By Stan Rezaee
Electronic Arts latest quarterly report has officially confirmed what many have been speculating, 2016 has been a strong year for them. According to its Q2 FY2017 report, net profits were higher than expected thanks to several successful launches. It’s estimated that by the end of Q3 the net revenue could be approximately $1.125 billion while at worst stock prices might lose about $0.17 of its value.
Things are going strong for EA but looking back it’s hard to fathom were they are following several disastrous years. It was not too long ago that they were undergoing a public relations crisis due to a series of bad business decisions and disastrous launches.
It started first when several highly anticipated titles had content withheld just so they could be resold to consumers as DLC’s. Then came the draconian DRM’s and always online policies that ended up punishing honest gamers. Next came a series of false advertising or deals not honored. Finally there was the disastrous launch of several highly anticipated titles that were plagued with bugs and glitches. Adding insult to injury was the leadership at EA defending their actions and several controversial business practices like microtransactions.
The years of poor decisions came back to haunt EA with a vengeance. These disastrous launches hurt the companies stock prices as it started to tumble. Outraged over the lies, the gaming community took them to court and won in several major class action lawsuits. Meanwhile the leadership was ranked among the most despised in the industry and some were the target of death threats from angry gamers.The final blow came when they were voted as “The Worst in America”for two years in a row by readers of The Consumerists.
Electronic Arts was once a leader in the gaming industry but by 2014 their reputation had become toxic. By this time most games they announced was met was skepticism while titles being canceled was seen as doing the right thing. It was obvious by now that if action was not taken then it would mean the end for them.
First there had to be a change in leadership, that is why John Riccitiello had to step down from his role as CEO. Electronic Arts had followed the same path to failure that so many other tech companies had by replacing the techies with business figures in the leadership role. Like Carly Fiorina at Hewlett-Packard or Steve Ballmer at Microsoft, Riccitiello was a business minded leader with no solid background in technology. In theory a business should be managed by a business figure but in practice the rules of Old Wall Street are recipe for failure in Silicon Valley. That is why it was essential for the leadership to be replaced by someone with a solid background in gaming. That is why it was essential to promote Andrew Wilson to the role of CEO and Peter Moore to the role of COO.
After being promoted, Peter Moore made the decision to setup a committee to pinpoint its problems while developing a strategy to win over their dissatisfied fans. The first step was to win over their trust through a PR campaign that ensured gamers that they are listening to their concerns and taking actions. Part of this plan required to keep up the support for Battlefield 4 while making the DLC’s available for free to fans.
Next action was taken to avoid anymore disastrous launches while doing away with the draconian DRM’s. This was most notable when they removed the “online only” requirement for Sim City. At the same time, like Battlefield: Hardline were delayed just so more time could be put into fixing the glitches. This move payed-off as the game was released with little problems while being praised by critics and fans.
Enter 2016 and EA impressed the gaming world by revealing that Battlefield 1 was taking players to the trenches of the Great War. Released only a week after Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was announced, it quickly grew to become one of the most watched announcement trailers. While the trailer give gamers an idea of what to expect, the open beta demonstrated what players are going to expect. When the it was finally released in late October, it was highly praised by fans and critics as the best entry in the series.
Battlefield 1 alone has not help repair EA’s reputation, other successful lunches in 2016 have also contributed to their comeback. Titanfall 2 proved to be just as popular as Battlefield while Mirror’s Edge Catalyst was also highly praised. Meanwhile sports titles like FIFA ’17 and Madden NFL ’17 has added to EA’s ongoing success in 2016.
It looks like Electronic Arts plans to continue this trail of success as a new Battlefront is in the works while there are rumors of a new Battlefield coming in 2017. Of course most of the gaming world is more excited for Mass Effect: Andromeda which is set to be released in March.
The future is now looking bright for Electronic Arts and as long as they continue the path they are on then they will keep their title of being an industry leader. Their story is also a warning plan for others to not lose sight of what it means to be in the game industry. The failures of the last few year will continue to haunt them but it will also be reminder of where they never want to be again.
Do think Electronic Arts has been doing a good job at repairing its reputation or do you think they can do better? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.