Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) is an American video game company headquartered in Redwood City, California. Founded and incorporated on May 28, 1982 by Trip Hawkins, the company was a pioneer of the early home computer games industry and was notable for promoting the designers and programmers responsible for its games. As of September 2017, Electronic Arts is the second-largest gaming company in the Americas and Europe by revenue and market capitalization after Activision Blizzard and ahead of Take-Two Interactive, and Ubisoft. The company has sparked controversies over its advertising efforts, microtransactions, and acquisition of other studios.
Currently, EA develops and publishes games under several labels including EA Sports titles FIFA, Madden NFL, NHL, NCAA Football, NBA Live, and SSX. Other EA labels produce established franchises such as Battlefield, Need for Speed, The Sims, Medal of Honor, Command & Conquer, as well as newer franchises such as Crysis, Dead Space, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Army of Two, Titanfall and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, produced in partnership with LucasArts. EA also owns and operates major gaming studios, EA Tiburon in Orlando, EA Canada in Burnaby, BioWare in Edmonton as well as Montreal, and DICE in Sweden.
|Electronic Arts Inc.|
The EA headquarters building at Redwood City, California in May 2011.
|Industry||Video game industry|
|Founded||May 27, 1982 in San Mateo, California, U.S.|
|Headquarters||Redwood City, California, U.S.|
|Revenue||US$4.845 billion (2017)|
|US$1.224 billion (2017)|
|US$1.210 billion (2017)|
|Total assets||US$7.718 billion (2017)|
|Total equity||US$4.060 billion (2017)|
Number of employees
|Subsidiaries||List of Electronic Arts subsidiaries
EA Digital Illusions CE
The Sims Studio
The company began developing games in-house and supported consoles by the early 1990s. EA later grew via acquisition of several successful developers. By the early 2000s, EA had become one of the world's largest third-party publishers. On May 4, 2011, EA reported $3.8 billion in revenues for the fiscal year ending March 2011, and on January 13, 2012, EA announced that it had exceeded $1 billion in digital revenue during the previous calendar year. In a note to employees, EA CEO John Riccitiello called this "an incredibly important milestone" for the company. EA began to move toward direct distribution of digital games and services with the acquisition of the popular online gaming site Pogo.com in 2001. In 2009, EA acquired the London-based social gaming startup Playfish, and in June 2011, EA launched Origin, an online service to sell downloadable games directly to consumers. There is also a "On The House" feature in Origin that lets you download full versions of EA games for free, it is updated regularly. In July 2011, EA announced that it had acquired PopCap Games, the company behind hits such as Plants vs. Zombies and Bejeweled.
EA continued its shift toward digital goods in 2012, folding its mobile-focused EA Interactive (EAi) division "into other organizations throughout the company, specifically those divisions led by EA Labels president Frank Gibeau, COO Peter Moore, and CTO Rajat Taneja, and EVP of digital Kristian Segerstrale."
Trip Hawkins had been an employee of Apple Inc. since 1978, at a time when the company had only about fifty employees. Over the next four years, the market for home personal computers skyrocketed. By 1982, Apple had completed its initial public offering (IPO) and become a Fortune 500 company with over one thousand employees.
In February 1982, Trip Hawkins arranged a meeting with Don Valentine of Sequoia Capital to discuss financing his new venture, Amazin' Software. Valentine encouraged Hawkins to leave Apple, where Hawkins served as Director of Product Marketing, and allowed Hawkins use of Sequoia Capital's spare office space to start the company. On May 27, 1982, Trip Hawkins incorporated and established the company with a personal investment of an estimated US$200,000. The company was not named Amazin' Software, but instead Electronic Arts. Seven months later in December 1982, Hawkins secured US$2 million of venture capital from Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Sevin Rosen Funds.
For more than seven months, Hawkins refined his Electronic Arts business plan. With aid from his first employee (with whom he worked in marketing at Apple), Rich Melmon, the original plan was written, mostly by Hawkins, on an Apple II in Sequoia Capital's office in August 1982. During that time, Hawkins also employed two of his former staff from Apple, Dave Evans and Pat Marriott, as producers, and a Stanford MBA classmate, Jeff Burton from Atari for international business development. The business plan was again refined in September and reissued on October 8, 1982. By November, employee headcount rose to 11, including Tim Mott, Bing Gordon, David Maynard, and Steve Hayes. Having outgrown the office space provided by Sequoia Capital, the company relocated to a San Mateo office that overlooked the San Francisco Airport landing path. Headcount rose rapidly in 1983, including Don Daglow, Richard Hilleman, Stewart Bonn, David Gardner, and Nancy Fong.
