I've been thinking about how to get EA's attention by helping their investors understand the business risks of ignoring the major problems with Mass Effect 3. As a publicly traded company, there's only so much bad news their investors will tolerate before selling off their stocks. Since there aren't any other upcoming EA games in the near future that I care about, how could I possibly boycott them?
Then I came up with an approach that would impact EA financially, but it requires a few major steps and significant effort:
My belief is that an industry wide, concerted, consumer rights effort is the only way to prevent EA from causing more harm. In my other HTL blog series, Electronic Arts Hall of Shame, I explain the reasons EA has become a destructive force in the industry.
- Clearly identify the problems with the ending in Mass Effect 3. See this blog entry for my personal thoughts: Mass Effect 3's Ending, EA, BioWare and Consumer Rights
- File a large number of complaints for EA's false advertising on the Better Business Bureau. I just checked their record and was surprised to see that EA only has 122 BBB complaints for false advertising in the past 3 years. EA currently has an "A" rating on BBB.org. I also found out, thanks to gaming community advocate EventStatus, that Capcom's BBB rating recently dropped to a "B" due to their DLC business practices. It looks like Capcom fans are quite unhappy and taking the right steps to demand consumer rights. The interesting part is that the number of BBB complaints filed against Capcom is much lower than EA's; this shows how much effort EA puts into handling BBB complaint cases. Since there is indisputable evidence of EA's false advertising practices for Mass Effect 3, we should make the effort to file formal BBB complaints. Before filing BBB complaints against EA, I recommend creating a standard template that we can all use to make the complaint as professional and effective as possible
- Demand changes to EA's refund policy by filing Federal Trade Commision complaints to get government and legal assistance.
- This step can be our next priority, if filing BBB complaints and all the other efforts(drives, letters, petitions, etc) fail to provide satisfactory results once the Extended Cut DLC is released.
- The FTC complaints should focus on providing documentation of EA's deceptive marketing practices and how it creates a fraudulent situation when combined with nonrefundable purchases.
- My personal example:
- I paid $80 before tax for the Mass Effect 3 Digital Deluxe Edition through Origin, which can't be returned for a refund based on EA's current policy.
- EA's false ads and BioWare's misleading public statements and interviews were factors that deceived me prior to the release of the Mass Effect 3.
- Still, in support of BioWare, I personally want to wait until the Extended Cut DLC before demanding a refund, because I think there's still hope for it to be good.
- A consumer rights movement to change EA's digital download refund policy would be a good way to apply pressure to the industry as a whole. If anyone could return substandard new games, publishers and developers would be forced to improve the content and quality of games to be profitable.
- I believe there are probably a lot of unhappy BioWare fans (and other EA game titles) that are already feed up and would like an immediate refund for their digital downloads through Origin.
- There's already a lot of evidence that EA made false statements in the advertising for Mass Effect 3, which can be helpful from a political and legal standpoint.
- Eventually, the goal would be to have a reasonable digital download refund policy for the entire gaming industry. The following article provides good information about this topic: Amazon’s Kindle Offers Refunds For Digital Downloads, Why Don’t Game Companies?
- Find one or more official representatives for our gaming consumer rights movement. This can be voted on, if many people volunteer. Wouldn't it be great if we had a "Ralph Nader" looking out for the gaming community?
- We also need to continue reaching out to all gamers to join our movement, not just Mass Effect fans. For example, Capcom is having a lot of customer satisfaction problems due to their business practices. I don't like any current Capcom games, so I'm not fully informed of their problems, but it would be great if Hold the Line truly becomes the catalyst for change in the gaming industry as a whole.
- Professionally communicate the problems with Mass Effect 3 to EA and BioWare and request a response by a reasonable date (maybe 1 or 2 weeks). Also, take this opportunity to inform EA that we are seeking government and legal assistance to change their refund policy for digital downloads.
- Get as much media attention as possible about our efforts, and the movement to change EA's return policy for digital downloads, highlighting that this will affect every company that refuses refunds for digital downloads.
- If BioWare fails to respond to our communications in a satisfactory way, we can announce an official boycott of all EA's existing and future products. If Hold the Line grows large enough, this cause a significant financial impact to EA. Since EA is the largest game publisher in Western markets, this can eventually help improve the entire gaming industry through increased awareness and accountability.
I suggest we focus on things that are indisputable consumer rights issues, like EA's refusal to offer refunds for digital downloads through Origin which is worsened by their deceptive advertising practices.
I'm proud to be a member of this growing community. Let's keep our ideas flowing and make our mark in the history of gaming. There are plenty of aspiring game developers and companies that can benefit from our efforts, if we help keep EA honest to level the gaming industry's playing field. EA is too big and powerful at the moment, we as consumers should be the ones with the power.
Let me know your thoughts.
A Game Consumer Rights Action Plan
Blog entry posted by K. R. Hamilton, Apr 21, 2012.
About the Author
As a gamer for the past 15 years, I've seen a lot of changes in the industry; many of them are detrimental to our rights as consumers. There's a great opportunity for unity among gamers of all types to achieve lasting changes that will protect our rights. Hold the Line is a beacon of light that will help make future games better, by uniting gamers and demanding honesty and respect from the gaming industry.