The calendar year is coming to a close for the recently crowned Worst Company In America (doesn't that polished turd look so nice on the mantle), and I don't think anyone would claim 2012 was the finest outing for Electronic Arts. Sure, their Madden and NHL franchises might have broken personal sales bests (after all, NHL 13 was the only place to find hockey this winter), but beyond one non-sports bang in March's Mass Effect 3, things looked a bit dire.
Don't get me wrong, I'm sure certain people at EA are still pulling in our greenbacks hand over fist and gorging themselves like fiat turduckens, but their stock prices did drop, resulting in their exclusion from the NASDAQ-100 just this morning. This was presumably due to commercial disappointments like Kingdoms of Amalur, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, and especially Star Wars: The Old Republic. They definitely made up for some of those losses with digital distribution of new mobile titles like the popular The Simpsons: Tapped Out (which spent almost five months out of app stores due to bugs), and fresh editions of old favorites like Plants vs. Zombies and Bejeweled. Let's see what these people did right (but mostly wrong).
Mass Effect 3's Multiplayer
The many fans of Mass Effect are very quick to point out to the uninitiated that the game is not a standard shooter, but rather an RPG with shooting elements. Not the type of game that would have, say, a wave based multiplayer suite. Except for when Mass Effect 3 totally did. Not only that, but it was integral to (or at least intertwined with) the single player campaign. But, surprisingly, it didn't ruin the game. In fact it was really fun, and satisfyingly tested the skills you've built up throughout three games worth of playing with one character. The fact that what easily could have been a greedy and half-baked add on still has lots of players is a testament to the success of ME3's co-op.
Not Releasing A Broken NBA Live 13
So this one comes with the caveat that something very dumb had to happen to set up the circumstances for this decision, but it is EA we're talking about so I have to give them props for not making sports fans and gamers alike pay for what must have been a deeply broken NBA Live 13. You'd like to think that such a thing would never happen, but as gamers we know that sometime 75%, or even 50% completion is just dandy for developers. A working product? Who needs it! They may have baited us with promises of a return to form for the franchise, and swore they'd learned from the previous cancellation, but at least they didn't take our money for nothing.
Warfighter. All of It.
Once again attempting to draft off the success of CoD, EA gave another (final?) go at reviving their longrunning Medal of Honor franchise, hoping to finally usher it into current gen financial and critical success with the dumbly titled Warfighter. Their angle was well researched military realism. Because Six Days In Fallujah made so much money. That didn't end up being a problem though because the game was neither realistic nor successful. Or good. Phew! EA was openly disappointed with the game, the developers Danger Close were criticized for soliciting classified information from soldiers (who were themselves internally disciplined), promotional materials for the game advertised actual assault weapons, and now they're releasing some Osama Bin Laden themed maps which... no?
The Old Republic's Free-To-Play
I'm not here to make any comments on the relative merits of BioWare and EA's now year-old MMO. Okay I'll make one: it wasn't incredible. But it's still easy as hell to get sucked into an MMO that isn't a perfect ten. Especially when it's free. Which makes it so dumb and disconcerting that The Old Republic's inane implementation of free-to-play was arguably its worst moment. The full campaign story was available, which was very nice of them. But you're not allowed to run until many, many hours in. And XP accrual is severely nerfed. You even have to pay for some interface stuff like quick bars. Sick, sick people. All of them.
What did you all think were EA's smartest and dumbest decisions this year?
All games were published, distributed, or developed by Electronic Arts
NFL Blitz - January 4th
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning - February 7th
Shank 2 - February 7th
Syndicate - February 21st
SSX - February 28th
The Simpsons: Tapped Out - March 1st
Mass Effect 3 - March 6th
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 - March 27th
Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances - May 24th
The Secret World - July 3rd
NCAA Football 13 - July 10th
Madden NFL 13 - August 28th
NHL 13 - September 11th
FIFA 13 - September 25th
Medal of Honor: Warfighter - October 23rd
Need For Speed: Most Wanted - October 30th
For these Year In Review segments, we'll be taking a look at what major gaming companies did in 2012, with summaries of their biggest news and releases, best and worst decisions, and complete lists of the games they were a part of. Check back later in the week for another company.