Hawkins was determined to sell directly to buyers. Combined with the fact that Hawkins was pioneering new game brands, this made sales growth more challenging. Retailers wanted to buy known brands from existing distribution partners. Former CEO Larry Probst arrived as VP of Sales in late 1984 and helped the company sustain growth into US$18 million in its third full year. This policy of dealing directly with retailers gave EA higher margins and better market awareness, key advantages the company would leverage to leapfrog its early competitors.
In December 1986, David Gardner and Mark Lewkaspais moved to England to open a European headquarter. Up until that point publishing of Electronic Arts Games, and the conversion of many of their games to compact cassette versions in Europe was handled by Ariolasoft.
Most of the early employees of the company disliked the Amazin' Software name that Hawkins had originally chosen when he incorporated the company. While at Apple, Hawkins had enjoyed company offsite meetings at Pajaro Dunes and organized such a planning offsite for EA in October 1982.
Hawkins had developed the ideas of treating software as an art form and calling the developers, "software artists". Hence, the latest version of the business plan had suggested the name "SoftArt". However, Hawkins and Melmon knew the founders of Software Arts, the creators of VisiCalc, and thought their permission should be obtained. Dan Bricklin did not want the name used because it sounded too similar (perhaps "confusingly similar") to Software Arts. However, the name concept was liked by all the attendees. Hawkins had also recently read a best-selling book about the film studio, United Artists, and liked the reputation that the company had created. Early advisers Andy Berlin, Jeff Goodby, and Rich Silverstein (who would soon form their own ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners) were also fans of that approach, and the discussion was led by Hawkins and Berlin. Hawkins said everyone had a vote but they would lose it if they went to sleep.
Hawkins liked the word "electronic", and various employees had considered the phrases "Electronic Artists" and "Electronic Arts". Other candidates included Gordon's suggestion of "Blue Light", a reference from the Disney film Tron. When Gordon and others pushed for "Electronic Artists", in tribute to the film company United Artists, Steve Hayes opposed, saying, "We're not the artists, they are..." meaning that the developers whose games EA would publish were the artists. This statement from Hayes immediately tilted sentiment towards Electronic Arts and the name was unanimously endorsed.
A novel approach to giving credit to its developers was one of EA's trademarks in its early days. This characterization was even further reinforced with EA's packaging of most of their games in the "album cover" pioneered by EA because Hawkins thought that a record album style would both save costs and convey an artistic feeling. EA routinely referred to their developers as "artists" and gave them photo credits in their games and numerous full-page magazine ads. Their first such ad, accompanied by the slogan "We see farther," was the first video game advertisement to feature software designers. EA also shared lavish profits with their developers, which added to their industry appeal. The square "album cover" boxes (such as the covers for 1983's M.U.L.E. and Pinball Construction Set) were a popular packaging concept by Electronic Arts, which wanted to represent their developers as "rock stars".
In the mid-1980s Electronic Arts aggressively marketed products for the Commodore Amiga, a premier home computer of the late 1980s and early 1990s in Europe. Commodore had given EA development tools and prototype machines before Amiga's actual launch. For Amiga EA published some notable non-game titles. A drawing program Deluxe Paint (1985) and its subsequent versions became perhaps the most famous piece of software available for Amiga platform. Other Amiga programs released by EA included Deluxe Music Construction Set, Deluxe Paint Animation and Instant Music. Some of them, most notably Deluxe Paint, were ported to other platforms. For Macintosh EA released a black & white animation tool called Studio/1, and a series of Paint titles called Studio/8 and Studio/32 (1990).
In 1988 EA published a flight simulator game exclusively for Amiga, F/A-18 Interceptor, which received attention due to its vector graphics that were notable for 1988 standards. Another significant Amiga release (also initially available for Atari ST, later converted for numerous other platforms) was Populous (1989) developed by Bullfrog Productions. It was a pioneering and influential title in the genre that was later called "god games".
In 1990, Electronic Arts began producing console games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, after previously licensing its computer games to other console-game publishers. Eventually, Trip Hawkins left EA to found the now defunct 3DO Company.
In 1995 Electronic Arts won the European Computer Trade Show award for best software publisher of the year. As the company was still expanding, they opted to purchase space in Redwood Shores, California in 1995 for construction of a new headquarters, which was completed in 1998.
EA is headquartered in the Redwood Shores neighborhood of Redwood City, California. Following the retirement and departure of Trip Hawkins in 2000, EA replaced their long-running Shapes logo with one based on the EA Sports logo used at the time, and Larry Probst took over the reins. EA also started to use a brand-specific structure around this time, with the main publishing side of the company re-branding to EA Games. The EA Sports brand was retained for major sports titles, the new EA Sports Big label would be used for casual sports titles with an arcade twist, and the full Electronic Arts name would be used for co-published and distributed titles.
