EA's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad 2017

STARTING SCREEN | What should have been a massive year for EA has instead been a year to forget.

Feature by Kat Bailey, .

Starting Screen is the USgamer staff's weekly column. Check back every Monday as we share our thoughts on the news as well as our favorite obscure RPGs, game music, and more.

I find myself hypnotized by EA right now. Has any major publisher ever had a worse year than EA in 2017?

From March to November, EA has been hammered by one controversy after another. They've been so numerous that it's been hard to keep track of them. A quick timeline:

It's a mark of how crazy 2017 has been for EA that their biggest positive might be NBA Live-a series that has been synonymous with failure since 2010. And that's mainly because it wasn't as aggressively monetized as NBA 2K18.

Mass Effect Andromeda was only the beginning.

Otherwise, almost every other major EA release in 2017 has suffered some kind of major controversy. They've been slow to capitalize on the success of the Switch; they've had to make major internal changes to their studio structure, and their monetization schemes have come to be seen as emblematic of everything that's wrong with triple-A development.

How has EA managed to get to this point? Some of it can seemingly be blamed on too many cooks being in the proverbial kitchen, resulting in culture clashes and missed milestones. The Frostbite Engine has also proven to be a square peg in a round hole with some games, especially FIFA

Then there are quotes like this one from Jason Schreier's massive report on the cancellation of Visceral's Star Wars game.

"She was giving these massive presentations on the story, themes," said one person who worked on Ragtag. "EA executives are like, 'FIFA Ultimate Team makes a billion dollars a year.' Where's your version of that?"

The outsized success of FIFA Ultimate Team has been a boon for EA since 2010, but it's also seemingly taught them all the wrong lessons, putting them on a quixotic quest to try and apply it to the rest of their catalog.

In order to right the ship, EA will have to take a hard look in the mirror and learn from their handful of individual successes, such as Battlefield 1 and Madden's single-player campaign. They will need to find a way to make the Frostbite Engine more flexible. They will need to abandon the use of so-called "accelerators" in their multiplayer games, and they will need to streamline their overall process. They won't regain the public's trust overnight, but they can at least earn back a bit of goodwill.

Next year will be an interesting one for EA. In the spring, they will be taking another crack at getting the UFC license right; and in the fall, BioWare will be launching Anthem-their answer to Destiny. Anthem in particular will be a massive test for EA. It's not every day that you get to launch a new franchise.

No doubt they will be eager to put all the problems of 2017 behind them and move forward. But they would do well to heed the lessons of one of their worst years ever; because if they don't, 2018 will be more of the same.

Looking Ahead to the Rest of the Week

Thanksgiving is officially finished, Black Friday has come and gone, and now we're picking through the bones of the release season. Here's what you can look forward to this week.

  • Cyber Monday: Black Friday is over, but that just means that now we can all spend way too much money buying stuff online. Get your Nintendo Switch before they're gone, everyone.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Following a rather odd turn with Xenoblade Chronicles X, Monolith Soft is getting back to basics with a more direct sequel to the cult favorite original. If her preview is anything to go by, Nadia seems to be digging it so far. It'll be out December 1.
  • Star Ocean: The Last Hope (Steam): Like most everyone else, you probably missed Star Ocean: The Last Hope when it first came out on Xbox 360 back in 2009. Happily, a fully mastered release will be out on Steam on November 28. It's probably the weakest game in the series, but still good, solid JRPG fun on the PC.
  • Resident Evil Revelations: Like so many other popular games from years past, Resident Evil Revelations 1 and 2 are both on their way to the Nintendo Switch. Think the deluge of ports is bad now? Wait until next year. RE Revelations will be out November 28.

Nadia's Note Block Beat Box: Schwarzweiß ~Worlds Connected Beyond the Mist from Atelier Iris 3

I've never played Atelier Iris 3 for the PlayStation 2. I've barely heard about the game in passing. Going by its Metacritic score, it's a middle-of-the-road JRPG that's primarily remembered for its kick-ass opening song, "Schwarzweiß."

(That's German for "Black and White," apparently. Picture me nodding my head slowly and sagely.)

While I'm not overly fond of the pop-ish Japanese bridge that serves as the filling for this piece, that intro and outro is just crazy energetic. If said energy seems familiar, it's because Schwarzweiß is composed by Rezo, the composer behind Bravely Default for the Nintendo 3DS. In case you need reminding, Bravely Default's soundtrack is mad incredible.

