It’s been a very bad week for EA. If I had to pick a company whose greed was going to come back and dropkick them in the head — it would have been EA. That faith in EA’s greed and ineptitude was well placed. Last week, EA’s ham-handed attempt to turn millions of gamers into foaming gambling addicts whilst planning their own Scrooge McDuck-style tower full of gold backfired as gamers finally freaked out because EA pushed the buck too far with Star Wars Battlefront II and lock-boxes.
As much of a debacle as EA can make of things, they can get a few things right too. EA hosted an LGBT event called “Full Spectrum” to explore the role of LGBT representation in the video game industry. The event had panels headed by Hilary Rosen, former CEO of the RIAA, which has it’s own sordid history. Interestingly, she makes references to trying to “Silence Hip-hop,” and then says “Preaching doesn’t work.” I’m really interested in the context of that statement, the Gamasutra article leaves it somewhat ambiguous. The event also had several other industry veterans who’s who talking the issues of LGBT interests in the industry.
The general consensus seems to be that diversity in the workplace will help increase diversity in the games. Currently, the white male protagonist dominates the leading roles in games almost exclusively, with a few nods to overly sexualized female characters. The hope is that by increasing diversity amongst the developers, that will lead to increased diversity in games by taking away the exclusivity of the white male making games. I’m not 100% sure I think that this will make a difference, but there’s also a chance. As the article cites, BioWare as a company has been very encouraging of same-sex relationships, as they are possible (if limited) in most of their games.
As a gaymer myself, I think it would be interesting to have more varied options for same sex relationships. In most games (though not all), same-sex relationships are generally between the player and the giant, glaring homosexual stereotype. I really enjoyed the way that Guild Wars 2 handled same sex relationships — they just were. There was no special pomp or circumstance around it, they just were as we expected them to be….just a thing. In Dragon Age, I remember the one bisexual character, Zevran, who I felt was portrayed as maybe a little more promiscuous than necessary. With that though comes the question of did they make promiscuous because he was gay (or bisexual), or was he promiscuous and they just tacked on the gay aspect?
Regardless, it’s great to see companies taking a step up to address sexuality in games…and well, basically everything that’s not a giant white guy killing everyone else.
Update 3/11/2013: Maxis releases a statement saying the SimCity problems are almost behind us. EA has also ponied up and offered a free game to SimCity “Early Adopters.” Having been able to play since Saturday with few issues, I think they might actually be getting their act together.
Update 3/8/2013: Amazon has resumed selling digital copies of the game, but keeps it’s warning up. EA pulls all SimCity marketing materials from affiliates until further notice. Wow.
If you’ve been paying attention to the internet, you probably know there was a release of a game 2 days ago, that has been pretty rough. By pretty rough, I mean that EA flubbed the SimCity launch…hard. As in, a large amount of people weren’t even able to play the game kind of flubbed. The issues are varied and despite the cries of the internet, all the exact causes aren’t known. The generally accepted culprit are is the controversial “Always On” internet connection required by the game. Essentially, your copy of a single player game must always be connected and in contact with the core SimCity servers. EA spins this as a good thing, providing content and new depth of game play through the use of Regions where other players can connect to your city, and trade, as well as a slew of other features. The internet generally holds that the impetus behind the “Always On” connection is to help prevent piracy through the DRM (Digital Rights Management) scheme.
The Saga of the SimCity Launch
Regardless of the reasons, EA didn’t adequately anticipate the demand of the SimCity Launch and servers were swamped, crashed and repeatedly kicked players off. Players were unable to even play private games without any multiplayer elements because the game had to authenticate with the servers, where were down. In backlash, players took to Facebook, Twitter, the official EA Forums and just about every other possible venue to vent their frustration and anger over the issues keeping them from playing the game. At the time of this writing, Amazon had the game as a One and a Half Star rating, and actually pulled the digital download version of the game to the issues, and processed refunds for it as a faulty product.
EA promised refunds for those who found the server issues to be too much, but I’ve heard of several cases where people were denied refunds after the announcement was made. Customer support times were atrocious to call, Live chat was disabled on the website. In what reads as a desperate move to save some face, EA actually turned off non-critical features just to get the servers up so people could play. Let that sink in–they turned off parts of the game, so that other parts would work. I mean, really?! this is what the summation of the SimCity launch has become, “We gimped the game so bad, we had to gimp it in other ways just so you can play.”