In 2004, EA made a multimillion-dollar donation to fund the development of game production curriculum at the University of Southern California's Interactive Media Division. On February 1, 2006, Electronic Arts announced that it would cut worldwide staff by 5 percent. On June 20, 2006 EA purchased Mythic Entertainment, who are finished making Warhammer Online.
After Sega's ESPN NFL 2K5 successfully grabbed market share away from EA's dominant Madden NFL series during the 2004 holiday season, EA responded by making several large sports licensing deals which include an exclusive agreement with the NFL, and in January 2005, a 15-year deal with ESPN. The ESPN deal gave EA exclusive first rights to all ESPN content for sports simulation games. On April 11, 2005, EA announced a similar, 6-year licensing deal with the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) for exclusive rights to college football content.
Much of EA's success, both in terms of sales and with regards to its stock market valuation, is due to its strategy of platform-agnostic development and the creation of strong multi-year franchises. EA was the first publisher to release yearly updates of its sports franchises—Madden, FIFA, NHL, NBA Live, Tiger Woods, etc.—with updated player rosters and small graphical and gameplay tweaks. Recognizing the risk of franchise fatigue among consumers, EA announced in 2006 that it would concentrate more of its effort on creating new original intellectual property.
In September 2006, Nokia and EA announced a partnership in which EA becomes an exclusive major supplier of mobile games to Nokia mobile devices through the Nokia Content Discoverer. In the beginning, Nokia customers were able to download seven EA titles (Tetris, Tetris Mania, The Sims 2, Doom, FIFA 06, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 and FIFA Street 2) on the holiday season in 2006. Rick Simonson is the executive vice president and director of Nokia and starting from 2006 is affiliated with John Riccitiello and are partners.
In February 2007, Probst stepped down from the CEO job while remaining on the Board of Directors. His handpicked successor is John Riccitiello, who had worked at EA for several years previously, departed for a while, and then returned. Riccitiello previously worked for Elevation Partners, Sara Lee and PepsiCo. In June 2007, new CEO John Riccitiello announced that EA would reorganize itself into four labels, each with responsibility for its own product development and publishing (the city-state model). The goal of the reorganization was to empower the labels to operate more autonomously, streamline decision-making, increase creativity and quality, and get games into the market faster. This reorganization came after years of consolidation and acquisition by EA of smaller studios, which some in the industry blamed for a decrease in quality of EA titles. In 2008, at the DICE Summit, Riccitiello called the earlier approach of "buy and assimilate" a mistake, often stripping smaller studios of its creative talent. Riccitiello said that the city-state model allows independent developers to remain autonomous to a large extent, and cited Maxis and BioWare as examples of studios thriving under the new structure.
Also, in 2007, EA announced that it would be bringing some of its major titles to the Macintosh. EA has released Battlefield 2142, Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars, Crysis, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Madden NFL 08, Need for Speed: Carbon and Spore for the Mac. All of the new games have been developed for the Macintosh using Cider, a technology developed by TransGaming that enables Intel-based Macs to run Windows games inside a translation layer running on Mac OS X. They are not playable on PowerPC-based Macs.
In October 2007, EA purchased Super Computer International, a long-standing industry provider of game server hosting for development studios, who were currently developing the new Playlinc software. A week later they then purchased VG Holding Corp, the parent company of BioWare and Pandemic Studios.
It was revealed in February 2008 that Electronic Arts had made a takeover bid for rival game company Take-Two Interactive. After its initial offer of US$25 per share, all cash stock transaction offer was rejected by the Take-Two board, EA revised it to US$26 per share, a 64% premium over the previous day's closing price and made the offer known to the public. Rumours had been floating around the Internet prior to the offer about Take-Two possibly being bought over by a bigger company, albeit with Viacom as the potential bidder. In May 2008, EA announced that it will purchase the assets of Hands-On Mobile Korea, a South Korean mobile game developer and publisher. The company will become EA Mobile Korea. In September 2008, EA dropped its buyout offer of Take-Two. No reason was given.
In 2008, Electronic Arts retired the EA Sports Big label and replaced it with EA Sports Freestyle, which would focus exclusively on casual sports games, regardless of genre. The label was only used for 3 games until being quietly retired.
