Everyone that knows me, be it in real life, on Twitter or in any comment section of any site I visit, knows that I like to complain about things. I most often than not complain about two things: hockey and games. Tonight it’ll be–again–about games.
It’s been a week now since EA’s CEO Ritticiello got sacked. We probably will never know if he was privately sacked, he quit or he was offered to either resign or be publicly sacked, but one thing is certain, the former President and CEO of Sarah Lee Corporation is no more at the helm. This does bring the very interesting question of how he ended up EA’s main man. Before his first stint as EA’s COO, he has never worked in the entertainment business; he is not a programmer and except for very vague gaming comments here and there, he is not a gamer. It is extremely obvious to me that he never belonged there. You have to wonder what he has learned during his 7 years tenure at the helm. Judging by EA’s current results, he either didn’t learn anything or it was too complex for him to understand.
It’s been for many years that EA has not been in most gamers’ good graces and it culminated in last year’s award from The Consumerist‘s as the “Worst Company in America.”; not a trophy you want to bring home.
Thus, here are some tips to the future EA CEO. They are in no particular order. [If commenters add interesting tips I shall add them].
1. EA, you’re drunk, go back to Steam.
You make games for gamers. Steam has, according to the latest news, over 54 million gamers-customers. Your decision to drop that digital delivery system has been one of the uncontested biggest blunder in software publishing history. We all understand why you did it; pure and unadulterated greed. I might even agree in some twisted and weird way and if I were neuron-firing limited. Which I’m not. Usually.
Steam has existed for 10 years. It wasn’t that good at the time. But Valve has worked hard, really, really hard at it and they now have a product that rivals anything doing similar (and then some) available anywhere. It comes at no surprise that it generates 50% more on a yearly basis. There aren’t many products generating that much on a year-by-year basis.
So, yeah, I do understand that, money-wise, it could be interesting to generate that kind of money and, ultimately attract the attention (in a good way for once) of gamers. What you don’t get EA-people is that Steam is a platform used because its users love the company that has created it. Also, Steam adds value. As underlined above, (almost) nobody loves EA and, well, Origin–your own digital delivery system–is loathed by the gaming community because it add nothing to our experience. So, to compensate those lacks, you copy and emulate as best as you can Steam. And failing hard.
But not all is lost. To be successful EA, you need to innovate. Yes, I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but if you go back to your root EA, you were an innovator. Back then, you were good for the gaming world. Stop being a follower and start thinking how you can add value to your product, and no, it’s not by adding micro-transactions or day-1 DLC. Also, it’s not by doing Origin Exclusive. All you succeed in doing with those exclusive is antagonizing the gaming community.
2. So, EA, I heard you want to make money?
Some people yells and cries and throws tantrums and gets into a state of brain-damaged savagery when they hear anything about micro-transactions (MT). You’ll hear complaints and shouting and mass-hysteria regarding it. But that’s just brainless, knee-jerk reaction. I am not fond of MT at all, but if it’s optional and unless it gives a huge advantage in multiplayer, I don’t give a fuck about them. I do not use them. As long as MT are optional, have fun with those. But, even if I usually don’t buy anything from these transactions, I know that some people do like it. Either for cosmetic reasons or otherwise. In short, if someone is enough of a moron to pay 5$ for a pink version of a gun, good for him/her! But, be warned! Do not lessen my experience if I don’t buy those. Do not make the game different if I don’t use MT. MT are only good if they add value to a full product. Do not diminish a product so you can add MT. That is wrong! That is despicable and you will not get away with it.
So, the shortest distance to making money right now, is to enable micro-transaction to a lot of games. This gives work to artists and to support programmers and tools programmers, etc. This can be made later in the game-making process after most of the basic assets have been created. As long as it follow the outlines rules above, micro-transactions are fine.
3. To get love, you need to give love.
Yes, I agree. It is cliché. But it’s also truth incarnate. If you love gamers, and not only rhetorically, gamers will love you back. But, this bring the inevitable question of “How do I show my love to gamers!?” I will admit, EA, this is a tall order. You have made your own nest and you’ve settled pretty snugly in it. Gamers love to hate you EA, but more than 90% of the time you’ve earned it by making dick moves. But let’s forget the past and concentrate on the future. The choice is yours: that future of yours will either be very bleak or better. Better is better. At least that’s how I see it from my chair. Maybe you just don’t care if it gets worse; but if that’s the case, I’m pretty sure those that put you in charge won’t find it funny. Or better.
The first step, if you’re still with me, is to be transparent. Transparency does not mean feeding people what you think they want to hear. Nope. Not at all. First of all because chances are, what you think we want to hear will be wrong and second, it’s the same as lying. If you’re lying to your family, wife/husband/children all the time then there’s nothing anyone can do to help you and your stay at EA will probably won’t be long. It’s you call.
But, honestly, what does it entail to be transparent? It just means telling the truth. Any decision you make has to be based on a solid set of rules, be it the closing of a studio or shutting down the servers of some multiplayer games. The naked truth might hurt your user base a little for a bit, but lying will garner and add hate for a long time; yes, “Worse Company in America”… Need I say more?