I don't want to say Rezo is too good for Atelier Iris 3; again, I've never played the game. But I just think it's telling how the game's intro tries to emulate SuikoGaiden's artful opening cinema, but with, uh, limited success.

Anyway. Schwarzweiß. Great song for an OK game.

Mike's Media Minute

At this point, I'm just watching Justice League continue to underperform in metrics. It's not even really noteworthy at this point, outside of the fact that Justice League might struggle to make $650 million worldwide. With Thanksgiving weekend behind us, Justice League has made $482 million worldwide so far. That's two weeks worth of box office, including a lengthy holiday season, that is only $60 million above Batman v Superman's opening weekend in March 2016.

It's bad.

Bright side: Warner Bros can keep trucking and treat Justice League as an unfortunate speed bump. People like these characters, they just don't like some of these versions of these characters. Ignore what doesn't work, play up what does, and make good films. The latter is the key, but sometimes in the rush to build a cinematic universe empire, executives forget that.

Coco hit with unexpected force. Some were predicting another The Good Dinosaur for Pixar, given the muted marketing campaign for Coco. Instead, the film outperformed expectations with a $72 million draw for the Thanksgiving 5-day reporting period. All told, it's in the running to perform somewhere between Tangled ($591 million worldwide) and Moana ($643 million). We're mostly waiting for the second weekend to see how that shakes out.

One place DC is winning is on television, and the CW superhero shows will be crossing over tonight with the first two episodes of Crisis on Earth-X, before finishing tomorrow. The premise is pretty straightforward, with the DC heroes fighting against versions of themselves from Earth-X, which is controlled by Nazis. Yep, DC heroes versus Nazi is pretty straightforward.

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD returns for Season 5, after Inhumans bombed out in the time slot earlier this season. SHIELD has been an uneven show overall, but last season marked a high point in the writing and characterization, so I'm looking forward to seeing where Season 5 takes us. (Other than space.) The show returns with a two-hour season premiere this Friday and if you need to catch up, the entire thing is up on Netflix.

Oh, and I've been reading Giant Days over the weekend, which is a cute comic from Boom Studios by webcomic artist John Allison. It's a slice-of-life about folks in college, so the premise isn't out there, but I found it funny and endearing, so I'm recommending it here.

Caty’s AltGame Corner

I'm always fishing for good iOS games. This past week, I found one: Corporate Salmon, a game about climbing the greedy corporate ladder as a big ol' salmon. Designed by game designer Alex Johansson, with music by Will Bedford and graphic design by Katy Marshall, Corporate Salmon is a game where you tap the screen, make a singular pink salmon in a nice suit jump up a staircase while collecting money.

In motion, it looks silly. But in practice, it's actually pretty fun. You can try out Corporate Salmon for yourself here on iOS for free.

This Week's News and Notes

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Comments 20

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  • Avatar for Roto13 #1 Roto13 11 months ago
    After all the predatory loot box crap EA has pulled lately, I couldn't possibly want Anthem any less. I can't help but imagine that EA only sees that game as a vehicle for microtransactions and loot boxes.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #2 riderkicker 11 months ago
    This reminds me of the last time EA was touted as the World's Worst Company by the Internet, and this was happening while the current events was still rather crappy. Who thought EA and the Swamp could be worse, and four years later, both were!Edited November 2017 by riderkicker
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  • Avatar for realchris2011 #3 realchris2011 11 months ago
    MEA is their least worries from what I have read, seems like people are more upset on Micro-Transactions than anything else.
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  • Avatar for Thetick #4 Thetick 11 months ago
    I do like the combat system in ME:A. I feel with the right action after the feedback, they could’ve nailed a potential sequel.Edited November 2017 by Thetick
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #5 kidgorilla 11 months ago
    I'm sorry because he's probably a fine person, but I really think that part of their problem is that this dude LOOKS LIKE A GODDAMN SUPER VILLAIN EXPLAINING HIS MASTER PLAN

    Edited 2 times. Last edited November 2017 by kidgorilla
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  • Avatar for moochan #6 moochan 11 months ago
    Really miss nicely old school anime opening in JRPGs.