As of November 6, 2008 it was confirmed that Electronic Arts is closing their Casual Label & merging it with their Hasbro partnership with The Sims Label. EA also confirmed the departure of Kathy Vrabeck, who was given the position as former president of the EA Casual Division in May 2007. EA made this statement about the merger: "We've learned a lot about casual entertainment in the past two years, and found that casual gaming defies a single genre and demographic. With the retirement and departure of Kathy Vrabeck, EA is reorganizing to integrate casual games—development and marketing—into other divisions of our business. We are merging our Casual Studios, Hasbro partnership, and Casual marketing organization with The Sims Label to be a new Sims and Casual Label, where there is a deep compatibility in the product design, marketing and demographics. [...] In the days and weeks ahead, we will make further announcements on the reporting structure for the other businesses in the Casual Label including EA Mobile, Pogo, Media Sales and Online Casual Initiatives. Those businesses remain growth priorities for EA and deserve strong support in a group that will compliment their objectives." This statement comes a week after EA announced it was laying off 6% about 600 of their staff positions and had a US$310 million net loss for the quarter.
Due to the 2008 Economic Crisis, Electronic Arts had a poorer than expected 2008 holiday season, moving it in February 2009 to cut approximately 1100 jobs, which it said represented about 11% of its workforce. It also closed 12 of their facilities. Riccitiello, in a conference call with reporters, stated that their poor performance in the fourth quarter was not due entirely to the poor economy, but also to the fact that they did not release any blockbuster titles in the quarter. In the quarter ending December 31, 2008, the company lost US$641 million. As of early May 2009, the subsidiary studio EA Redwood Shores was known as Visceral Games. On June 24, 2009, EA announced it will merge two of its development studios, BioWare and Mythic into one single role-playing video game and MMO development powerhouse. The move will actually place Mythic under control of BioWare as Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk will be in direct control of the new entity. By fall 2012, both Muzyka and Zeschuk had chosen to depart the merged entity in a joint retirement announcement.
On November 9, 2009, EA announced its acquisition of social casual games developer Playfish for US$275 million. On the same day, the company announced layoffs of 1500 employees, representing 17% of its workforce, across a number of studios including EA Tiburon, Visceral Games, Mythic and EA Black Box. Also affected were "projects and support activities" that, according to Chief Financial Officer Eric Brown "don't make economic sense", resulting in the shutdown of popular communities such as Battlefield News at the Wayback Machine (archived January 12, 2006) and the EA Community Team at the Wayback Machine (archived February 5, 2009). These layoffs also led to the complete shutdown of Pandemic Studios.
In October 2010, EA announced the acquisition of England-based iPhone and iPad games publisher Chillingo for US$20 million in cash. Chillingo published the popular Angry Birds for iOS and Cut the Rope for all platforms, but the deal did not include those properties, so Cut the Rope became published by ZeptoLab, and Angry Birds became published by Rovio Entertainment.
On March 18, 2013, John Riccitello announced that he would be stepping down as CEO and a member of the Board of Directors on March 30, 2013. Larry Probst was also appointed executive chairman on the same day.
In April 2013, EA announced a reorganization which was to include dismissal of 10% of their workforce, consolidation of marketing functions which were distributed among the five label organizations, and subsumption of Origin operational leadership under the President of Labels. In May 2013, EA announced that they had partnered with Disney to release Star Wars games from 2013 to 2023 exclusively. EA's subsidiaries including BioWare, DICE, Visceral Games, Motive Studios, Capital Games and external developer Respawn Entertainment, were responsible in creating new video games set in the Star Wars universe. Andrew Wilson was appointed the CEO of EA. In April 2015, EA announced that it would be shutting down various free-to-play games in July of that year, including Battlefield Heroes, Battlefield Play4Free, Need for Speed: World, and FIFA World.
During E3 2015, vice president of the company, Patrick Söderlund, announced that the company will start investing more on smaller titles such as Unravel so as to broaden the company's portfolio. On December 10, 2015, EA announced a new division called Competitive Gaming Division, which focuses on creating competitive game experience and organizing ESports events. It was once headed by Peter Moore.
In May 2016, Electronic Arts announced that they had formed a new internal division called Frostbite Labs. The new department specializes in creating new projects for virtual reality platforms, and "virtual humans". The new department is located in Stockholm and Vancouver.
In January 2018, EA through it Competitive Gaming Division (CGD) and MLS announced eMLS a new competitive league for EA Sports' FIFA 18 That same month, EA through it Competitive Gaming Division arm teamed up with ESPN and Disney XD in a multi-year pact to broadcast Madden NFL competitive matches across the World
EA is headed by chairman Larry Probst and CEO Andrew Wilson. Many have attributed former CEO John Riccitiello's success in leading EA to his passion as a gamer. Electronic Arts has four main labels (divisions), with numerous studios falling under each one.
