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The Consumerist Explains Why EA Was Awarded the Golden Poo for 2012

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By , dealnews contributor

That stench you smell wafting through cyberspace comes from yet another Golden Poo Award bestowed by readers of The Consumerist, the website that dishes consumer advice and activism with attitude. This year, after weeding out an entire March Madness-style bracket of companies, more than 250,000 voters placed an unlikely winner atop the polling results for Worst Company in America: Electronic Arts, a video game company known for Madden NFL, The SIMs, Medal of Honor, and Need for Speed.

"Now, after years of being ignored and relegated to steerage, game-players have voted to send a message to Electronic Arts and the gaming business as a whole: Stop treating your loyal customers like crap," the award announcement reads. Not that EA took the message seriously; it bypassed The Consumerist and responded to the dubious honor via Kotaku.com with this statement: "We're sure that British Petroleum, AIG, Philip Morris, and Halliburton are all relieved they weren't nominated this year. We're going to continue making award-winning games and services played by more than 300 million people worldwide."

Consumerist Deputy Editor Chris Morran spoke to dealnews about the Golden Poo Award, what it could mean for EA, and what it says about their track record with gamers.

Why is it such a big deal for EA to win the Golden Poo?

Morran: In the seven years of our doing Worst Company in America, this is the first time a major video game company has been in the bracket. This was really a chance for gamers — [who are] a much larger group than the mainstream media recognizes — to vent some anger against these gaming companies that nickel and dime them. Compared to DVDs and music, video games have gone up in [starting] price; they have maintained $50 and $60 [price points] for new games, and a lot of people blame EA because they have some of the most popular titles and exclusives on releases. EA has had this exclusive on the NFL, and no one can come in and offer video games based on the NFL for less.

Apparently you got some backlash from your own non-gaming readers. Tell us about that.

Morran: After the results were announced last week, we got some heat from people [suggesting] that we were bowing to a bunch of sweaty nerds in their parents' basements. But think of all the people who play Angry Birds on their phones each day. The gaming industry is huge, and yet it is still relegated to an image of being only for nerds. And yet every mother I know has a Wii or an Xbox 360 somewhere.

What else has consumers fed up with EA?

Morran: Another thing that really annoys game players is EA's acquisition of smaller companies just to get their intellectual property. They either run these companies into the ground, or make them just another cog in the EA machine. It's hard to compete. If you develop a good game and your company is struggling, and someone is willing to buy your company for millions of dollars, it's got to be tempting to take that cash. But it's a sort of bullying tactic if you think about it.

Gamers are responsible for much of the advancement in computer technology, and it's big business. But people don't seem to take it seriously when gaming companies run afoul of consumers. Why is that?

Morran: [Video games] get no respect from the mainstream media, or lawmakers. Games only make the news when a new one comes out, and it's the last two minutes of the newscast. But this is a multi-billion dollar industry that is being largely ignored.

Gamers also seem to think that EA is more interested in making money than great games. What evidence do they cite?

Morran: With the Mass Effect series [originally developed by Canadian company BioWare], someone did a calculation that it would cost $800 to purchase every version of the game. The first two games in the series were so well done, that when it came to the end, a lot of people blamed EA for creating a crappy ending. Whether that came from the top down or some company that was part of EA, a lot of people blamed EA for the result.

EA doesn't seem all that concerned, though. What did you make of their response?

Morran: It was incredibly flip. Are they the most evil company on America? Probably not. But this was not just a couple of people voting. It was a large poll and enough people rallied together to say, "EA, you stink." Instead of being apologetic, or even reflective, they named companies that have already won the tournament and said, "We're not as bad as them." But if 200,000-plus people vote and call you the worst company in America, you deny it and you shrug it off?

At what peril does EA ignore what's happened here?

