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What Does It Mean To Win Worst Company In America?

EA Golden PooLast year, Electronic Arts came out of nowhere and won The Consumerist’s annual Worst Company in America competition. This competition was designed to highlight the worst of the worst companies when it came to its consumer presence. When EA graciously accepted the award, it kindly reminded voters just who its real competition is by listing previous award winners.

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.

What does it mean for the games industry, and EA specifically, to be likened to some of the largest insurance, oil, tobacco and weapons companies in the world? Companies that have a more direct connection to the quality of life of billions of people. What does it mean to be crowned worst of the worst in America?

Regardless of the over impact or seriousness of its faults, we know much of what EA did to win that award. Online passes, NFL monopolies, Spore, and Mass Effect 3, just to name a few. But really after all the brewhaha last year during and following the contest, what does it mean to be nominated a second time? Even after declaring that you were cleaning up your ways?

“I think we will see a dramatic shift in the company,” Lawder told CNET. “We’re not there yet. There’s still a ways to go before we’re considered a world-class customer experience.”

For the second year in a row, EA has been nominated for the Golden Poo award. It seems that despite Lawder’s claims, EA has yet to improve on its image. The whole SimCity thing hasn’t helped things out either. Things are so bad at EA, from a consumer perspective, that it handed Anheuser Busch a sound thrashing in the first round. Seriously, EA is worse than a beer monopoly wannabe. Add that to the list above of who EA is worse than.

So what can the games industry learn from this? Here are some lessons I think we should be paying attention to:

  1. If you have bad policies or terrible relations with your customers, they will complain and complain loudly. If they aren’t declaring you the worst company in America, they are certainly going to complain in private and in some cases publicly.
  2. Despite all the minor flaws that grate on our customers’ nerves, it is the big fiascoes that will send them over the edge. People understand that companies are run by other people. They understand that sometimes things just won’t go right or that mistakes happen. They can brush off a good number of flaws and frustrations. However, when you make such boneheaded disasters as SimCity, Spore or Mass Effect 3, you will send your customers into a frenzy.
  3. Making promises of change and then doing nothing positive quickly will not make people happy. EA won the award last year due to years of neglect and abuse of its customers. All that culminated in the award. People expected some kind of change for the better. Instead, they received empty promises and even bigger blunders. People expect and deserve to be treated well if they are expected to buy your products.
  4. Bad policies are bad and deserve to die. Whether it is high prices, DRM, too much bad DLC or whatever, if people are complaining about it, something needs to be done. EA had many years of people complaining about always online requirements in thier games and other companies’ games, yet it learned nothing and implemented it in one of its most high profile games, with disastrous results. Failure to learn from your own and others’ past mistakes will doom you to repeat them and reap the rewards.

Those are just four big lessons to be learned. But the biggest is that your customers are king. If they are not happy, they will make you miserable. So let us all take a lesson from EA, even if it refuses to learn these lessons itself, and go out and serve your fans and customers well.

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