Formerly EA Games, Home to the largest number of studio and development teams, this label is responsible for action-adventure, role playing, racing and combat games, marketed under the EA brand. In addition to traditional packaged-goods games, EA Worldwide Studios also develops massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Led by Patrick Söderlund.
Publishes all the realistic, casual, and freestyle sports-based titles from EA, including FIFA Football, Madden NFL, Fight Night, NBA Live, NCAA Football, Cricket, NCAA March Madness, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, NHL Hockey, NASCAR and Rugby. Led by Patrick Söderlund.
Known for The Sims series, EA Maxis develops and markets life-simulation games and online communities. The label is headquartered at EA's campus in Redwood Shores. Maxis' original studio in Emeryville was closed in March 2015 and the EA Salt Lake studio was closed in April 2017. The studio now sits under the leadership of the SVP of EA Mobile. The label had previously been renamed EA Play.
EA Competitive Gaming Division (CGD) founded in 2015 by Peter Moore and currently headed by Todd Sitrin, is the group dedicated on enabling global eSports competitions on EA's biggest franchises including FIFA, Madden NFL, Battlefield and more. The CGD will be built around three core pillars:
The Search for Extraordinary Experiences Division (SEED) was revealed at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2017 as a technology research division and incubator, using tools like deep learning and neural networks to bring in player experiences and other external factors to help them with developing more immersive narratives and games. SEED has offices in Los Angeles and Stockholm.
The EA Partners co-publishing program was dedicated to publishing and distributing games developed by third-party developers. Notable publishing/distribution agreements include:
EA Originals is a program within Electronic Arts to help support independently-developed video games. The program was announced at EA's press event at the 2016 E3 Conference, and builds upon the success they had with Unravel by Coldwood Interactive in 2015. The first game to be supported under this program is Fe by Zoink, with plans for release in 2018. It will be followed by Sea of Solitude by Jo-Mei Games and A Way Out by Hazelight Studios.
Some of the most notable and popular games of video game history have been published by EA, and many of these are listed below. Though EA published these titles, they did not always develop them; some were developed by independent game development studios. EA developed their first internally developed game in 1987.
During its period of fastest growth, EA was often criticized for buying smaller development studios primarily for their intellectual property assets, and then producing drastically changed games of their franchises. For example, Origin-produced Ultima VIII: Pagan and Ultima IX: Ascension were developed quickly under EA's ownership, over the protests of Ultima creator Richard Garriott, and these two are widely considered to be sub-par compared to the rest of the series.
I'll admit that, if you asked me years ago, I still had thoughts that EA was the Evil Empire, the company that crushes the small studios...I'd have been surprised, if you told me a year ago that we'd end up with EA as a publisher. When we went out and talked to people, especially EA Partners people like Valve, we got almost uniformly positive responses from them.
Like other EA Partners, such as Harmonix/MTV Games, Carmack stressed that EA Partners deal "isn't really a publishing arrangement. Instead, they really offer a menu of services—Valve takes one set of things, Crytek takes a different set, and we're probably taking a third set".
EA was criticized for shutting down some of its acquired studios after they released poorly performing games (for instance, Origin). Though, in some of the cases, the shutdown was merely a reformation of teams working at different small studios into a single studio. In the past, Magic Carpet 2 was rushed to completion over the objections of designer Peter Molyneux and it shipped during the holiday season with several major bugs. Studios such as Origin and Bullfrog Productions had previously produced games attracting significant fanbases. Many fans also became annoyed that their favorite developers were closed down, but some developers, for example the EALA studio, have stated that they try to carry on the legacy of the old studio (Westwood Studios). Once EA received criticism from labor groups for its dismissals of large groups of employees during the closure of a studio. However, later, it was confirmed that layoffs were not heavily confined to one team or another, countering early rumors that the teams were specifically targeted—countering the implication that the under performance of certain games might have been the catalyst.
EA was once criticized for the acquisition of 19.9 percent of shares of its competitor Ubisoft, a move that Ubisoft's then spokesperson initially described as a "hostile act". However, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot later indicated that a merger with EA was a possibility, stating, "The first option for us is to manage our own company and grow it. The second option is to work with the movie industry, and the third is to merge." However, in July 2010, EA elected to sell its reduced 15 percent share in Ubisoft. That share equated to roughly €94 million (US$122 million).
In 2004, Electronic Arts was criticized for employees working extraordinarily long hours, up to 100 hours per week, as a routine practice rather than occasionally to meet critical goals such as release of a major new product. The publication of the EA Spouse blog, with criticisms such as "The current mandatory hours are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.—seven days a week—with the occasional Saturday evening off for good behavior (at 6:30 PM)." The company has since settled a class action lawsuit brought by game artists to compensate for unpaid overtime. The class was awarded US$15.6 million. As a result, many of the lower-level developers (artists, programmers, producers, and designers) are now working at an hourly rate. A similar suit brought by programmers was settled for US$14.9 million.