Morran: With a company like EA, they may not realize what a perilous position they're in, especially in terms of the shifting market. The gaming industry is about to get hit in the same way that the music industry was hit when MP3s became popular. A majority of expensive games are currently shipped on discs to gaming consoles. But some companies are now making games that can be downloaded or put on a cloud. The distribution cost is really dropping and it will soon become minimal. Resolution on the iPad will drive more tablet-based gaming and cloud gaming, and, in a few years, a company like EA could find themselves on the outside looking in.

So does EA really get a trophy that looks like fresh droppings from a Great Dane?

Morran: We will send them the Golden Poo. We always do. Bank of America lost by less than a percentage point last year, so we initiated the Silver Poo. And this year we initiated the Bronze Poo, and AT&T will be the first winner of that award. Bank of America again won the Silver Poo, though I thought they would win the gold hands-down. But the grassroots effort behind EA was amazing. The last time I saw something like this was in 2008, when Countrywide won.

A large portion of dealnews readers are well-versed in the gaming world (maybe because they don't have to pay full-price for those EA titles since they're scouting out video game deals?), so we want to know what you think of this year's Worst Company in America. Do you agree with the readers of The Consumerist? Have you had personal grievances with EA's practices?

Front page photo credit: Denver PR Blog
Photo credits top to bottom: Hexus, JCCGV.bc.ca, and What Culture


Lou Carlozo is a dealnews contributing writer. He covers personal finance for Reuters Wealth, and was most recently the managing editor of WalletPop.com, and before that a veteran columnist at the Chicago Tribune.

Follow @dealnewsfeature on Twitter for the latest roundups, price trend info, and stories. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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15 comments
SweetYuya
Worst company in America? Eh, that's a bit of a stretch. They are pretty terrible, though. I'm well past sick of costly game expansions that contain things that should have been in the basic game. Not to mention the fact that they rarely make an effort to debug their games, leaving them riddled with glitches they never bother to fix. Their response is just an example of their typical arrogance and, ironically, makes the reward seem justified. Until they start losing money, the aren't going to start caring about producing quality products but maybe this helped open their eyes a bit.
Scroogus Maximus
"...the poll was sabotaged..."?  News flash, chuckles: Voting isn't sabotage. If Christian fundamentalists vote in objection to something EA does as a company, it's STILL A VOTE in a poll.  Same as someone objecting to BP's oil practices because they can't stand the CEO's taste in ties, or Halliburton because they loathe Bush & Cheney- it's a valid vote.  Since the Southern Baptists had almost no effect on Disney's bottom line, I'd say any attempt to credit a group (CF or not) with "sabotaging" a poll by legitimately voting comes off as paranoid at best. Sounds more like someone slipped out of the boat of "informed" consumer and landed in the shark-infested water of misinformation. Good thing dealnews and other sites are here to provide us a bit more balanced info!
Scroogus Maximus
Completely agree.  EA is a TERRIBLE gaming company- but they're a GAMING company. GAMES are optional- food isn't.  I loathe EA's gaming practices, but it's a lot like loathing Monopoly: If you don't like it, you don't have to play it.  That probably sends chills down a lot of lazy spines, but it's a fact.  On the other paw, if you don't like Monsanto's Frankenfood practices...well, you're kind of screwed, since they control a majority of the farms & seeds across the US.
Scroogus Maximus
Video games are *shocking statement coming!* OPTIONAL for fun.  If you want to play EA's games, you can...for what people are willing to pay.  Gotta agree with dealguy:
Monsanto sprays toxins and defoliators across wide swaths of other people's crops;
Creates wheat and corn so genetically screwed up that "wheat" is now an ALLERGY instead of a safe food source; 
Has done a terrific (to beget terror...words have meaning, but not always nice ones) job of destroying the ability of people in the US to feed themselves by addicting farmers to their dies-in-a-season-or-less GMO seed...
Loses out to a company that makes video games? Seriously?  200,000 people complain about a gaming company. Guess what: A whole lot more people should be condemning a company for destroying FOOD than overpricing VIDEO GAMES.  This should pretty well make it obvious that the readers of Consumerist absolutely personify Americans as a culture: Games are more important than food, because food is easily available --right up until nobody except Monsanto knows how to grow food anymore.  Hunger games? Oh, yes, there will be....
zchondaboy
I love your last line. I'm reading the hunger games and immediately thought of EA as the Capitol. =P
zchondaboy
As an informed consumer...deleting them from "All" your channels seems like cutting off your hand because you have an annoying itch sometimes...
rjcress
EA/Origin recently screwed up an online transaction that caused me considerable grief and HOURS on the phone to get it resolved... nearly a week later. Their offshore support folks were totally useless and actually delayed getting my issue fixed by sending me in circles. When the issue was finally diagnosed and resolved, they offered nothing but a scripted apology and a useless 15% coupon that expired a few days later. I don't know if EA is the Worst company, but I sure hope that this award will open their eyes that they have to do a better job of taking care of their customers. If they don't, then I expect that the market will as EA is inviting a competitor to take their customers.
AvoBandit
The phenomenal success of Angry Birds shows that the barrier to entry isn't all that high.  If you don't like EA, grab some programmers and start your own gaming company.  Unlike Microsoft and its Windows/Office monopolies, the video games market refreshes several times a year and someone is always looking for the next great thing.  Just watch out you don't get bought out too soon.
the420goat
My advice would be to wait for dealnews to have a sale on tissues.  You sound like you could use a few.
cmclaughlan
How does the consumerist think awarding "the worst company in america" to an entertainment company as opposed to an organization that has left thousands of Americans homeless'
, penniless and jobless.
Also he does not answer accusations that the pole was sabotaged by christian fundamentalists upset at the portrayal of homosexual relationships in Bioware games.