You might think this is a loss of time, that gamers just don’t get it, that gamers are basement-dwelling idiots or that gamers are clueless kids when it comes to running a business. Oh boy. If you think like this, you have absolutely no idea what gamers are. A gamer isn’t like a plumber or an architect or any careerist. Being a gamer is a mindset. It’s about playing games. Gamers are from all walks of life. Some gamers are millionaires or even billionaires. There are even pro-gamers that are paid to play games! Others are lawyers or CEOs or COOs or students or unemployed or, well, you know where this is going right? What this means is gamers are a damn intelligent bunch of people. They know everything about everything exactly because gamers are a diverse bunch of people being passionate about something. I mean no disrespect to plumbers, but they mostly know about plumbing and there is a real good chance that I could bullshit most plumbers in a computer support or programming argument. But taken as a whole, gamers will crush any and I mean ANY lies or falsehood, or reality-twisted argument you might spin. If what you spew is not the literal truth, you will be called on it. It might not be right away, but it will be a lot sooner than later.
In short, no lies. Only the truth. Nothing. But. The. Truth. from now on. Got it?
There has been a very bad trend lately and it’s unfortunately not only from you EA. But, if you want to be successful in the future, you have to show balls. Do you have it in you?
There’s a trend that has been set by the consoles. It’s disgusting really and up to a point I could understand why pricing on those consoles were higher. AAA titles’ price was at 60$ and is mostly done because it’s a hassle to program a gamer for those. Different and often limited hardware between one console to the next, etc. There is also the gigantic trend of shoveling impossibly high amount of money to a franchise. When you think SW:TOR has a budget of over 100 million dollars, this is not small potatoes. Budgets have to come down even at the detriment of longer development cycles. The old paradigm of putting more people doesn’t work anymore. There is a ceiling you will hit and after that it’s not working. You’ve hit that point. Stop doing it. Salaries also have a big part in this. Your salary new EA CEO is, if you ask anyone, it too high. Nobody should earn 800,000$. Even athletes, all disciplines confounded. There is nobody on this planet that can justify that amount of money, no one. But, well, there’s isn’t anything I can do about it. I just though I’d mention it. Still. Salaries are way too way.
What this means is, a price cut will garner more sales. From my point of view triple-A titles should be sold at 40$, anything else starting at 30$ then lower. Pirating will go down by a wide margin I can assure you. Also, you will get a lot of love (see previous point). But you need to be responsible with this. There’s no point of decreasing the price point if you don’t generate sales or if the end-product is bad because even if you get one sale, you won’t get another after. “Scalded cat hates cold water.” as they say. In short, ensuring you give a good game at a lower price can you generate more sales, now and in the future. You thus have to ask yourself the question: Quick cash-in or Long-term brand loyalty? Right now, everything you do is quick cash-in at least that’s how it’s perceived.
I hate and despise Origin. I installed it once to see what it looked like, hated it and uninstalled it. I will not use it nor will I buy anything with it. I very much liked Batttlefield Bad Company and when BF3 was announced I was very interested in getting it, but as soon as it was made public that it would be an Origin exclusive, I said “No!” and that’s pretty much it.
Origin does not add any value. There is absolutely no reason why I would switch to it or even use it. Also there are so many allegations that it is a hidden spyware. Odds of me using Origin are close to none, but that’s fine. I am a strongly admitted Steam-fan. It would take a very strong argument to switch platform. An argument that no one in the digital distribution can win.
Even if I am a lost customer to Origin, everything is not lost. There are other people. Others that might be skewed and convinced.
The only way you can convince hardcore Steam fan to use your platform is first to make it worthwhile. It has to add value to the products bought with it and value in itself. But that, that takes time. A lot of time. So short of that, the only way you can sway some people to use Origin is by splitting the difference and rebate it vs a sale on Steam (that is, after you have made all your titles available back on Steam). Because in the end it’s only in offering an alternative to the same product at a lower cost will you make people switch. There is no other way. Those that boycott you do so because your games are not on Steam and even if the price was lower, odds are they would not switch. The reasoning is simple; by not offering your products on Steam you sound like a child throwing a tantrum.
Don’t mortar and stone stores get to keep a cut from sales of the games you publish? Yes, they do. So why would Steam not get their fair share? It is their bandwidth, their platform, their store. It’s only normal you have to give them a cut. But, with Origin, you cut that middleman thus getting more money in your pocket. Why not give a big chunk of that money back to the customer? It would’ve been lost anyway! Greed is not good for your image. It is very, very bad.
So these are my 5 tips to you EA. Know that love to bash you. I love to hate on you not because I hate you for no reason. I hate you because you disrespect me. You lie to my face thinking I don’t know the difference. Your image is so tarnished that it will take years for you to start having a new, healthy relationship with your customers. You brought that on yourself and you can only blame yourself. Nobody else is responsible for the thick shit you’re in.
But not all is lost. If you start right away and do the right things, gamers will recognize it and a new confidence will slowly grow towards you. But this is a long-term commitment. Don’t be a douche. Don’t be an asshat. Do the right things.
PS: 6. Talk to Gaben.
If nothing of the above works or is tempting for you, here’s an ultimate alternative: Go see Gaben, talk to him. Tell him: “Gaben, I want to be your bitch. Buy me.”