It's no secret that Electronic Arts (EA) is going through a rough time right now. Even analysts are calling out the company's financial performance, with people like Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter saying, "After 20 months of believing that the EA turnaround was just around the corner, our patience and confidence has eroded."
That said, the company is having one of its best years ever from a critical standpoint. CEO John Riccitiello recently pointed out that the company published 17 games this year with a Metacritic average of 80 or above.
In recent years, EA has made a commitment to publishing original games, new franchises, and quality titles. That commitment has paid off with games like Left 4 Dead, Spore, Mirror's Edge, Skate, Boom Blox, Dead Space, and more. That dedication can be seen in EA's partnerships with top-quality developers like id, Starbreeze, and (most recently) Double Fine. Even id's outspoken John Carmack has said that EA is no longer the "Evil Empire" and that, "When we went out and talked to people, especially EA Partners people like Valve, we got almost uniformly positive responses from them."
In short, EA has quickly become one of gaming's creative powerhouses, but will its poor financial performance ultimately cause it to revert to the "Evil Empire"???
Few people predicted that the global economy would be in its current state. Obviously, the financial crises has impacted the video-game business. The reactionary and short sighted thing for EA to do would be to revert back to the EA of old -- the aforementioned "Evil Empire". This was the company that took sequelitis and licensed drivel to a new high (low?). The distinction of the "House That Sequels Built" currently belongs to Activision, as TheFeed's Brian Leahy and X-Play's Adam Sessler pointed out.
While several of EA's woes have been heavily reported, Activision's CEO has been nominated for Market Watch's CEO of the year award. This sends an unfortunate message to the gaming business. While the economy is certainly responsible for many of EA's woes, several detractors are going to point to the company taking risks on original franchises as a big reason for its current maladies. Essentially, EA is being punished for attempting to be creative and original, while Activision is being lauded for playing it safe.
I truly hope that EA's shareholders understand that launching new franchises is a long-term strategy that has potential benefits in the long haul. I truly hope that despite its numerous problems, EA continues to push for creativity and sign partnerships with innovative developers. My big fear is that shortsighted thinking will win the day and the "Evil Empire" will rise once more.
What do you ladies and gentlemen think? Will EA continue to take risks? Or will the "Evil Empire" return?