While EA wilts, Activision are Laughing...

Poor EA. Seems as though they are the unfavourable flavour of the month. Millions hate them for what they've done to Mass Effect, there's a large gay hatred campaign against two of their games, and they've been voted the worst company in the US.

And Activision are loving it.


Cast your mind back to last year. Activision cut loose some of its franchises (including former big timer Guitar Hero) thanks to poor sales performances, while its biggest partner suddenly became a rival over the most expensive franchise on the market, and all the while fans were laughing and EA was on the hunt. Not forgetting the now famous quotes of CEO Bobby Kotick, such as milking their own franchises for all their worth, etc.

Call of Duty, of course, was hanging around, but its future was unknown thanks to a major lawsuit from former creators Jason West and Vincent Zampella. EA saw it as a chance to attack one of the worlds biggest companies, what with Battlefield 3 on the horizon and the sour taste that Medal of Honor's reboot left behind to make up for.

It should have been the big, world changing, multi-million dollar battle for the ages that the gaming market had been expecting. If anything, the fortunes of both companies have now switched. Suddenly Activision aren't the bad guys anymore, and EA's big brassy marketing push of how Battlefield would take down CoD for good while Mass Effect waited for the killer one, two punch has ... well ... it hasn't exactly worked out well for them.


Let's get one thing straight, however. Both BF3 and ME3 are money spinners, they've sold as much as was expected of them. But they didn't exactly accomplish every goal, mighty as they may have been. You already know the Mass Effect 3 ending saga, but BF3 is almost as intriguing. Where as CoD continues to stream out updates and DLC, Battlefield has been lacking greatly in that department, leaving many gamers annoyed and some times stranded thanks to game breaking bugs.

Modern Warfare 3 has continued its winning ways, despite slightly lower review scores compared to the previous two in the series. I, for one, don't have any interest in playing the game, largely because I'm more interested in a single player story driven experience, not the constant multiplayer mayhem that fills the shelves more often than not.

That's not a reflection of quality, both games achieve a distinct level of it, but world changers they certainly are not, and EA hasn't eaten up as much as the pie as they hoped, leaving them with a bigger hill to climb as Call of Duty readies itself for the next iteration (rumoured to be a return to Black Ops, which at least affords it a more interesting story setting.)


Lately, besides the Mass Effect debacle, EA has found itself in a fairly large hole. Recently the company was voted America's worst, placing it well ahead of companies who, arguably, should be higher than them. Now considering where the world is lately, it's intriguing to question why EA came out on top. Certainly the poll came at the wrong time, when you couple the issues of ME's disgruntled fan base with the recent anti-gay protests against some of its biggest games it could explain a majority of those who voted them down.

Maybe it's just that, bad timing. Had the vote been six months ago, when the only real thing holding EA back was the delay of Mass Effect's impending release, perhaps the results would have been different. It's certainly a boon time for Activision. They're not on everyone's mind for the time being, which at least affords them more time concentrating on upcoming releases such as stablemate Blizzard's Diablo III, arguably the biggest title of the year.

EA may have a lifeline or two. The equality awareness group 'All Out' is supporting the companies choice of gay and lesbian relations in the likes of Dragon Age, Mass Effect and The Old Republic, and with equal rights being such a big issue around the world, the publicity could be a good thing in more ways than one.

And then there's the Mass Effect 3 resolution. Free DLC is a small step towards mending wounds, but who knows how long or how much it will take. Battlefield, of course, will finally get a major upgrade over the coming months. Whether that's too little, too late is up to the masses, who may have already moved on towards the next big thing anyway.


The Old Republic is just another intriguing plot point to this entire saga. Presenting one of the biggest names in entertainment and pitting it against the biggest MMO in history (as owned by its rival) was a big risk, one that has cost EA a ton of money even before the games often unknown release. The game itself finally came out at the end of last year, and while the subscription rate has been steady, it hasn't eaten into World of Warcraft's massive fan base just yet.

Time will tell whether the gamble will eventually pay off. It's a solid start, and from what I've played of it (unfortunately moving house thwarted any attempt to play my way through it as much as I wanted to), it's a fun ride for fans of Star Wars and MMO players alike. But will it beat WOW? Probably not, but what can? Guild Wars 2? Maybe. But if TOR is a failure, what then?

WOW, of course, is also starting to slow. More and more are leaving the series, not in major 'oh God, it's all over!' ways, but enough to make things interesting. Another expansion (featuring Pandas ... PANDAS! How can that NOT work?) will soon fend off any speculation that Blizzard are about to leave it behind, but to consider at all that the series is on its last legs would be like suggesting The Simpsons will soon rap things up. We all know that isn't going to happen ... ever. Whether we like it or not.


EA has been trying so hard to knock Activision of its lofty post, and just when it thought it possible, it's made it even harder for itself. The big A, meanwhile, may be able to look forward to a year where the games take centre stage, and not the behind the scenes strife that nearly toppled the giant last year.

But to be fair to both, they're just as bad as one another. When you're that high up the food chain, a gamer's perspective can be easily tarnished by one little mistake. Greed is good, they say, but not when artistic integrity is tarnished beyond belief.

At least we have the fine adventures of Kickstarter to give us all that warm, fuzzy feeling. Shadowrun anyone?

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