<div class='quotetop'>QUOTE </div>
I'll give someone 20 Virtual Dollars if they read all that.
Why EA is Good for You
It is amazing that the worldâ€™s leading producer of video games can attract so much negative remarks from gamers across the globe. EA draws criticism from certain quarters for its lack of innovation, reliance on licensed titles and dominance of the games software industry. It seems like all leaders of various sectors are constantly knocked by their detractors for multiple reasons, whether it be Microsoft, Manchester United or Steven Spielberg. Electronic Arts is the biggest independent developer and publisher of video games, markets its products worldwide under four brand logos and has over thirty three product franchises that have reached more than a million unit sales worldwide, winning over seven hundred awards for its products along the way. Yet if the company comes up in discussion with a hardcore gamer, there is an inevitable rant about how EA is nothing more than a capitalist machine and has lost all sense of what it means to be a games developer. Not content with giving out about the company, the consumers who buy their products are described as fools who wouldnâ€™t know a good game if it jumped up and bit them on the ass.
All of this is a little harsh; in fact there are a lot of reasons why Electronic Arts is good for the games industry. Firstly let us examine the present state of the industry and look at why EAâ€™s dominance can lead other companies forward. This industry is an oversaturated market, there are far too many publishers pushing mediocre products. Take for example the Playstation 2 back catalogue; when a consumer walks into the store it appears that he has a wealth of choice to choose from whereas in reality the majority of the titles are substandard affairs. If EAâ€™s continued dominance of the sector means that some of the publishers behind these titles go belly up, then Iâ€™m all for it. Simply put the market has to find a happy medium, basic economics lies at the heart of it all. Look at the history of the automobile industry; in 1908 there were two hundred and fifty three automobile manufacturers, this figure had shrunk drastically to forty four by 1929. This does not mean that the market is shrinking; instead it is gravitating towards an equilibrium which will result in the sector becoming more stable in the long run.
Just like other industries before it the games sector has to face up to the reality that it cannot grow exponentially; while there may be growth in the market the wealth will not be shared equally, thus leaving those on the fringes to drop out. The games industry is barely beginning to grow out of its roots, so nothing drastic is going to happen in the near future. In fact the industry is predicted to go from strength to strength and continue to grow; itâ€™s just that like a snake shedding its skin: some companies will be left behind. This market volatility can be seen with developers like Crawfish biting the dust and others merging or being taken over. At the end of the day itâ€™s a case of supply and demand; companies have to figure out what the consumer wants and give it to them, on this note EA has consistently delivered. If anyone is to blame for smaller developers and publishers dropping out of the market then the blame lies squarely on the heads of Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. As consumers find game prices expensive, they tend to buy fewer than they did for previous consoles. Comparing PS1 and PS2 software figures shows that there was a bigger uptake for PS1 games initially; although this does not have a big knock on effect in the console market, there are greater implications in the handheld market. With the typical console owner having seven games in his possession, Game Boy Advance owners normally possess about three. This is the reason why developers of GBA titles are on far shakier ground than their console counterparts, thus highlighting that one companyâ€™s dominance of the industry is not to blame for anotherâ€™s demise.
The typical complaint about EA is that the company will be the cause of the death of innovation in gaming, people cry out that games like Ico and Rez are being put on the backburner due to out average titles like Need for Speed Underground or Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup. The simple answer to this is that money talks and unfortunately most consumers are not interested in titles like Ico or Rez. What it will mean for developers of such innovative titles is that they will have to raise their standards in order to break into the mainstream. The companies will have to produce better titles in order to compete; if they fail to do so then those companies will inevitably go bust. When a consumer buys an EA product he almost knows what to expect, it is almost an industry standard to at least get an above average game and the gamer is never disappointed perhaps just a little under whelmed. While the average gamer may not find Electronic Artsâ€™ titles to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, the company has built a template from which others can develop. What EA are doing is building a standard upon which other developers can improve upon; using their business and game development template could earn a rival company a more secure place in the games industry. For all the talk bemoaning the lack of innovation in specialist media, critics seemingly fail to draw comparisons with other industries. A lot of is made of increasing similarities between the game and film industries, singling out Hollywood you would see that for every movie like Thirteen or Igby Goes Down that breaks into the mainstream there are a hundred Hollywood blockbusters. Film reviews bemoaning the lack of a credible plot or desperate acting skills are made in an identical tone to game articles berating the lack of innovation in games. Both industries may sacrifice credibility for the almighty dollar, the fact remains that in most cases the modern consumer would rather be entertained rather than engaged. This is the reason why people opt for Charlieâ€™s Angels on the big screen or True Crime on their console, while at the same time itâ€™s what makes ground breaking titles stand out due to their stark contrast with other games.