    EA will never change as long as they keep seeing a profit in what they do. They been voted over and over as the worse company in the world (feel there are FAR worse out there but whatever) and they keep talking about how they will be doing better to only just do the opposite the next year. I'm more interested in the EU looking into loot boxes as gambling. Because that will blow up what they been doing with FIFA. And since Europe is FIFA land that will have the most impact in how they do things. With all this attention on loot boxes outside of just gaming sites I am curious how ESRB and other rating systems will have a stronger look into them.

    I really want to know what WB will actually do with regards to the DCEU. Feel we are at the point where enough people are just off the ride and might watch a few movies here and there if they get enough praise like Wonder Woman but won't just go because they are interested in the storyline.

    As for Caty guess I'm glad clickers lives on. Speaking of which with Clicker Heroes 2 being actually sold for $30 I wonder how that will work out for them. Moving from Free to Play to upfront money is hard as hell if not impossible but I wish them well.
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  • Avatar for Cabbage-head-must-di #7 Cabbage-head-must-di 11 months ago

    They want to get back in My good graces, bring this baaack!
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  • Avatar for AxiomVerge #8 AxiomVerge 11 months ago
    I wish EA would stop closing down studios I like.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #9 yuberus 11 months ago
    Man, I just could care less about Anthem and felt that way from the reveal. Destiny is very much not my thing re: MMO action games, and having Bioware make one seems like an incredible waste of that studio. It's a major disappointment that their obsession with Frostbite helped undermine Andromeda too, but it's amazing that it was the least of their issues this year.

    EA could always bring me a Starflight 3 to get back into my good graces. Keep the same 2d top down visuals, I don't care! Just don't monetize it to hell and back!
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  • Avatar for DrCorndog #10 DrCorndog 11 months ago
    The MCU isn't what I'd call great cinema, but those movies are reliably entertaining. Everything about the DCCU (aside from Wonder Woman, apparently) has been disastrous. Playing catch-up with the MCU at such an accelerated rate was a bad idea, so I'm not surprised at the results.

    Looking forward to seeing Coco, eventually. Nice to see Pixar mostly back in form lately after a several-year slump.
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  • Avatar for Fade2Gray #11 Fade2Gray 11 months ago
    Anybody remember back when EA would occasionally trot out a developer from a popular studio so they could claim that EA had no influence in their decision to include things like micro-transactions in their games?

    I thought Justice League was OK. It feels like WB is trying to move the DCEU in a better direction, but it's probably too little too late. I'm not sure how I feel about WB's plans to introduce "non-DCEU" DC movies, but it sounds like the first steps in taking the DCEU around to the back of the shed. The worst part is I think Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck were criminally miss-used. They could have been spectacular as Superman and Batman in better movies...
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  • Avatar for benjaminlu86 #12 benjaminlu86 11 months ago
  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #13 NiceGuyNeon 11 months ago
    Ah yes, EA, the finest purveyors of videogame goods! Between the "so horrifying it's impossible not to stare" face plant of not just any game BUT ARGUABLY WHAT WAS THE WORLD'S BIGGEST WRPG FRANCHISE AT ONE POINT (I say arguably because apparently modern Bethesda fans are immune to poor performance, crap writing, dull quest design, and boring combat). And the mishandling of lootboxes not to the point where they just got in trouble for it but that GOVERNMENTS GOT INVOLVED. EA's SNAFUs were so momentous and game-changing for everyone that THE CLOSURE OF A STUDIO IS NOT BIG DEAL.

    The top gaming companies I want to keep an eye on in 2018 are clear:

    EA- what's next after arguably their worst year in, well, years?

    Nintendo- what's next after arguably their best year in, well, years?

    FromSoftware- Do we hear anything from them and if we do is it new or are they now trapped by their own formula?

    CD Projekt Red- Do we finally get to see gameplay of Cyberpunk 2077?

    Microsoft- Remember when MS released the most powerful console in history and had NO GAMES FOR IT. Man, that was hilarious. I wonder if they'll maybe, you know, try to change that or something.
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #14 UnskippableCutscene 11 months ago
    I don't see Microsoft getting in the software studio side of the equation too seriously for a while. They have clearly found Xbox's niche, which is the audience of people who look at the cost of GeForce cards and make a high, sustained whistle. As cryptocurrency continues to lure in people who think they've found a way to get by the in the world without a job by having a bunch of computers plugged in, graphics cards will continue to be $80-200 more than what they should be. And while AMD's hardware has worked well in closed console platforms, there's games like GTA5 on PC that simply throw fits if you took the lower-price AMD route on either CPU or GPU.

