Don't buy Microsoft or EA (even if you like them)

They will use your money to destroy other things you like. I realized this today as I read how Bill Gates plans to launch Halo 3 for the next-gen Xbox the same day the PS3 launches, many months after the XBox 360’s launch. Bill says, “The day Sony launches [the new PlayStation], and they walk right into Halo 3”. He can’t even let the competition have 1 day in the sun, their opportunity to shine ever so briefly.

For EA’s history, just ask Take Two Interactive, the formerly Sega-owned game studio that makes sports games. The NFL2k series of football games had a good reputation the day it was launched on the Dreamcast, but had trouble competing with EA’s heavily entranched Madden series. Last year, Take Two not only put out one of their best efforts in the series, they undercut EA by pricing their game at $20 compared to EA’s $50 price tag. EA arrogantly ignored this difference at first, until sales data forced their hand and made them cut te price a bit to compete. Their reaction wasn’t to try and make a better game at a better price the next cycle, it was scorched earth. EA not only bought exclusive rights to NFL games, they bought exclusivity for college football and even Arena football, ensuring that competitors had NO game to produce that would allow them to maintain a high-quality football simulation engine. They could do it with made up players and teams, but the demand is for real players and people’s favorite teams. EA was out for blood.

For an example of Microsoft’s behavior in the gaming industry, ask Nintendo about Rare Ltd. Rare developed for all Nintendo systems from the original NES to the N64. They developed 8 of the top 25 games for the N64 – even Nintendo themselves, known for their quality first-party games, had only 8 in the top 25. They made 11 total games over the life of the system. Since Microsoft purchased them in 2002, they have released exactly 1 game for the Xbox. It’s apparent they didn’t buy Rare so they could have their games – they bought them so that Nintendo wouldn’t have those games. Embrace and extinguish.

Most companies seem content to compete for a bigger piece of the pie by improving their product and competing honestly. Most companies recognize that a rising tide lifts all ships – even if your slice of the pie shrinks, the pie keeps growing. Microsoft and EA want to be the only ship. They want to use the dollars you give them to sink those other companies whose products you also enjoy. In effect, when you give either company money, you’re funding a campaign to crush the other companies that make products that you like. You may like that game you just bought right now, but in the end, if these bullies have their way, you’ll have less to enjoy in the long run. Don’t do it. Don’t feed these aggressive beasts.


4 thoughts on “Don't buy Microsoft or EA (even if you like them)

  1. While I agree with you partly, MS buying Rare has no specific reason as to why they only released one game. It’s quite possible the Rare team is working on MS based games now. So maybe Rare is gone, but the team is still around.

    As for EA, they suck. Why the judicial courts have not been brought in to stop the monopoly I dont know. It blows my mind how suddenly nobody can make an NFL or college game other than EA. That’s ridiculous. I dont care for EA’s games anyway. Have you read the blogs on the wifes of EA developers? The turnover rate at EA is horrifying. Working game developers 80+ hour weeks for 1/2 the pay they could make doing 1/10th the work in other areas, is nuts!

  2. This is more than a little naive. It is typical business. “Competing honestly” includes cutting off your competitors by strategic acquisitions and timing releases to counter theirs.

    I’m no fan of big business or corpatization, but even I recognize that there is nothing wrong with these practices.

    If you want to find evidence that MS and EA are evil, I’m sure it won’t take much to find it. But this is not it….

  3. I disagree. Typical business does not always involve cutting your competitors off at the knees, especially in growth industries. Based on their actions, I have little doubt that EA and MSFT would like little more than to overwhelmingly dominate the gaming industry (75% each). With this, each could wield unimaginable pricing power and let innovation languish as they use their market position to push people around.

    Imagine a market for televisions where 1 company owns 75%+ of the market. That one company could begin to define standards that their competition isn’t allowed to use. Had one company owned the TV market and defended it with proprietary technology, we might not even have projection TV, much less Plasma, DLP, LCD. Where would such a company get the motive to build HDTV? Competition in the TV industry has increased innovation, kept costs down, and put multiple TVs in every household (broadly speaking). It has spawned dozens of collateral industries that might never have existed. The same is true in gaming.

    Furthermore, I’m not calling for any intervention other than warning consumers to spend their dollars carefully. This isn’t about evil. It’s about what happens when a single player dominates an industry, and it’s about how gamers are in a position to keep the future of gaming healthy for consumers with the choices they make now. We gave Microsoft the sway over us that they now hold with Windows/Office. We are on the path to giving them and EA the same in gaming, and I’m pointing out that the short-term joy of that one good game may not be worth the long-term consequences.

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