Opinion: Why is Electronic Arts the Worst Company in America?

The Consumerist, a weblog owned by Consumer Reports which since 2006 has awarded its “golden poos” to their readers’ picks for the worst companies in America, has given their 2012 golden poo to Electronic Arts. EA beat out Bank of America in the final round of online polling, 64 percent to 36 percent.

Some of the reasons cited by The Consumerist for EA’s “win” (a first for the company) include their claim that EA “nickel and dime[s] consumers to death” by “hold[ing] back game content with the sole intent of charging a fee for it at a later date”.

No doubt the annoyance of constant downloadable content and premium prices for console games is weighing on voters’ minds– along with what was apparently a disappointing ending to Mass Effect 3. Plus, the major push by EA to kill the used-game market (and prevent paying customers from loaning games to friends) can certainly be seen as hostile.

Dead Space 2 on consoles.

But let’s keep some perspective here. I was disappointed that when I bought a second-hand copy of Dead Space 2, I was locked out off the multiplayer mode because the code that comes with a new copy of the game had already been redeemed. But if I was kicked out of my home because Bank of America foreclosed on my mortgage, that would be devastating.

Last year, Bank of America moved to hurry distressed homeowners out of their homes, and into– well, maybe the streets, their parents’ houses, a friend’s couch, or the family car. Risky subprime mortgages and excessive trading by companies like Bank of America have flatlined America’s housing market– but EA is the worst company in America?

Nobody has ever been literally nickel and dimed to death by videogames. But in this recession, millions of homeowners have faced foreclosure, which strains families and leads to life-and-death decisions about where and how to live.

My point is not to defend Electronic Arts’ greedier tactics– I still don’t understand why we need a new version of Tetris for the iPad (as the old one is removed from the App Store) or why in-app purchases should help balance a game like Mass Effect Infiltrator. But I would urge everyone to keep some perspective. Giant videogame publishers like EA may not always act in the consumer’s best interest, but many energy companies, banks, tobacco companies, and pharmaceutical companies have literally destroyed lives in their pursuit of profit.

Slide To Play advocates on behalf of gamers, and we will push back on slimy business practices from major videogame companies. Of all gaming companies, one could make the case that EA is most deserving of this year’s golden poo award. But in the world beyond the videogame industry, let’s save our ire for the companies that are really screwing people over. Life and death in the world of videogames means plasma grenades and checkpoints, not actual life and death. Online voters have sent EA a message, but it seems to be coming from a virtual reality where videogame prices are more important than actual lives.

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