[ Retro Scan of the Week ] When EA Wasn't Evil

April 15th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Why Electronic Arts is Committed to the Amiga Ad - 19851980s breakthroughs in workplace ergonomics led to this optimal seating position.

Long before the gaming public considered Electronic Arts the worst company in America, EA made its name as a creative haven that valued its talent.

No, really.

EA went out of its way to convey a developer-friendly image in its early years, prominently featuring designers' names in the company's box art and marketing materials. Gamers bought into it, in large part, because EA developed and published some of the most advanced and highly regarded early home computer games of their time (think Archon, M.U.L.E., The Seven Cities of Gold, etc.). EA must have been doing something right.

Of course, things changed over the years. From a personal standpoint, I remember when public sentiment seemed to turn against Electronic Arts in the mid-1990s after it acquired legendary development house Origin (most famous for the Ultima series) and proceeded to drive it directly into the ground. Origin would not be the last highly regarded game development firm to suffer this fate at the hands of EA.


But I'm getting ahead of myself. I really just wanted to show you this amazing two-page ad, which I found in the premiere issue of Amiga World from 1985. It trumpets, in that "begged-by-Commodore" kind of way, Electronic Arts' commitment to the Amiga platform.

To the left, we see Trip Hawkins, founder and then-president of Electronic Arts, half-sitting on a table next to an Amiga 1000 with EA's slogan of the time, "We See Farther," written on the screen.

To the right, the crisp marketing copy lays out EA's vision for the future of interactive games, and it does indeed seem far-thinking. This vision, which appears to have originated with Hawkins himself, steered the company in a very successful direction right from the start.

It made sense for EA to throw its weight behind the Amiga, a machine which truly impressed technologically at the time. But as you may know, the Amiga platform wasn't nearly as successful as Commodore would have liked. In fact, we here in the U.S. consider it a dud, although it fared much better in Europe. On either continent, the Amiga faced an uphill battle against a Japanese-dominated home console market on one hand and the entrenched IBM PC clone universe on the other. It lost both encounters.

So here we 27 years later. Commodore ceased to exist long ago (in its original form), but Electronic Arts lives on. The name "Commodore" looms large in our collective memory as a positive force, while everyone loves to hate Electronic Arts. The difference in the perception of these two companies echoes how we, as consumers, regard unbridled success in the tech industry — and how we can't resist the lure of the legendary dead.

[ From Amiga World, Premiere Issue 1985, p.6-7 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you first start disliking Electronic Arts? Or do you love them?



12 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] When EA Wasn't Evil”

  1. Eagles409 Says:

    The main turning point for me was when the bought the rights to every football game under the sun. I loved the 2K football games, then 2K5 came out and it destroyed Madden from every angle (graphics, gameplay, presentation, etc). Then, because they were too lazy to make a better Madden football, EA bought out the NFL rights and started making $60 roster updates. I hate them for a lot more reasons than that, but that was the beginning of my deep hatred.

  2. Blake Patterson Says:

    They saw farther.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/blakespot/3860428163/in/set-72157604317583021

  3. CJ Lowery Says:

    It's fascinating that the two companies (EA and Activision) that started out as nurturing environments that celebrate the developer and unique game design both turned into everything they hated and then some.

  4. JackSoar Says:

    They fell to the dark side. It's as simple as that. How ironic that they also own Bioware (which I do not enjoy).

  5. natetheduck Says:

    I distinctly remember seeing this ad in (I think) the very first issue of Amiga World magazine. My parents had just purchased an Amiga 1000 and we needed some games for it. Archon and Seven Cities of Gold were pretty much all that was available at the time… but, boy, were they enough! Such great games. Then mom & dad bought me Marble Madness sometime later and I got absolutely hooked on that, too.

  6. Dementropy Says:

    I think I started to dislike EA when they continued to crank out Sims games without any real testing, so that even casual users would have to look to J.M. Pescado's mods for the in order to get it working correctly. This lack of attention to detail was not the EA I once knew, that had me glued to my computer with Starflight back in the day.

  7. Alexander Says:

    After what EA did to the Command & Conquer franchise, I could never forgive them. Generals? C&C 4? RA3? Pitiful…

    They even canceled the game that was set to tie together the Red Alert universe with the Tiberium universe. Their failures are evident in the bugs that plague Tiberian Sun and RA2.