Since these criticisms first aired, it has been reported that EA has taken steps to address work-life balance concerns by focusing on long-term project planning, compensation, and communication with employees. These efforts accelerated with the arrival of John Riccitiello as CEO in February 2007. In December 2007, an internal EA employee survey showed a 13% increase in employee morale and a 21% increase in perception of management recognition over a three-year period.
In May 2008, "EA Spouse" blog author Erin Hoffman, speaking to videogame industry news site Gamasutra, stated that EA had made significant progress, but may now be falling into old patterns again. Hoffman said that "I think EA is tremendously reformed, having made some real strong efforts to get the right people into their human resources department", and "I've been hearing from people who have gotten overtime pay there and I think that makes a great deal of difference. In fact, I've actually recommended to a few people I know to apply for jobs there", but she also said she has begun to hear "horror stories" once again.
For 2006, the games review aggregation site Metacritic gives the average of EA games as 72.0 (out of 100); 2.5 points behind Nintendo (74.5) but ahead of the other first-party publishers Microsoft (71.6) and Sony (71.2). The closest third-party publisher is Take-Two Interactive (publishing as 2K Games and Rockstar Games) at 70.3. The remaining top 10 publishers (Sega, THQ, Ubisoft, Activision, Square Enix) all rate in the mid 60s. Since 2005, EA has published eight games that received "Universal Acclaim" in at least one platform (Metacritic score 90 or greater): Battlefield 2, Crysis, Rock Band, FIFA 12, FIFA 13, Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3, and Dragon Age: Origins.
EA's aggregate review performance had shown a downward trend in quality over recent years and was expected to affect market shares during competitive seasons. Pacific Crest Securities analyst Evan Wilson had said, "Poor reviews and quality are beginning to tarnish the EA brand. According to our ongoing survey of GameRankings.com aggregated review data, Electronic Arts' overall game quality continues to fall... Although market share has not declined dramatically to date, in years such as 2007, which promises to have tremendous competition, it seems likely if quality does not improve."
EA had also received criticism for developing games that lack innovation vis-à-vis the number of gaming titles produced under the EA brand that show a history of yearly updates, particularly in their sporting franchises. These typically retail as new games at full market price and feature only updated team rosters in addition to incremental changes to game mechanics, the user interface, and graphics. One critique compared EA to companies like Ubisoft and concluded that EA's innovation in new and old IPs "Crawls along at a snail's pace," while even the company's own CEO, John Riccitiello, acknowledged the lack of innovation seen in the industry generally, saying, "We're boring people to death and making games that are harder and harder to play. For the most part, the industry has been rinse-and-repeat. There's been lots of product that looked like last year's product, that looked a lot like the year before." EA has announced that it is turning its attention to creating new game IPs in order to stem this trend, with recently acquired and critically acclaimed studios BioWare and Pandemic would be contributing to this process. In 2012, EA’s games were ranked highest of all large publishers in the industry, according to Metacritic.
On December 19, 2013, EA was hit with a class action lawsuit over the bugs in the Battlefield 4 DLC. EA issued a statement regarding the various issues and bugs of the game and promised players that these issues would be fixed before the launch of the next generation consoles. This was not the case as players on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One had the same problems. The problems were so severe that they made certain parts of the game unplayable due to campaign save files being corrupted and players being unable to start or join multiplayer servers. Players expressed their outrage on the forums of Battlelog, EA Answers HQ and social news sites such as Reddit. EA DICE responded by apologizing for the bugs and promising that they would halt all production of the release of new DLC packages until they fixed the various problems.
On June 5, 2008, a lawsuit was filed in Oakland, California alleging Electronic Arts is breaking United States anti-trust laws by signing exclusive contracts with the NFL Players Association, the NCAA and Arena Football League, to use players' names, likenesses and team logos. This keeps other companies from being able to sign the same agreements. The suit further accuses EA of raising the price of games associated with these licenses as a result of this action. In an interview with GameTap, Peter Moore said it was the NFL that sought the deal. "To be clear, the NFL was the entity that wanted the exclusive relationship. EA bid, as did a number of other companies, for the exclusive relationship", Moore said. "It wasn't on our behest that this went exclusive... We bid and we were very fortunate and lucky and delighted to be the winning licensee." While EA argued the player's likenesses was incidentally used, this was rejected by the United States Courts of Appeals in 2015. A further appeal to the US Supreme Court was unsuccessful. In June 2016, EA settled with Jim Brown for $600,000.
