The 10 Worst Companies in the Video Game Industry
Not too long ago I released a list of my favourite PC game developers. This list will have the worst companies in video gaming. I say companies, because not only are developers featured here, but publishers too and even retailers.
To appear on this list, a video game company must have done something truly awful. Probably something akin to mass murder or farting in an elevator - the latter being a crime that should be punishable by death. These companies are either known for being money grubbing corporate vacuums, whose only mission in life is to make a profit, or they're known for making such awful games or services to go with them.
Some of my choices you're not going to like, but I'll do my best to present evidence to you to support my case.
In early 2012, EA was voted the worst company in the whole of the United States in a poll conducted by The Consumerist. In 2013, EA won that award again. That’s just how despised it really is. EA has rolled over several development studios by acquiring them and if they didn’t just get rid of them, they often milked the intellectual properties they had produced by churning out rushed subpar sequels, and then having the nerve to shut down those development studios later when the games didn’t sell. Companies burned in this fashion by EA include Origin, Westwood, Bullfrog, Maxis and Pandemic. It's only a matter of time, BioWare.
They even named their Steam-like service Origin. Honorable, or a slap in the face? You decide.
Employees working for EA have also been treated unfairly and forced to work up to 100 hours per week, with overtime being unpaid. This led to the formation of the EA Spouse blog followed by two class action lawsuits against the company, both of which lead to a settlement. EA has also been sued for using images of athletes on their games’ cover art without paying them. The money (like they need it with the salaries they earn) would probably help these athletes recover from their injuries nicely – if you’ve ever heard of the "Madden curse".
EA’s SecuRom DRM has come under fire and resulted in another class action lawsuit seeing as EA did not disclose its presence on a system once the game is installed, and was said to basically be a rootkit that was not uninstalled when the game was removed. Not so good for the paranoids concerned about their privacy.
EA has also been fingered for influencing review scores, and getting employees to troll forums. And they’re not above upsetting other publishers either. After Ubisoft became a publicly traded company, EA bought a 19.9% stake in the firm. They tried to make the same play with Take Two Interactive, in fact, but failed.
As far as games go, The Sims franchise, particularly The Sims 3, has come under fire, seeing as EA released the game, and made people download content that should have come with the game, and also made people pay for additional content. The truth is that The Sims 3 was at most 50% of the game. The rest was released later in other forms, whether it be digital or retail. I know, because I've been there.
EA has re-released some of "their" games as freeware, like the original Command & Conquer, Red Alert, and Tiberian Sun. But these were Westwood Studios-developed titles. While it's nice to have free games, that's like the final nail in the coffin. They're cleaning out their closet and turfing out anything that belonged to Westwood, much like one does after a bitter break-up. How long before Red Alert 2 becomes freeware? HOW LONG I ASK?! No, really, I'd like to know because I'll have that. Awesome game...
Think they'll do the same with "their" Command & Conquer and Red Alert games? I don't think so.
The trouble with Activision started a while back when a half man-half demon named Bobby Kotick started to make waves. There was a lot of controversy surrounding Modern Warfare 2 and Infinity Ward. First off, Activision pushed up the retail price of Modern Warfare 2 to $59.99. And a lot of other games have followed suit since then, all starting at $59.99, which is significantly more than what we were paying for games. Activision also made a clear statement, punishing PC gamers by not releasing a veteran or hardened edition of the game for PC. So we didn't get to run around in the dark with night vision goggles on, spying on the neighbours. Talk about unfair and unequal treatment.
But where the biggest controversy lay was when Kotick dismissed the heads at Infinity Ward, and there was a mass walkout where a lot of the IW employees resigned and went over to EA where they formed Respawn Entertainment. As a result, Modern Warfare 3 ended up being developed by an almost entirely new Infinity Ward with help from Sledgehammer Games. They also shut down the massively popular Guitar Hero franchise which led to 500 people losing their jobs.
That, and I really can’t forgive them for destroying one of my all time favourite franchises: The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. Unlike back in the 1990’s when THPS was developed by Neversoft – which was made up of skaters and cool guys, the Tony Hawk endorsed games that followed in the noughties were mainly just little more than shovelware rubbish churned out by Activision to turn a profit. But because the games got so horrid, not much money was made out of it, and so the whole franchise was dropped. Don't think that the same wouldn't happen with Call of Duty. If one game flopped, they'd drop it like a bad habit and move on to something else to sink their teeth in to.
I for one am glad id Software has nothing to do with this company anymore, and has their games published by Bethesda. People should really just boycott Activision.
One of the unholy triumvirate of game publishers alongside EA and Activision, Ubisoft is responsible for the truly awful method of DRM they implemented with their products, which required gamers to be online all the time while playing a game, referred to as the Online Services Platform. Personally, this is what put me off buying Assassin’s Creed II and Splinter Cell: Conviction when they were first out. Even though it was said with later copies of the game, the DRM had been removed, I still haven’t given in and bought either. Before this method of DRM, they had StarForce, which also wasn’t very popular as it installed drivers on a person’s system that often caused hardware issues.