Electronic Artsâ€™ number one position in the software stakes could bring about a better deal for other publishers in the future of online gaming. The company deserves to be congratulated in their stance against Xbox Live, highlighting the fact that some publishers feel bullied by Microsoft in their dealings over the service. The dispute between EA and Microsoft is down to subscription revenues: MS refuses to share a percentage of subscription revenues with the publishers, EAâ€™s chairman Lawerence Probst put it best when he said â€œThey collect all the money, they keep all the money.â€ Microsoft argues that Xbox Live boosts the sales of games and saves publishers money due to the set-up costs to administer online games; however forecasts of online gamingâ€™s potential growth would see some publishers willing to take risks. EA has also proved innovative in combining with Sony to bring a rival online service â€“ although the PS2 online service clearly lags behind Xbox Live, over time there is no doubt it will evolve. EA and Sony have entered into an exclusive agreement which will see EA titleâ€™s online capabilities solely usable on the PS2 online service. The great thing about the rival service is that it comes from a different perspective, offering the consumer choice of what kind of service he would like to purchase. Industry analysts agree that online gaming will be the next big thing in the video games sector; in this respect it is great to see EA use its leverage against Microsoft when it comes to Xbox Live. The exclusivity deal only runs until March 2004, upon which time the company will be able to renegotiate and get a better deal than it was initially offered. This could also bring about a better situation for all publishers and developers â€“ if Electronic Arts is able to force Microsoftâ€™s hand, a situation may arise where publishers receive a small percentage of the revenues.
Electronic Arts is a shining example at delivering what the customer wants, they offer the complete package by delving into the subject matter through market research and making their products as appealing as possible to various demographic groups. The FIFA series is one of the companyâ€™s most successful franchises, despite increasing pressure from Konamiâ€™s Pro Evolution Soccer. Even though Konamiâ€™s effort consistently has better gameplay, every year the FIFA title comes out on top despite all of the reviews and PESâ€™s increasing hardcore following. Through use of the FIFPRO license EA has the rights to use real player names, which makes a big difference for your average punter who wants to put a few goals into the Manchester United net with Michael Owen. Little things like having to play as North London instead of Arsenal will put off prospective customers, most of them want Premier League and Champions League action rather than playing in Northern Division Two. This is the main reason that FIFA continuously sells more copies than Pro Evolution Soccer: despite being viewed as a weaker game, the franchise simply offers a lot more scope and is more accessible to individuals.
Perhaps what is most impressive about EA is the fact that they never rest on their laurels, they are always exploring new ways of making money out of their products and to reach target audiences. One of the most exciting revenue streams to open up for video games companies is in game advertising, which has the potential to evolve substantially over the next couple of years. EA is exploiting this new avenue of money making to the tilt, with various spots being offered in their titles for companies to promote their products. In-game advertising offers companies a unique opportunity to use popular games to support their specific brand messages. This form of advertising is excellent use of product placement, as through long hours of play gamers are exposed to the brandâ€™s message, more often than not on a subconscious level due to the advertising being incorporated into the gameplay. Electronic Arts consistently make great strides for the industry and lead the way for others; their methods of appealing to various demographic groups, although simple, are often overlooked by their rivals. Their productâ€™s soundtracks are sounding more and more like the top forty singles chart with every release, through the licensing of music tracks the company has seen a large increase in associated music sales with its titles. Various music tracks inclusions on a titleâ€™s soundtrack are little strokes of genius as it is such a simple way to appeal to a certain audience. The company always remains forward looking even in the Christmas rush, rather than over-saturating the market they have delayed certain titles and even pushed back the latest Bond release until after the New Year instead of competing with itself.
In summary there are lots of reasons why Electronic Arts is good for the video games industry, much of the criticism directed towards them is sour grapes in my opinion. In the current state of market volatility the company has not been averse to falling share prices, but in the long run its continued dominance is almost guaranteed. With all the talk of various developers and publishers dropping out of the market one should think in terms of a herd of buffalo. Like the wise Cliff Clavin said in Cheers â€œA herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.â€ EAâ€™s dominance of the industry should not be used as an excuse for companies who are forced to drop out of the market because they cannot compete, in the long run this will lead for a more stable environment and a better situation for all involved. The companyâ€™s example can be used as a template for success which others can build upon; in fact their unique position inserts them in a role that can bring about a better deal for publishers when it comes to dealing with the console manufacturers. As EA press forward with new business practices, other companies do not complain when they also reap the rewards for their rivalâ€™s forward thinking. At the end of the day successful companies offer the consumer what they want, not what in their opinion they should desire. Some peopleâ€™s arguments about innovation in the games industry can be shown up in comparison to the art world; the Turner Prize is one of the art worldâ€™s leading awards but is often ridiculed by the general public due to its inaccessibility to the lay man. While this comparison may seem extreme, just because some people in the specialist media say a game is fantastic does not mean that it should be forced upon the gaming world. Gaming is viewed as a pastime and not an art form by most players, they are attracted by titles that are appealing and accessible and may move on to more innovative titles later. So relax and listen to your motherâ€™s advice, eat your vegetables and EA is good for you![/b]
I'll give someone 20 Virtual Dollars if they read all that.