I don’t always mind hearing “the company line” from a publisher. It takes balls to feed the gaming press something which the journalist and publisher both know is bullshit. It’s not comfortable for either of them, but serves as a “no trespass” sign to prevent the journalist from pressing too hard on territory he or she is not welcome to tread upon, which will lead to things being much more uncomfortable. And maybe the journalist not getting another interview.
What I can’t stand is when different corporate mouthpieces feed us different lines of bullshit, as in a pair of interviews MCV conducted with Electronic Arts.
EA’s UK general manager Keith Ramsdale was quoted yesterday, stating in reference to Project Ten Dollar, “It all about the customer, about improving their experience. It’s not a defensive measure against pre-owned or piracy.”
EA Sports president Peter Moore is quoted today, defending the much-reviled EA Sports Pass initiative. “I look at the investment that we make in bringing digital experiences – building solid infrastructure, making sure servers stay up and offering customer support when needed. It all takes time, money and effort and we are at the cutting edge of that.”
So, in other words, EA is charging its customers more money so as to improve their experience of getting content that probably ought to have been included in the shipped copy of the game in the first place (Bad Company 2 V.I.P. maps, Kasumi’s Stolen Memory), or to pay for the sports game servers?
Either of those propositions might make sense in light of EA’s losing $677 million in 2009, if these were truly additional revenue streams; but Project Ten Dollar and the EA Online Pass only target purchasers of used games, not everyone else who throws down for new copies. I’d feel insulted if I honestly thought that these comments were targeted at consumers.
Executives at GameStop must read interviews like these and salivate so copiously that sump pumps have to be installed in conference rooms. Paul Raines, the recently-promoted chief executive officer of GameStop, stated in late May that his company not only supports the Online Pass, but are partnering with Microsoft to promote DLC.
If EA isn’t bullshitting gamers, are they bullshitting GameStop? Something along the lines of “No, we really, seriously, weren’t trying to cut into the used games market that you’re absolutely dominating to ridiculous proportions.” Considering what a huge distributor GameStop has become, if I were a major publisher I might not want to be perceived as trying to weaken their position, either, especially when the initiative to do so was blatantly transparent.
No one should blame EA for trying to recuperate money they feel the used game market is taking out of their pockets, regardless of whether it’s an up or down year for them, and GameStop is adaptable. If these initiatives did start cutting into their profit margins I wouldn’t put it past them to start bundling DLC cards with used EA games and find a way to maintain those margins.
EA might just be bullshitting themselves, putting a new spin on the “why” of Project Ten Dollar and Online Pass to cover up their miscalculation. In any case, I wish they’d just pick one line and stick to it. It’s much easier to maintain illusions that way, and pretend we’re not being bullshitted in the first place.