Now Ubi is said to be doing away with this DRM and instead coming up with something called uPlay which is similar to Origin or Steam in nature. We can’t wait. Apparently like EA's SecuRom, people are all ready complaining about rootkits related to this service.
One of Ubisoft's past faux pas include boycotting Electronic Gaming Monthly and refusing to give any of their games over to them for review seeing as they had mainly negative reviews from this publication in the past.
In April 2012, Ubisoft was sued by John L. Beiswenger for copyright infringement. John claimed that Ubisoft’s hugely popular Assassin’s Creed series copies a lot of ideas from his book, called Link. He wanted to stop the release of AC 3, but in the end suddenly dropped the lawsuit. Wonder why? Then Ubisoft blocked any future lawsuits from Beiswenger, which he claims hints at their guilt. Personally not having a lot of love for plagiarists, being a writer and all, this is rather despicable.
I’ll admit I’ve had limited experience with Capcom’s games. The first was probably Home Alone, and the only others would be some Resident Evil games and Dead Rising 2.
But I don’t particularly approve of Capcom’s business practices and its treatment of its customers. One of the biggest sins they’ve committed is releasing a game, and then promising DLC for that game, charging extra for it, only for someone to find the DLC on the original game disc.
They’ve also showed tremendous bias in favour of Asian audiences, with servers for Resident Evil: Outbreak and its sequel in Japan shutting down three and a half years after the the North American and European servers.
Several of their games and sequels in popular franchises have only be released to Asian audiences in Japan, Korea and Taiwan via retail and online distribution methods, saying that language and cultural differences would prevent anyone else from enjoying it. You also don’t think perhaps there might be people in other parts of the world that might be fluent in these languages or practice these cultures, like America for instance? Ten million people prancing around in Anime cosplay outfits can't be wrong. Their logic might or might sound a little racist, actually. Hell, even some of their games have been called racist. *Cough*, Resident Evil 5, *cough*.
Speaking of which, the Resident Evil series has really gone downhill over the years. The last really good one was probably Resident Evil 3 or maybe Resident Evil 4 -- not that I played the latter. The series that invented the term survival horror in the first place has sold out and become more of an action fest.
I don’t particularly like Gearbox for a few reasons. They started off all right developing one or two good expansions for Half-Life, porting the game to consoles; even working on the retail edition of Counter-Strike. I really enjoyed the first two Brothers in Arms titles most. The third was a bit of a cash in, milking the series for what it was worth. They did away with situational awareness mode which was the series primary' selling point besides using actual tactics rather than a more gung-ho approach likes games before it. And the fourth in the series, Furious 4 (which Gearbox now states is a separate IP) is said to be copying Battlefield: Bad Company.
Gearbox bought the Duke Nukem IP from 3D Realms after 3DR hit rock bottom, and began developing the console versions of DNF, because 3DR and Triptych had pretty much done about 95% of the PC version all ready. But Gearbox went and added and took stuff out of the game to make the final build, which didn’t really sit well with me or others. I can’t help but feel that it would have been better if it had been left alone and not tinkered with as much. Instead they changed the Duke Nukem model to someone younger so it would appeal to a larger, younger audience, basically alienating the devoted fans that had waited for this game for well over a decade. Scott Miller says they (3DR) screwed up Duke? No, I think Gearbox pretty much did that. And now they own the Duke Nukem IP, and intend to do what with it exactly? Ten to one “Duke Begins” or whatever this reboot or remake is called, is going to be rubbish.
I know a lot of people out there like Borderlands, but Gearbox has done so much copying from other series and films, like Diablo (Sanctuary), Mad Max, and Avatar (Pandora), which is hard to ignore. To call it an original series is a bit of an insult and a lie, quite frankly. Pitchford even admits to having stolen so much from the Alien series during his career. Speaking of which, Aliens: Colonial Marines took ages to get out the door and in the end bombed almost as hard as DNF, although it's said to have a lot to do with contractual obligations and a looming lawsuit from Sega. But that's no excuse to lie to the public in order to market it.
I think the main reason I don’t have much love for them is because they burned Interceptor Entertainment which was developing Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded, a remake of Duke Nukem 3D but in Unreal Engine 3. They wanted to make the game and release it for free, but due to contractual disputes (Gearbox would let them work on the game but wouldn't let them release it), IE put the game on "indefinite hold". Then they went over to 3DR/Apogee and started work on a Rise of the Triad remake. It was a bit like the whole Activision/The Silver Lining affair, but at least that ended up being released even if, according to some, it wasn’t all that good.
I imagine if Gearbox actually made any money off DNR, they might have actually let them go ahead and release it.