I used to be a loyal Consumerist follower, but after this I lost all faith in them and deleted them from all my channels. Only action I as an informed consumer could take.
dealnews-Lindsay
Thanks for signing up! Now that you already have the account, you might as well comment on our other features as well! ;)
dealguy
I can't wrap my mind around the idea that EA — certainly the worst gaming company on the planet — is more deserving of this dishonor than say, Monsanto.
militarybrat
I signed up to http://dealnews.com discussion forum for the first time simply to put my vote behind EA getting the Golden Poo award!!!  I've been gaming since the late 70's early 80's (I'm 39) and in that time, EA has really TRASHED! the gamers market!!!  They've destroyed good companies, sucked dollars off substandard releases, and continue to raise prices on their products every chance they get!  There company ideals have always been one of raping the gaming community to line their pockets with dollars!  I really do hope this Golden Poo award gets national news attention and chokes their PR department to the point that they have to concede and fire a lot of their upper management as well as dethrown some of their chairmen!  Until this happens, the gaming community will suffer from their actions.
ttv1566
I'd partially agree with this... consumers don't like being nickel and dimed, especially for a product that cost 50-60 bucks and have terrible resale values... the whole NFL series at 60 each year for updated stats and maybe some overall upgrades to the game only to sell back to gamestop for 5 dollars is not cool. In addition their practices on 'anti-piracy' only angers customers. The DRM scheme allowing limited installs is just plain wrong. With viruses running rampant who knows how many times you may need to re-install the OS and the game. I guess you have to install the game once, never go online, and never remove the game to make space for any new HDD space hog games from EA. Battlefield 3 was expected to be a great game, but with all the terrible glitches, bugs, and downtime with no offer for appreciation or thanks from the consumer only lead me to leave the game collecting dust, since it would make little to no money back from trying to re-sell the game since anyone that buys it used must buy an online pass code to use the multiplayer instantly knocking down the resale value by 10 dollars for any seller. They definitely should learn from this, BUT they probably wont. Their games look pretty tho.
ethanvyce
I like The Consumerist, but to try to spin EA "winning" this award is silly. I play video games so I feel the pain of $60 games, plus extras sometimes, but to call EA the Worst Company is just ridiculous. I actually like EA's response. And even if all 
200,000-plus people who voted (or even double that) stopped buying EA games I think they're be OK.
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