On September 26, 2013, EA settled a series of wide-ranging class action lawsuits filed by former NCAA players accusing EA and others of unauthorized use of player likenesses in their football and basketball games. EA settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount. The settlement is reported to be around $40 million, to be paid to between 200,000 and 300,000 players.
In the September 2008 release of EA's game Spore it was revealed that the DRM scheme included a program called SecuROM and a lifetime machine-activation limit of three (3) instances. A huge public outcry over this DRM scheme broke out over the Internet and swarmed Amazon.com with one-star ratings and critical reviews of the game in order to get EA to "pay attention to their consumers". This DRM scheme, which was intended to hinder the efforts of infringers to illegally use and distribute EA software, instead mainly affected paying customers, as the game itself was copied and distributed well before release. On September 13, 2008, it was announced (by TorrentFreak's statistics) that Spore was the most torrented game ever with over half a million illegal downloads within the first week of release. In response to customer reaction, EA officially announced its release of upcoming Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 would increase the installation limit to 5 rather than 3.
On September 22, 2008, a global class action lawsuit was filed against EA regarding the DRM in Spore, complaining about EA not disclosing the existence of SecuROM in the game manual, and addressing how SecuROM runs with the nature of a rootkit, including how it remains on the hard drive even after Spore is uninstalled. On October 14, 2008, a similar class action lawsuit was filed against EA for the inclusion of DRM software in the free demo version of the Creature Creator.
On March 31, 2009, EA released a "De-Authorization Management Tool" that allows customers who have installed games containing the SecuROM activation scheme to "de-authorize" a computer, freeing up one of the five machine "slots" to be used on another machine.
On June 24, 2009, EA announced a change in its approach to preventing copyright infringement of PC games. While eliminating the DRM that uniquely identifies a machine, the plan described a replacement with a traditional CD-key check. With an emphasis on downloaded content, the plan moved toward software as a service. In 2013, EA received criticism regarding its persistent online authentication system as implemented in the SimCity reboot.
In 2009, EA arranged a fake protest outside the Electronic Entertainment Expo to draw attention to the game Dante's Inferno. Ostensibly Christian protestors bore placards objecting to the game's themes involving hell and damnation, and it was not clear until several days later that the event had been staged. Several Christian bloggers criticized the event for perpetuating negative stereotypes about Christians.
A 2011 advertising campaign for Dead Space 2 featured older women reacting negatively to the game with the campaign slogan "Your mom hates Dead Space 2". Two hundred women had been selected for their conservative values and lack of familiarity with video games, and their reactions to a screening of the game were featured in EA's web and TV advertisements. The campaign was at first admired, but soon described as sexist and ageist, with some claiming that it was reinforcing outdated stereotypes against female and older gamers. As of 2010, 40% of video game players were women and the average game player was 34 years old.
On February 24, 2011, the Extra Credits team (at the time on The Escapist) published the episode "An Open Letter to EA Marketing", denouncing Electronic Arts' marketing decisions for the Dante's Inferno, Medal of Honor and Dead Space 2 releases. They argue that EA's decisions to hire fake protesters and market games solely on shock value, while neglecting to defend the Medal of Honor on a First Amendment basis for letting the player play as the Taliban, have been hurtful to the gaming industry. They also argue that the advertisements are counterproductive to Electronic Arts' wishes to elevate games to an art medium as demonstrated in the 1980s Electronic Arts ad 'Can a Computer Make You Cry?'.
Mass Effect 3's ending was poorly received by both critics and fans due to the inconsistencies between statements by BioWare staff during the game's development and the form the endings ultimately took. Displeased by the ending, one player took his complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, the agency created to protect consumers. His argument was that BioWare did not deliver on the promise of its game, saying the end product did not match with the advertising campaign and PR interviews for the game. The U.S. Better Business Bureau also responded to the controversy, supporting claims by fans that BioWare falsely advertised the player's "complete" control over the game's final outcome. The United Kingdom's Advertising Standards Authority disagreed, ruling that EA and BioWare were not guilty of false advertisement since the endings were "thematically quite different", and the choices and readiness rating reflected in the ending content were significant enough to avoid actionable misleading of consumers under existing law.
According to Reddit administrator /u/Sporkicide and the user /u/Unwanted_Commentary, who is a former moderator of /r/StarWarsBattlefront—a subreddit devoted to the 2015 Star Wars Battlefront—moderators removed posts critical of the game at the direction of EA personnel in exchange for pre-release access to the game.
