The Fall Of EA (Told Through 'Star Wars' Memes)
Electronic Arts is having a rougher time than a naked Jawa trapped on Hoth. The company lost Star Wars and FIFA exclusivity and is currently struggling to sell itself to a bigger studio. We’re breaking down how they got there, with a little help from our force sensitive friends.
The Saga Begins
The company was founded in 1982 by Trip Hawkins, a former Apple employee who sought to give game developers the elevated status that they deserved. They even put out the first gaming ad featuring a software designer’s photo. The name ‘Electronic Arts’ is a nod to how the company originally viewed games; works of art meant to express the passion of their creators and spark new ideas in their audiences. Ironic for a company that pumps out microtransaction games like thala-sirens pump out green milk.
The company’s founding coincided with the rise of the personal computer as well as console gaming. And EA began to put out a LOT of games. From the beginning, EA has used their clout and deep pockets to acquire smaller studios, using the diverse talents and niche designs to publish some truly innovative, industry defining titles. Like Senator Palpatine working the senate for votes, EA began to accumulate more and more companies on its roster, growing larger with every passing year.
There’s Always Money In
The Banana Stand FIFA
Electronic Arts began publishing yearly sports games, updating its rosters and graphics with the brightest and best every release season. What started as a company looking to spotlight all-star game creators found a new direction and endless money in sports games. FIFA, Madden, NHL, instead of being novel story telling devices, EA Sports became known for its yearly offering of (albeit very popular) cash cow sameness.
The Best RPGs
In 1997, EA snapped up Maxis, the studio behind The Sims. This series of games would go on to become one of highest selling titles of all time, spawning numerous spin-offs, a devoted fan base, and more memes about drowning someone in a pool than the mind can comprehend. In the early 2000’s EA acquired developer BioWare, and under EA they developed some of the best RPGs (Role Playing Games) of all time, making classic titles like Mass Effect and Dragon Age: Inquisition (which can help you bond with your dad).
Economic Crises Turned Out Bad For Everybody
2008 was not a great year for the economy. You may remember your parents crying over a stack of bills at the kitchen table or hey, maybe that parent was you. Either way, everyone took a hit when the market went down the toilet. EA began a series of layoffs which would see hundreds of employees losing their jobs.
Power Mad With Mobile Transactions
As cellphones became ubiquitous, mobile gaming began to rise and EA began acquiring mobile devs. Since the early days of mobile gaming microtransactions, or small in-game fees used to unlock new aspects of play or cosmetic items, have been a major money maker. The pay to win system bled over into the highly anticipated reboot of the Star Wars multiplayer title: Battlefront II. The loot box system was layered on top of the retail price of the game and fans were pissed as hell. They got so mad, governments around the world got involved. The controversy around Battlefront II sparked national debates about the line between loot boxes and gambling. And EA’s stock took a big hit, despite them changing their loot box system as the game debuted.
You Were The Chosen One
EA had exclusive rights to make Star Wars video games and that should have been a slam dunk. Star Wars is catnip for gamers like CoD is cat lasers for gamers. So how did they mess it up? What seems like 50,000 new shows and movies are planned now that Mickey Mouse has his gloved claws in the franchise. EA, despite having the only key to the kingdom, made a just meager handful of Star Wars games. Combined with the Battlefront II debacle, when negotiations around the exclusivity deal began ahead of the 2023 expiration date, Disney decided not to renew. For now, the company is still making Star Wars games, but still, that had to hurt. It’s like piloting a Tie Fighter and losing a race to a Bantha.
The End Of An Era
In 2022 the sports gaming world was minorly rocked when FIFA, the organizing body for major league international soccer, announced it would not allow EA to continue use of its name on the yearly soccer offering (that’s basically the only major soccer game in town). (Rocket League doesn’t count, sorry.) EA may still publish soccer games starring all your favorite players, but with the FIFA name unattached, this is an opening for a competitor to take the field.
There’s Always A Bigger Fish
The wiki page for EA acquisitions lists almost 50 companies the studio has gobbled up over its decades-long run. And now the bigger fish is looking to get vore-d by something even bigger. EA has been publicly interested in being bought up by one of the few remaining mega corporations. Though they’re interested in pursuing a partnership deal, any merger or acquisition inevitably leads to layoffs and a changed company. But despite EA displaying their assets like an unfixed cat in heat, no deals have gone through. They’ll probably find a buyer due to still popular games like The Sims and Apex: Legends; the company is unrecognizable from the one that started off a long time ago in what feels like a galaxy far, far away.