EA: The Studio Killer
Electronic Arts: the company known far and wide, especially nowadays when they don’t know how to stop being controversial. You’ve probably heard of them and have most likely disapproved of their actions. Their issues don’t just stem from loot boxes, though. One of their biggest problems is their devouring of smaller game studios, only to entirely destroy them down the line. They’ve been doing it for almost two decades and it’s an abhorrent business practice that most likely won’t stop any time soon.
The first company to be merged and ultimately wiped by the publisher was Bullfrog Productions, which was sold to EA in 1995. They were well known mostly for their god games and had their own unique style that hasn’t been replicated since. Some titles of merit are Dungeon Keeper, Populous, and Syndicate. They attempted to keep making games in their series’, only to be shut down on multiple occasions and manipulated by the higher ups of EA, followed by the destruction of the company in 2001 when they merged into EA UK.
Bullfrog was only the first victim, as another company of note, Origin Systems, was shut down in 2004. They were known for the Ultima series, which was an RPG series spanning from 1981 to as recent as 2013, although the latest game wasn’t made by the teams of the original games and was generally a cash-grab on an IP with name recognition. After EA acquired them in 1992, it was a rocky downhill trend. They lost traction with Ultima IX and EA cancelled three games in the works, including a sequel to the highly acclaimed Ultima Online.
Another creator, Pandemic Studios, known for games like Destroy All Humans and the original Star Wars Battlefront games, was shut down in 2009. They were acquired by EA in 2007 alongside BioWare, since they had been collaborating at the time. After joining the producing juggernaut, Pandemic Studios wasn’t able to make anymore Star Wars games due to issues with LucasArts, which made them cancel the third installment in the Battlefront series. Their last breath was taken when they attempted to make a Batman game to coincide with the Release of The Dark Knight. However, they couldn’t make a stable game and were downsized in 2008, and eventually closed entirely in 2009.
Are you getting the idea yet? They acquire these game companies, run them into the ground, mess with their production phase, and then blame them when things don’t go well. These companies thrived before EA stepped in and then they failed and got shut down. Working with EA is like a death sentence that nobody can truly escape. Depending on how BioWare does after the massive flop of Anthem will probably determine whether they live or die as a company.
Electronic Arts does have every right to shut down companies they acquire, especially if they’re continuously losing money from them, but that doesn’t excuse the cutthroat and downright uncharitable way they treat companies they buy. The ones I listed didn’t have a lot of time to prove their worth in the time that EA owned them and because of their meddling, a lot of games that had potential got cancelled for a myriad of reasons. However, that’s not to say that all companies had a short life with the publisher.
Visceral Games was always a part of EA, initially called EA Redwood Shores, and they served them for nearly twenty years. Most people will know them for the Dead Space series, which was very well received up to the third entry, which did well commercially, but didn’t meet the sales standards that EA wanted, and thus a fourth entry was cancelled. Visceral’s last attempt at making a game was with an untitled Star Wars game that had fans excited to see what would come of it, but had a rough development and EA began to lay people off. The game was cancelled not too long after and the studio was shut down entirely in 2017.
Electronic Arts is a publisher that’s received a myriad of love and hate over the years and none of this information will be used to shut them down, nor will people stop buying their games. The point of this article is to highlight the problem with their business practices, which should be criticized.
This is a company way more interested in making every cent, rather than making games that fans and newcomers alike will enjoy the most. The best example of this is their heavy use of micro transactions with free-to-play games. They even do this in full-priced games, which definitely shouldn’t have additional payments for characters, skins, and other unlockables.
At the end of the day, you’re free to enjoy the games that they publish, but just remember that they don’t care about you, gamers, or their own employees. They’re a heartless, soulless business and they shouldn’t be praised by any means.