pieces of shit to ever hit store shelves, and proceeded to bomb the series' (already somewhat questionable) quality through the molten core of the earth. Bugs, glitches, impossible controls, and seeing as this was before the internet patches would have to be picked up in floppy disk form from the local games store, led to a remarkably unpleasant experience, and many fans either hated it, or just dropped the series entirely.
Wing Commander is only /tg/ relevant in that it provides a good example of a space shooter series. For our purposes, it suffices to say that when the genre died out, so did the series. (It's a bit more complicated than that, but it suffices for our purposes.)
There's an entire article devoted to it, but in a nutshell:
First game was groundbreaking and touted as one of the company's classics. Second game was notably plain horrible, thanks to increased meddling on EA's part.
Third game, DA:Inquisition, was notably better, if only because the series fell so hard from grace, its a notable upgrade from the second game. Still though, its a pretty decent game, all around.
Made the first game, which was touted as video game's answer to Star Wars. Then made the second installment, which many remember the best in the franchise.
The third game is where things went downhill, due to EA assuming direct control over Bioware's development in the game, taking away more creative control from them (infact the writers of the last two games quit), and shifting it away from a narrative, to a more action-y standpoint, placing less attention to story and more on gunplay (and the gunplay is good, the best in the trilogy, but that can't save a game that was known for its storytelling, than shooting mechanics). This all culminated to a lackluster ending that never really satisfied fans, even with the remade ending due to pressure.
Also there was a spin-off called Andromeda, which tanked so badly thanks to a myriad of issues, that it's single-handedly responsible for sinking the franchise altogether and destroying what trust customers had in Bioware.
In which the gutted, burnt out husk of a company that made its name with character-focused RPGs and storytelling was instead pushed to make a dull-as-dishwater, generic looter-shooter, where the shooting was compromised by bad design, the looting was compromised by shitty monetization, and the entire experience was a massive waste of time, money, and worker blood, which catastrophically failed its corporate taskmasters.
To be fair, EA is not 100% to blame for Westwood's implosion. After scoring some knockout hits with the original Command & Conquer and its prequel, C&C: Red Alert, Westwood made the same mistake with its next project, C&C: Tiberian Sun, that was made with Duke Nukem forever: they put someone in charge (Erik Yeo) with way too many idea for things that he wanted to do, all of which had fuck-all to do with each other, and no idea what he wanted the finished game to be like. This led to Tiberian Sun going massively over-budget and behind schedule as manpower was wasted on all kinds of voxel bullshit and physics bullshit that ended up not even getting used. Late in the product's development cycle, this left Westwood begging for bus money from anyone who was willing to make a deal, so EA swooped in, bought Westwood, fired Yeo, and told whoever was left that they had four minutes to get their fucking shit together and get the game out the door. The good news is, this prevented Tiberian Sun from suffering the same fate as Duke Nukem Forever. It succeeded in keeping interest in the C&C franchise alive, and in generating enough profit to fund the next C&C game. The bad news is, Tiberian Sun was pushed out the door as a buggy, unbalanced, unfinished mess, allowing Starcraft to dominate the RTS scene for
the next twenty years fucking ever. The next game, Red Alert 2, copied a lot of code from Tiberian Sun, but fixed most of the bugs and made major interface improvements, allowing an actually pretty decent game to be released in a decent amount of time and make everyone a fuckton of money.
After that, EA did what any sane parent company would do: they fired everyone at Westwood Studios, put a new team together (which they had the enormous brass balls to call "Westwood Pacific") in Los Angeles, and had this new team make an RTS game that had fuck-all do with Command & Conquer. Then they put the "Command & Conquer" label on the box (along with the word "Generals"). This worked exactly as well as you'd expect, and after
retconning raping the Tiberium lore in C&C 3: Tiberium Wars, and then using time-travel to erase literally all previously established C&C continuity and start over in Red Alert 3, EA found themselves sucking dick for bus money with C&C 4: Tiberian Twilight, widely considered one of the worst games ever. While Generals was the fatal blow, Tiberian Twilight was the franchise's tombstone.
Just recently in 2018, EA decided to parade its dead corpse like a Bretonnian Grail Reliquae by releasing a mobile spin off called "Command and Conquer: Rivals". As if killing the franchise wasn't enough, they had to taunt its fans like they acknowledge their own infamy. It's likely this is an IP protection act, if they don't do something with it a long enough time, the C&C IP goes to market and they lose it. So they didn't just kill C&C and lay it to rest, but instead exhumed it and are jealously guarding the corpse for what few pennies they can milk from it, before the body once again collapses due to their incompetence. Another hilarious note about the existence of Rivals is that EA legitimately argued that "Gamers don't know what they want", when asked about it. We'd expand further of why this is bullshit, but their track-record speaks for itself about their knowledge in making a good RTS game, sufficient to say they dared promote this game as an e-sport with "competitive gaming", all while promoting P2W mechanics where you get stronger units the more money you shell out, yes, that's EA's logic for you.
Back in the day, Maxis released at least a couple of interestingly weird titles every few years (SimCity, SimEarth, SimAnt, and The Sims, for example), up until Spore, a big-budgeted game that was less successful then EA anticipated (although this is mostly attributed to players pirating the game due to the horrible DRM implemented by EA. This DRM was so horrid that Spore became one of the most pirated game in modern video game history just so people could circumvent it).
That led into SimCity 2013. A game so transparently flawed in so many ways that it's hard to know where to begin. Let's just start with the Always Online DRM requirement that was (transparently falsely) claimed to be "necessary for the experience" (it was no such thing. In, fact someone managed to hack the game and force it to play offline before EA caved and released an official offline patch).
If you're wondering what this has to do with teegee, SimCity is a model for many different board games and had a licensed collectible card game, and the early Maxis non-Sims Sim-games are good sources for anybody looking into game design from a Simulationist perspective.
EA Redwood Shoes / Visceral
Most notable for the Dead Space series and being killed by Star Wars Battlefront II (2017), what you should know them for (back when they were Redwood) is LotR: The Third Age (a game about being a party who were not the Fellowship while still having the same adventure), and Future Cops: LAPD (Which was awesome, but was never further developed as EA didn't let their studios make anything that wasn't a movie tie in, or a licensed property from 1998 - 2008)
So, what's the direct relevance to /tg/?
Not much directly, but if you're interested in the business end of tabletop gaming (i.e. why individual game lines or publishers succeed or fail), the EA graveyard is quite edifying to anybody interested in just about any badly run entertainment business (a set to which TSR, Games Workshop, FASA, and Wizards of the Coast arguably all belong or belonged), for two simple reasons: (1) You can learn more from a failure than a success, and nobody's failed their fans in more ways than EA, and (2) EA makes a good reference bar for "Asshole" "Evil" and/or "Stupid", depending on context.
To provide an example of the latter: Games Workshop has probably only cleared the "Stupid" bar compared to EA; they've been fairly good about not sitting on IP, and while their product is overpriced, GW's failings have been sufficiently consistent with releases to not quite qualify as "Evil" or "Assholish". Even at their worst, they've never sunk to the lows EA so readily sinks to just to milk out a little more money from the customer in the form of randomized lootboxes and digital transactions needed to play a game properly. More to the point, GW actually learned from their mistakes and went a lot more forward-facing with community interaction and a much more consistent release schedule by 2017-18.