I Can’t Cheer EA On (Even though I want them to win).

Because nothing says evil like a red glow. EA. Every little helps!

EA are suing Zynga because The Ville is a bit like The Sims Social. Zynga are counter-suing because SimCity Social is a bit like CityVille. I should be cheering EA on in this battle. I LOATHE Zynga and their cloning ways. Thing is, I just can’t – for so many reasons, I really, truly can’t do it.

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I hate Zynga.

I’ve said it before – Zynga are a product of the incapability of the legal system to defend the creativity of the industry. There are many ways to write a game, but if the end product is so similar there’s no discernible difference, then what do you do? Legally, not much. Zynga have been good so far to tackle relatively weaker studios without the financial or social clout to really impact on their business, meaning they’ve gotten away with destroying the livelihoods of people who deserve the success for their own work.

And now, EA are suing Zynga, because The Ville is like Sims Social. And Zynga are retorting by saying SimCity Social is a lot like CityVille.

If this seems like a cheap cop-out… well, it is. But more than that, the real problem I have is this idea that EA are the ones fighting for the little guy. Which I think is a little rich with some of their actions in the last few years having negative repercussions on those at the mercy of their corporate hands. But even that doesn’t get to the nub of the real issue.

I could wheel out dozens of quotes here about the “death of single player mode”, “aggressive expansion into Free to Play markets” and of course, the repeated claims that The Old Republic would beat World of Warcraft into something resembling pulp.  I could talk about how wrong their business model for Origin is for weeks on end – it’s a truly terrible, despicable object and I think the sooner it withers and dies, the better the internet space will be without it rotting in the corner. We could mention EA and BioWare charging players for those enhanced Mass Effect 3 endings, and STILL ballsing it up – although admittedly, I do think they wanted the series to end there. They managed to get that right at least.

EA’s PR for the most part is pretty terrible but that is true of any multi-national corporation really and not something to hold against. They have their moments – the Tim Langdell case was cheered on by many. Including me, and EA demolished Mr. Langdell with ruthless efficiency. Almost too efficient, as his attempts to actually make a living making some new games have resulted in a hate campaign that I fear will have ruined his life forever, and to be fair, we hate it when EA and Activision close down studios. Why then do we feel no sympathy for a nasty man – who has done bad things, but so have EA – whose reputation is in ruins and has no hope of convincing people he may have learned lessons? Is it so bad to feel like a man such as Dr. Langdell might, you know, have a place in the market again? To give him a chance to at least try and make a go of it? Clearly not, as he is still reviled. I understand that feeling. But we must also live with the reality this man is ruined, and it’s because we can’t forgive. And yet we can forgive EA closing down studios and laying off swathes of people, into a market where jobs are scarce? I’m sorry. Double standards, much?

I don’t want to come off one-sided as I do think EA also do good things. EA have made some successful new IPs this generation, and there is certainly something to be said for that. EA have revived some franchises people wanted – although the success ratio isn’t exactly universal on that, but still, it’s something to be noted as a plus point. There are other reasons. I may add more at a later date.

Thing is, it’s swings and roundabouts with EA. One minute they fight the good fight and the next, they’re being a bunch of utter dicks. For every Tim Langdell case, there has been the introduction of day-one DLC and online passes. For every Dead Space, there is an Old Republic. It’s so difficult to keep up with the ever changing face of EA – one minute nice and angelic, the next ugly and demonic, that I’m just EXHAUSTED by it. I simply don’t care anymore. EA are being nice, hooray, give it a week or two and we’ll hate them for something else again and anyone who calls people out on it will be ridiculed.

We don’t want to be seen as sheep, but by virtue that en-masse the nerdy fraternity constantly ride this same rollercoaster over and over again, that’s how we appear. We’re constantly fed these news reports and suddenly wow, we like EA again! Oh whoops, another clanger, time to hate again. Good EA game? Yay EA! Bad EA game weeks later? Boo EA! It’s pantomime, and frankly, a little ridiculous.

I make no secret of my contempt for the legal profession that feeds on these cases. I do sort of wish for some natural disaster to happen that brings the building down around EA, Zynga and their legal team the day they stand in court to argue their cases. EA are not doing this altruistically – they think Zynga’s game will make them less money and is therefore a threat. Zynga think EA’s game is a threat to their game. Strip back the fact both sides have appealed to their customers and the gaming community to take sides, and what you have here is a case of “Who Shot First?”. And that is something for a judge to decide.

And yet we take sides, and most will be on EA’s side for a few weeks until an inevitable PR error happens and we suddenly turn on them. It’s just… silly.

I don’t think EA are evil – some of what they’ve done is evil, but it’s evil because it is so short-sighted, ill-informed or just generally devoid of common sense. But we are all capable of evil, and capable of good, and EA have done good – and will continue to do good. To say otherwise is itself short-sighted. EA have the talent, money and power to do great things – but they also have the tendency to do some pretty crappy things in the name of making money and pleasing their shareholders.

The real reason I can’t cheer EA on is because I’m just aware of all of this. It’s a pattern I’m just used to by this point, and my body has built up an immunity so my only response to it can be an apathetic “Meh”. People can continue to cheer on EA, and they are right to do so. Zynga are the greater threat to the industry. There’s only one reason why you shouldn’t cheer EA on, and that is because it makes the gaming community look like a bunch of hypocrites for the last year or two of relentless EA bashing.

I can’t get excited by that. EA aren’t evil and I genuinely wish them all the best – despite that little evil part of me that doesn’t. But we all have that little imp demon on our shoulders sometimes – well, mine is more like an eight-foot lizard man leaning on my shoulder whispering into my ear, but point is, we all do. We all know the right from wrong, so let’s poke fun and laugh about it as well.

Just, let’s not pretend that this is somehow a turning point for EA. They’ll be back to their old ways soon enough and everyone will boo them because everyone else is.

Sad, I know. But true. I’m just going to continue to give a consistent “meh” to it all.

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