Microtransactions seemingly worse than mortgage fraud as EA is named Worst Company in America (again)


There are times when it feels like the most vocal communities on the Internet are wholly incapable of consensus. From the comments on a New York Times op-ed about gun control to a YouTube video of cats singing Bruce Springsteen songs, the standard operating procedure for discourse on the web is vitriolic disagreement. It takes a special event or entity to bring people together, especially on the Internet when anonymous opinions mean anything goes. Consensus usually comes through things like the September 11 attacks, tragic deaths of beloved celebrities/public figures, or, apparently, a bad launch of a game and an overabundance of microtransactions. This has been proven once again, as for the second year in a row, online voters have dubbed EA the champion in Consumerist’s Worst Company in America competition.

EA first toppled some lightweights like accused privacy-violator and social network king Facebook, as well as spotty mobile service provider AT&T. It then took on one of the titans of anti-consumer policy, Ticketmaster, whose monopoly on the concert and event industry has inflated prices for decades. In the championship round, though, Electronic Arts surprisingly beat down Bank of America.  Since the 2008 economic crash, Bank of America has been accused of many nefarious dealings, including “brazen” mortgage fraud.

Defrauding the federal government and homeowners by doling out impossible-to-back loans is apparently not as damning as forcing SimCity players to maintain a constant Internet connection though, as EA handily beat out Bank of America.

EA seemingly knew it was a lock for the title on Friday as COO Peter Moore took to the company’s blog to address the competition. “Let me cut to the chase: it appears EA is going to ‘win,’” said Moore,  “EA is one of those organizations that is defined by both a legacy of success, and a legion of critics (especially me regarding all three of those teams). Are we really the ‘Worst Company in America?’  I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve made plenty of mistakes. These include server shut downs too early, games that didn’t meet expectations, missteps on new pricing models and most recently, severely fumbling the launch of SimCity.  We owe gamers better performance than this.” 

Moore went on to say that nefarious elements beyond dissatisfied customers were urging votes against it, namely conservative web communities opposed to the company’s pro-LGBT policies. The Human Rights Campaign said members of the Free Republic community in particular were rallying people against EA, but Consumerist denied this in a statement. “While Consumerist applauds EA’s inclusive, pro-LGBT stance, we have seen absolutely no evidence that this particular issue has anything to do with EA’s inclusion, or success, in the Worst Company In America tournament,” said Consumerist, “EA, which won the award in 2012, is in this year’s tournament because its business practices continue to upset many members of the gaming community.” 

Peter Moore is right: EA can do better. Its consumer policies, particularly those developed in the past five years as digital distribution has replaced the company’s once dominant retail gaming business, are abysmal. That said, Electronic Arts just plain isn’t as bad a company as others in Consumerist’s competition. They’re not as sinister as anti-labor groups like Walmart or engineers of the recession like Bank of America, nor has it ever been accused of targeting military families for illegal foreclosures. EA has made plenty of missteps, but it’s silly to name it the worst of the worst. If you don’t like EA, don’t buy its games. It’s as simple as that.