I liked Need For Speed franchise. Especially NFS II (1997!) which allowed us to play on splitted screen (joys of keyboard ghosting!) and NFS 4 « High Stakes » which was quite fun over LAN. When Electronic Arts published NFS 5, all dedicated to Porsche, it already looked to me that marketting was taking over gaming. Then, in 2003, my brother got us NFS 7 « Underground ». Aside from the fact that the campaign was overly too much in so many ways (drifting? WTF), we were mostly expecting to play it over then LAN.
But, no, EA Games decided not to provide any mean of playing over LAN. Only over internet, with two different serial numbers, for say for $60 x2. Yes, at this time, there was a grey area: games were expensives and so we were used to play on LAN with a single copy; the transition to a model were each played have a cheaper copy was not even started. But most software publisher were providing you with the two options, a copy per player over the web, a copy for anyone over the LAN. Most, but not EA.
At this point, I decided I’ll never (knowingly) buy any other game published by EA Games. Ever. Not only they were shipping half-baked games, unpatched and with no decent support after release, but it was obvious most of their questionables choices were dictacted by marketting issue above anything else. The contrary to what some companies like Valve started doing.
It happened since then that I bought, by mistake, games they release, just like Mass Effect 2, because it’s a good game. The game itself is good. Indeed. However, this game released in 2010 no longer run with the latest version of PhysX: in order to run the game, you have to uninstall any recent version of this SDK and then reinstall one from 2010. This is just so wrong – the issue and the workaround are. And anything related to networking is crap: you have to enter your email address for networked features but this thingy is not even able to sync and save your profile/savegames (what does it even serve, aside from giving you achievements of not so much?). With Mass Effect 3, they even decided to force you to play to the multiplayer component of the game, which you may have no interest into as it is supposedly a story-driven game, in order to be able to reach the best possible endings. I don’t think there is any valid reason to force such thing except if you want to forbid players with cracked copies to access the best possible endings/part of the game experience.
Origin seems like a pile of horseshit too. It’s logical for such a company to put up a content delivery system similar to Valve’s Steam. It would have been so dumb not to. They could have started smoothly, going progressively, providing a thing so great that user would use it over others because of its intrinsic quality. But no, while the thing is not even able to register retail serial keys of game published by EA before 2009 (!), even if the game is available on Origin -and that’s just an example- they decided to force usage of Origin for new games, by removing them from other platforms.
I could endlessly provide example of annoying things done by EA. You can never be 100% happy with a company – and that’s not my point. The point is I have the strong feeling that anytime I have an issue with EA, it’s not because the developers felt the game should be different than what I would have wanted/expected, it’s not because I was expecting something too hard to implement. It’s just that, each time, when a feature is removed, when a feature lacks decent support, it’s just because it’s somehow related to digital rights managements/serial keys, it’s just because it obviously helps them to restrict their user base to the ones that gave their money first. And when I feel pressured to give money in order to, maybe, have a little fun, I really feel I should avoid giving money. When CD Projekt advocates that game developers should invest more in games and less in DRM, when Valves publish software updates for games released in 2009, I’m glad that I bought their games, I’m glad to give them money and I’ll continue to do so. And that’s the thing with EA, each time I give them money, I feel gently raped. And even if it’s gentle, unwanted sex isn’t pleasant.
So when I read that EA is in trouble, that their CEO is resigning, and all of that is about cash, I’m glad. I understand that some people are afraid that such a big boat could kill plenty while sinking, for instance Bioware. But that’s not an issue to me. Games come from the mind of great developers, designers, artists. They’ll find other companies to employ them or they’ll create such companies. Valve, CD Projekt, etc, seem to be able to make a decent living, there is a way to play nice and be rewarded. Software industry don’t have to be crooked and obsessed with money, don’t have to always stink and burn, to actually make money.