Monday, August 26, 2013

The Origin of Forgiveness... A Humble Tale.

What would it take to get me to forgive? In much more serious circumstances than video games, I've asked myself that question hundreds of times. There are plenty of virtues I don't pretend to be particularly good at, but anyone who knows me well knows that I've got forgiveness on lock. I just can't maintain even the most justified of grudges for more than a year or two, and eventually I come back to that key question. What, if anything, would be enough to say "Okay, one more chance" to a person or organization? This isn't going to get any more serious from here on out, but I firmly believe in giving credit where it is due, as well as criticism where it is deserved. One company that I've had my share of bad things to say about online (like most gamers) is the real focus of this post. Electronic Arts, I think it is finally time to bury the hatchet.

I haven't knowingly paid for an EA game since Dragon Age 2.

It doesn't take a whole lot of detective work to find criticism of EA online. Virtually every practice that gamers hate about the video game industry has been practiced, if not pioneered by EA. Intrusive DRM, microtransactions, Day One DLC, Always-on Internet requirements (with failing validation servers,) incompetent customer service, churned out sequels to good games... the list of sins goes on and on. EA also has the particular quirk of acquiring much-loved studios and running their core franchises into the ground with terrible installment after botched sequel after failed launch. PopCap, Bioware, Westwood, Pandemic, Maxis and Bullfrog have all been butchered by bad decisions and worse press releases in response to criticism. You have to be pretty bad at this sort of thing to beat out Bank of America, TicketMaster and Comcast for Worst Company in America... twice.

What could possibly make up for all those years of missteps and unabashed greed? Offering refunds on games purchased on Origin sounds pretty good, right? It is a start, and something that Steam doesn't do, but I'm not on board yet, there's still a lot of wrong to make right. How about participating in a Humble Bundle, and having most of the games in that bundle redeem on Steam? Nope, not good enough. Even with "pay what you want," the best of the bundle still uses Origin, and many people, myself included, don't want that on our systems, period. Even reasonable pricing and Steam redemption feels more like a P.R. stunt than a gesture of goodwill, and after all, they are still making a ton of money on the Humble Bundle, right? Well, actually... no. I left out a key detail. 100% of EA's cut of the bundle is going to charity. That... that just might do it. It might still be a stunt, but it is a damn good one.

When I first saw this, I wasn't sure whether it made EA better, or the Humble Project worse.

Mirror's Edge, Dead Space, Burnout: Paradise, Crysis 2 and Medal of Honor are all Steam redeemable and available for as little as $1.00. Dead Space 3 only redeems on Origin, but is also in the bundle before looking at bonus games. The "beat the average" games are Battlefield 3, Sims 3, Populous and C&C: Red Alert 3 – Uprising, though only the last of that batch can be redeemed on Steam. These are some of the highest-profile titles to ever grace a bundle, games that still have some profitability in them at prices much higher than a dollar (except maybe Medal of Honor.) Ten games, six charities. That covers a lot of recent disasters.

I'll even overlook the (recent) steaming pile that is Plants vs. Zombies 2, riddled with way, way too many in-app purchases. I'll forget about the debacle that was the SimCity Reboot. I'll even give the Madden Franchise a pass, despite the fact that it releases every year as a new game for what should, in any sane world, be a free or cheap annual update (an easy one, as I play very few sports games anyway.) I thought the whole Mass Effect 3 thing was overblown anyway, so let's throw that in there, done, gone, forgotten. This Humble Bundle stunt buys you one last shot to get back into my good graces... Dragon Age 3. That's the next game that I'll knowingly pay good money into EA's coffers to solidify redemption. Learn from the past, don't repeat the mistakes of Dragon Age 2... One. Last. Chance. Don't screw it up.

The Humble Origin Bundle ends on Wednesday, August 28th.

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