The positive portrayals of LGBT characters in games by EA subsidiary BioWare have motivated fan support and also backlash. The company claimed that several employees involved in Dragon Age II received hate mail and threats following its release. BioWare lead writer David Gaider responded to a fan upset by the game's bisexual romances, denying the fan's ability to speak for all straight male gamers and writing, "the person who says that the only way to please them is to restrict options for others is, if you ask me, the one who deserves it least."
Over the years from 2006 through 2012, various quotes both truly and falsely attributed to BioWare writer Jennifer Hepler were circulated online by fans who considered her emblematic of their complaints. After one quote from a 2006 interview was used to link Hepler with unpopular changes to Dragon Age II's combat systems, Hepler was harassed by telephone and online. The issue tapped into longstanding discontent over games being simplified to appeal to broader audiences. Backlash was also related to Hepler's writing for Anders, the character that prompted the "straight male gamer" complaint. According to Susana Polo in The Mary Sue, Hepler's gender may have intensified the harassment she experienced, but it was more directly the result of her being scapegoated for EA's pivot towards casual gamers.
EA refused to abandon plans to add gay romances to Star Wars: The Old Republic that were opposed by the Family Research Council. An online petition gathered more than 60,000 signatures in support of EA's decision before the petition became compromised by automated spam signatures. The automated signatures were discovered by Reddit and 4chan users, who accused EA of using the issue to link broader criticism of EA with homophobia. When eventually added to the game, the same-sex romances were ridiculed for being confined to a single "gay planet".
In April 2012, The Consumerist awarded EA with the title of "Worst Company in America" along with a ceremonial Golden Poo trophy. The record-breaking poll drew in more than 250,000 votes and saw EA beating out such regulars as AT&T and Walmart. The final round of voting pitted EA against Bank of America. EA won with 50,575 votes or 64.03%. This result came in the aftermath of the Mass Effect 3 ending controversy which several commentators viewed as a significant contribution to EA's win in the poll. Other explanations include use of day-one DLC and EA's habit of acquiring smaller developers to squash competition. EA spokesman John Reseburg responded to the poll by saying, "We're sure that bank presidents, oil, tobacco and weapons companies are all relieved they weren't on the list this year. We're going to continue making award-winning games and services played by more than 300 million people worldwide."
In April 2013, EA won The Consumerist's poll for "Worst Company in America" a second time, consecutively, becoming the first company to do so. Games mentioned in the announcement included the critically controversial Mass Effect 3 for its ending, Dead Space 3 for its use of micro transactions, and the more recent SimCity reboot due to its poorly handled launch. Additionally, poor customer support, "nickel and diming", and public dismissiveness of criticisms were also given as explanations for the results of the poll. The Consumerist summarized the results by asking, "When we live in an era marked by massive oil spills, faulty foreclosures by bad banks, and rampant consolidation in the airline and telecom industry, what does it say about EA’s business practices that so many people have — for the second year in a row — come out to hand it the title of Worst Company in America?"
When asked about the poll by VentureBeat, Frank Gibeau, President of EA Labels, responded "we take it seriously, and want to see it change. In the last few months, we have started making changes to the business practices that gamers clearly don’t like." Gibeau attributes the elimination of online passes, the decision to make The Sims 4 a single-player, offline experience, as well as the unveiling of more new games to the shift in thinking. "The point is we are listening, and we are changing," Gibeau said.
In November 2017, Star Wars Battlefront II's loot box system caused controversy over monetization. During the beta trials, EA introduced a loot box monetization system criticized as giving substantial benefits to players who purchased them with real money. One Reddit post garnered a response from an EA community manager. That response was widely criticized by readers and received over 670,000 downvotes, more than any post in the history of Reddit.
After a massive gamer outcry, EA responded to the issue in escalating attempts to rebalance the in-game reward progression and, when complaints continued, temporarily disabled the ability to purchase loot boxes with real money entirely. It was alleged that the Star Wars rights holder, the Walt Disney Company, requested EA take that final step.
The outcry had a reverberating effect on other EA titles with similarly-styled loot box systems, such as Need for Speed Payback. It also had an effect on the games industry as a whole, with several politicians and related agencies making statements on loot boxes being a form of gambling needing regulation.
In 2013, EA released Dungeon Keeper Mobile leading to a controversy that the game was designed to manipulate store ratings. The game would prompt users to rate it, with 5-star ratings claiming it would support the game with free updates. When the user selected ratings less than 5, the game did not actually register the rating with the store front, instead sending an email. This led to accusations of EA fraudulently manipulating the game's rating system and its subsequent score on mobile storefronts.
In 2008, Pinball Construction Set was awarded at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for User Generated Content/Game Modification