  8. Zoyous Says:

    I used to love Electronic Arts in the 80s. But I think their ongoing feud with Sega in the 90s and early 00s contributed significantly to Sega's demise as a console maker, which ultimately has changed the console business for the worse. In more general terms, I think things really started changing when they minimized their promotion of individual developers and removed their mission statement from their packages.

    Ironically, I think EA has made great improvements to their practices in recent years, but they've got a lot to make up for in the minds of gamers. Activision is probably a far worse company right now — they certainly have a less diversified stable of annual IPs — but seems to have avoided the kind of ire that is directed at EA.

  9. Addcointoplay Says:

    Being a sports nut EA have had their pound of flesh from me with their so called 'new games' which are nothing more than a roster update but they are only supplying the demand.

  10. leftylimbo Says:

    Man. EOA's Archon totally dominated my Atari 800XL back in the day…my friend and I would play that for hours and hours on end. He even learned how to play the intro song on the piano.

    Today's EA HQ is just a hop and skip away from my house. It's a beautiful, modern facility with several "clear" sections of glass where you can look right in and see a huge (empty) workout center, outfitted with racks of dumbells, treadmills and multi-stations. Of all the times I've driven by there, I've never seen anyone working out; it's like the facility is never used.

    Anyways. When they first opened that new facility, I thought about working there. A co-worker of mine convinced me not to, as he said "They'll work you like a f***in' dog. Totally stressful environment, and the worst part is you'll be pulling your hair out to meet these ridiculous deadlines, and out of nowhere you'll see the CEO pull up to his reserved parking spot in his $100,000 sports car or something, and he'll come in all carefree and smiling, without a worry in the world."

  11. Thomas Says:

    I'm actually not sure when it happened. I guess my dislike for EA is like drops of water that slowly erodes the rock beneath. You can't pinpoint exactly when the hole in the rock appeared, but given enough time it's easy to look back and see that something happened.

    I still remember the eighties when you actually got excited to see or hear about an EA game. There were some companies back then that really stood for quality. The games they published generally held a certain standard. EA, Sierra, Lucasarts (or should I say Lucasfilm games?) Microprose, Interplay… Where are those "trustworthy" companies today? Are there any companies today that can sell a game on the company name alone? I'm hard pressed to think of even one.

  12. Daniel Says:

    They are there. Names like Paradox, Quantic Dream, Rockstar, or Daedalic definitely fall into that category for me, for example. It's true though that most such names are smaller or even underdog companies, compared to the size of the entire market and what big names had great reputations back in the days. Although I wonder if, like in the film business, we might see a day where the big-time publishers also show more dedication with branches specialised on more artistic, bold projects. It's not too long ago that big names such as Ubisoft and EA also backed really interesting titles, but today I think it's beyond question that apart from videogames there is no other media or entertainment business where "playing it safe" has become such a universal dogma.

    The really crucial point in why I dislike EA, Ubisoft, Activision & Co. these days is DRM and copy protection though. Never would I have thought that such massive numbers of customers would just put up and swallow this incredible disrespect. They're ripping off and hoaxing those customers that actually still pay for their products. A company that tries to tell me when, how, or for how long I am allowed to play a game I "bought" will certainly never see any of my money. And the mentioned "big three" are probably the worst when it comes to this, with their online activations, always-online mechanisms and other piss-takes. It makes it so that even if they *had* a game in their portfolio today that I would be genuinely interested in, I would never spend any money on it, seeing as their main focus seems to be not how to make the best game possible, but how to lower the quality of the end product (especially when compared to the higher relative quality of pirated copies).

    The orientation of their product lines, it's still more or less a matter of taste and probably makes quite some business sense. When you look at the numbers, what percentage of game projects fails to even break even, the problem seems to be more in the general state of the videogame industry and what you have to spend money on in a production, rather than with the publishers. They don't want to run their business into the ground. If what the market demands is superficial graphical sparkle that costs you years and millions of dollars to produce, you're of course going to try saving money elsewhere, and only taking on "safe" projects. As far as their derivative portfolios are concerned, I might not like it, but I understand. It is the disrespect of their own customers that makes it impossible for me to find a good word to say about big publishers.

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