Why I dislike Sega is again linked to the reason I don’t like Gearbox much – but has nothing to do with Take Two Interactive. Sega was heavily involved in the Aliens: Colonial Marines saga. This is what went down in a nutshell: Sega agreed to let Gearbox develop the aforementioned title which I will now refer to as just ACM. Gearbox then went and spent all the money they received from Sega on developing Borderlands, and other titles, maybe even getting Duke Nukem Forever out of the door. It was a mistake to leave ACM alone as long as they did, however, because eventually years down the line, Sega said: “Where’s the game, dude?”, and a looming lawsuit which may still happen was over Randy’s head like a black cloud, and Gearbox soiled themselves because they had all been focusing on other titles and not ACM, so they had other developers work on it, outsourcing the work to the likes of TimeGate – famous for nothing but a couple of F.E.A.R. expansions years ago. Gearbox apparently only focused on doing the multiplayer while the singleplayer went to crud. Then Sega said: "We don’t care, we’ll release some screenshots and the like online that are really just bullshots and look nothing like the actual game, and then people will be queuing to buy it, only realising once they have it that it’s a load of rubbish and then it will be too late." Or something to that effect.
And they did… in droves. ACM was still one of the hottest selling games of the first quarter. They literally duped millions of people. Simple as that. I can only imagine that in reality Sega would never in a million years have given this game their seal of quality.
Sega also had Obsidian work on an Alien RPG, which was claimed to be near completion before guess who, Sega pulled the plug, and it was all for nothing. Depriving us all of an Alien RPG is a crime. We’ve had several shoddy Alien FPS titles over the last few years, and at least one decent RPG would have made up for that.
I also didn’t like the fact that Condemned Criminal Origins, which was hands down the 2nd scariest game I’ve ever played – only behind Clive Barker’s Undying – received a sequel, which did not make it to the PC (even in the form of a crappy looking port like the first game), and became a console exclusive. I hate it when they do that.
Take Two Interactive
There’s one main reason I don’t like Take Two and that is closely linked to why I don’t like Gearbox Software much. Take Two was at one time the publisher of Duke Nukem Forever, but they turned on 3DR, when 3DR ran out of money and had to let go of the team working on DNF, essentially abandoning the project. Many thought that DNF was cancelled, and 3DR was dead. But it wasn’t. 3DR was busy being sued by Take Two after they claimed that seeing as DNF would not be released, they were owed a lot of money that had been poured in to DNF. It seems that George Broussard’s claims that he funded DNF with his own money weren’t all that true.
Anyway, they eventually settled out of court. Then later I see 2K, a Take Two Interactive owned company, slapped on the box of DNF. It wasn't enough to file a lawsuit against 3DR and then get money from them in a settlement which probably ended up coming out of the money they made from selling the Duke Nukem IP to Gearbox, but then you went ahead and published the game anyway so you could make more? What a bunch of scumbags.
Rockstar will never make it on to any favourites list of mine. One reason is because they mainly cater to the console market and neglect the PC fans. Yes, they make great games, but ports of their games like GTA only make it on to PC a year after their original release on console, and some of their other titles like Red Dead Redemption don’t even make to the PC at all. Not that we cared about Bully that much, to be honest, but it would have been nice if we were given the opportunity. Just like it’s nice to be invited to a party even if you end up saying no, rather than not being invited at all.
And at one stage many people were in doubt over whether GTA V would even be released on PC. Just saying.
The only good thing I can say about Rockstar is that they have released some of their catalogue of games for free, like GTA and GTA 2.
Oh, and Max Payne 3... meh.
All right, I’ll admit. Much like I witnessed on an episode of Zero Punctuation, there were two Ion Storms. There was Ion Storm Austin, which was good. They made Deus Ex, the sequel, Invisible War, and they also gave us Thief: Deadly Shadows, which was an okay game – just not in the same league as its prequels by Looking Glass Studios. This branch of the company was headed by Warren Spector, before he became a mickey mouse mascot for Disney years later.
Then there was Ion Storm Dallas. This was the evil side of the company and was headed by John Romero, one of the co-founders of id Software, famed for the Doom series. John Romero at the time was revelling in his superstardom and wealth, and had a massive ego. He dated models, drove sports cars – he was living it up. It was this ego that led to the demise of Ion Storm Dallas, however.
After all the hype, delays, overspending, and PR blunders, such as the “John Romero’s about to make you his bitch” campaign, Daikatana ended up being a massive failure and is considered one of the worst games ever made. Anachronox was pretty much the last game to come out of the Dallas studio and then that was the final nail in the coffin. Ion Storm Austin lived on for a few more years until it too went under after Spector left and Eidos decided to call it a day. In my opinion, their one good game was Deus Ex. The rest we could have done without as they were really just dumbed down for-console games.
But I think everyone really wanted to see Ion Storm, especially John Romero, taken down a notch. After this, a dozen years later, and Romero still hasn’t recovered and it’s likely he’ll never reach the same level ever again.
I’ve written before about Gamestop’s moral compass, or lack thereof, and their dodgy business ethics. Getting staff to open copies of certain games and remove contents from it and then selling opened or “gutted” copies of games at the same price; allowing staff to check out games and bring them back opened, and sell them at the same price; boycotting titles from their stores because they promote rival companies or services, and selling used titles in the same store as new copies.
By selling used copies of games, they take all the profit, and none of it goes to the developers or publishers, and this is one of the main reasons why we end up paying more for new retail copies. Thanks a lot, idiots.
Your least favourite company represented here?
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