    There's reasons why that is, and many of them are AMD's fault actually, but Microsoft seems destined to steer the Xbox into being what the Steam box should have been.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #15 SatelliteOfLove 11 months ago
    Hennig should just go indie at this point. This leaping from icefloe to icefloe will just continue.

    Generime™ Brand Anime openings spreading like the clap about 8 years ago is a crime. Like, it's one song with different lyrics. That breeds discomfort at anything different! Even Falcom falls for it a couple of times.

    Bring. This. Back.
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  • Avatar for Nuclear-Vomit #16 Nuclear-Vomit 11 months ago
    @Cabbage-head-must-di Yes! And, let's also throw in some Skitchin' and Road Rash!
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #17 donkeyintheforest 11 months ago
    i liked Justice league! It is like fast and furious 4. Not perfect, but it gets the group all together and sets up a fun future. Prob a decent amount better than F&F4 actually cause more jokes and cool battles. They manage to have fight scenes that are pretty fun actually, where by the end of most marvel movies it feels like they just put some action in cause they are supposed to. despite that, I also really liked thor ragnarok. I'm generally more of a dc than marvel guy but that had some cool stuff in it and some pretty great comedy.

    there you have my opinion. im shouting into the internet comment void! at least its positive!
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  • Avatar for docexe #18 docexe 11 months ago
    As I have stated before, I still maintain that EA being voted “the worst Company in America” twice a few years ago was really absurd. Of course, to be perfectly honest, that’s mostly because being “the best example of everything that’s terrible about the corporate side of the gaming industry” doesn’t really compare to “doing things that can’t be called anything else but crimes against humanity”. In any case, it’s difficult to have much sympathy for them, especially considering how so many of their woes have been self-inflicted. A shame for the studios they have closed though.

    Coco was delightful. It premiered early here in Mexico and has been a smash hit so far. I don’t think it’s exactly among Pixar’s very best, but that’s mostly because movies like Wall-E and Toy Story 3 set that bar too high. It’s still pretty good however, not exactly a 100% accurate representation of the Day of the Dead tradition, but still well researched and touching.
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  • Avatar for alec33 #19 alec33 11 months ago
    Deleted December 2017 by alec33
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  • Avatar for alec33 #20 alec33 11 months ago
    This is a great article.

    I am on Reddit and watched the EA AMA live (and the ensuing chaos). I also picked up Battlefront II on Tuesday when the Deluxe edition released.

    Despite the circus of the micro-transactions, the game is fantastic to play. Love it.

    With the Reddit situation... I do not argue that there is a legitimate complaint to be had - because there is. And I'm glad Disney stepped in and EA disabled the micro-transactions. But what's happening on the Battlefront subreddit is that a lot of people joined to just stir the pot, with zero intention of purchasing the game.

    What's funny with these 'loot boxes' is that it reminds me of my days of playing CCG/TCG games (like Magic the Gathering). You would buy 'booster packs' that had random cards in them. Those packs were actually labelled with how many cards were in there, and how many common, uncommon, rare, etc.. cards were in each. In reality, the 'loot box' system is a virtual extension of the CCG/TCG booster pack purchases.

    I as the expert at get the concern that it is akin to gambling. And you look at some online games and people spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on this sort of stuff. It can be addictive. And children shouldn't be exposed to it (and parents shouldn't run the risk of being exposed financially to it).

    Once again this is a great article. Hope you follow the EA/Disney situation and continue to report on it! I'll be looking for follow ups! :)
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  • Avatar for leemark #21 leemark 8 months ago
    I really want to know what WB will actually do with regards to the DCEU. Feel we are at the point where enough people are just off the ride and might watch a few movies here and there if they get enough praise like Wonder Woman but won't just go because they are interested in the storyline. Smadav 2019 | Smadav 2019 | Avast 2019. I thought Justice League was OK. It feels like WB is trying to move the DCEU in a better direction, but it's probably too little too late. I'm not sure how I feel about WB's plans to introduce "non-DCEU" DC movies, but it sounds like the first steps in taking the DCEU around to the back of the shed.
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