The controversy around “Always On” DRM schemes started with the Diablo 3 launch where Blizzard announced the controversial plan for the single player game. So controversial that some governments weren’t overly happy with the scheme. The Diablo 3 is largely regarded as one of the most disastrous in recent gaming history, with users again unable to access the day for days, or weeks at a time. Assuming EA would have taken a note from Diablo 3’s short comings, many purchased the game despite the Always On DRM scheme. So many in fact that the disaster SimCity’s launch has largely eclipsed the Diablo 3 debacle, likely due to EA’s almost complete lack of planning or customer communication.
Cracked versions of the game started showing up on torrents for people to download mere hours after the game launched. Interestingly, users with cracked versions of the game seem to be consistently enjoying their SimCity Launch, whereas those with legitimate copies of the game are repeatedly hindered with the inability to log into the game. Officially, EA has yet to say anything about the launch but I think it’s clear that this will be known for a while as how not to launch a game. As for far-reaching implications on game design and the future of SimCity, it’s unclear.
However, at the time of this writing, EA stock is still in the green. I have to wonder if this trainwreck will have any impact there.
Via: The Escapist (and just about every other gaming outlet on the planet)
Three game publishers oppose DOMA by signing the amicus curiae (friend of the court). As the article on The Escapist says, EA’s reasons are both moral and pragmatic, citing both making same-sex couples second classes citizens, and couple that with the beaucratic nightmare that same-sex couples create for companies, along with the problems of crossing state lines and one state honoring a same-sex marriage, and the other not–it’s a mess. It’s at once heartening to see some companies take a stand against such a clearly biased piece of legislation, but at the same time a little disheartening to that only 3 game industry companies made the effort. Others that we might have expected have remained silent on the subject. Still, it’s something.
The 3 publishers join just shy of 300 other US companies who also signed the Amicus curiae to have DOMA repealed. DOMA’s controversial wording legally defines marriage as between a man and a woman, which as you can imagine makes same sex marriages challenging. There are only a few states that allow same sex marriages, and many of same-sex opponents site DOMA as reasoning for not allowing same-sex marriages in their states. Revoking the DOMA would go a long way to promoting true equality under the law in United States.
I know for this gaymer and his gaymer partner, the sooner that this ridiculous piece of legislation dies, the better.
Via: The Escapist
UPDATE 1: EA has since clarified it’s stance, saying that “Oh no, that’s not really what I meant.” As to whether that’s the truth, or EA was trying to save face, who knows. But between this and the SimCity Launch, EA needs all the positive press it can get.
EA seems hellbent on earning gamer’s wrath with microtransactions. The CFO of EA last week made a statement that because of the success they’ve had, and saying that gamer’s are “enjoying and embracing,” the microtransaction model, they EA was going to be adding microtransactions to every game going forward. The CFO made a few other comments about paying money to be “stronger,” but in the interest of remembering that anyone at the C-level in a company as big as EA has a very tenuous grip on reality as it is, I’m going to brush by that comment as “woefully uninformed” and leave it at that.
By this time, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that most people who care have heard about this, and most likely, raged about it. I wanted to back up Cliffy a bit–doing this does not necessarily make EA evil because ultimately they are a company that needs to make money. That’s how this works. It does suck a little bit because what was once our niche activity that we felt were out for more than just money, we no longer have that illusion. We can thank the internet for stealing that particular piece of innocence from us gamers because the unpleasant truth that games aren’t just for our enjoyment anymore has been paraded before us…again, and again and again.
Games need to make money. Cliffy – he depended on you buy games to eat. That developer working on Assassin’s Creed IV, he needs you to buy his games so that he can eat. More than that, he needs you to spend money in the game, on onsie twosie transactions to keep food on his table. It’s so easy to demonize EA and think they are just out to make money (not saying they aren’t out to make money …), but you have to also remember that there are tons of people who work on games who need to eat. If you don’t pay, they don’t eat. If it’s working for EA, if they are making money off of it they would be stupid to ignore it and not try to capitilize on it. Do I like? Not really. But do I understand it? Hell ya I understand it. Games are big business, and they need big profits to survive. Just look at THQ (THWho?). The reality of our world is that we can’t just play games for enjoyment. Publishers and developers will do everything they can to part us from as much of our money as they can. Because that’s just good business. Morally good? Well, the US has never been what any could call a bastion of morality, so I think we are pretty mired in moral ambiguity when it comes to morals in business.
If you really hate it, as so many others have said — vote with your wallet. Business exists to make money. If you don’t like this particular path, you have the choice of not paying. In the end, that’s the most important thing to remember in all of this. You always have a choice to play the game, and to play by the rules the developers set.