Video game company Electronic Arts has been widely criticized for monopolistic business practices, shuttering studios and spearheading a controversial anti-used game online pass program that has quickly become de rigueur for other publishing heavyweights. But does that make it the worst company in America? According to The Consumerist, yes, it does.
EA squared off with Bank of America in the site’s annual March Madness-style “Worst Company in America” tournament and won. By a lot. An estimated 160,000 visitors voted for the game publisher, compared to its opponent’s 90,000 tally.
“After more than 250,000 votes, Consumerist readers ultimately decided that the type of greed exhibited by EA, which is supposed to be making the world a more fun place, is worse than Bank of America’s avarice, which some would argue is the entire point of operating a bank,” wrote the site.
The Consumerist then defended the results: “To those who might sneer at something as ‘non-essential’ as a video game company winning the Worst Company In America vote: It’s that exact kind of attitude that allows people to ignore the complaints as companies like EA to nickel and dime consumers to death.”
An unsatisfying finale to the publisher’s latest critical and commercial darling “Mass Effect 3” possibly spurred gamers to vote en masse. Until now, disappointment with the trilogy closer was relegated to rant-y YouTube videos, hundreds of funny memes and an online petition for a new ending. Most of that backlash was appropriately aimed toward the title’s developer, Canada’s BioWare, and not EA. Gamers seized on the next best option.
But one divisive ending does not a terrible company make. Some questionable advertising campaigns and business decisions over the years certainly helped work gamers into a froth.
Promoting a hack-and-slash adaptation of literary masterpiece “Dante’s Inferno” in 2009, the publisher made headlines when it urged San Diego Comic Con attendees to “commit acts of lust with a booth babe and tell us about it” to win prizes. The company attempted to quiet mounting criticism over the contest’s sexist underpinnings by arguing that it was “done in the spirit of the good natured fun of Comic-Con.” Maybe gamers would have agreed had the company not, just weeks earlier, paid actors to stage a fake religious protest over the title right outside the industry’s annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). And then there was the time EA illegally shipped brass knuckles to game reviewers.
On the actual gaming side, many sports fans were incensed when EA landed the exclusive rights to both NCAA and NFL licenses in 2005. Instead of having a choice, the company’s football games became the only ones in town. Several high-profile closures of fan-favorite development studios over the course of a decade didn’t help win over critics.
Unsurprisingly, EA was a little salty about its “win.”
“We’re sure that bank presidents, oil, tobacco and weapons companies are all relieved they weren’t on the list this year,” the publisher told Game Informer. “We’re going to continue making award-winning games and services played by more than 300 million people worldwide.”
Did EA deserve to win, or is Bank of America more deserving of the dubious honor? Let us know in the comment section.