Is EA Greedy?

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In a rare misstep for an otherwise much beloved game company (OK I’ll stop), it looks that EA has gotten itself into a bit of a hot water over the microtransactions in Star Wars Battlefront 2.

While it was probably a matter of time until some company went too far and something like this happened, it’s sill surprising to see how far this scandal has gone – from the most downvoted reddit comment of all time, to even making CNN.

I have to say, though, while I’ve been as entertained as the next person by seeing the Reddit snowball of hate roll down and crush everything in its’ path this past week, I’m kind of of two minds about the way everything has unfolded.

I’m usually a bit turned off by all the moralizing that happens when companies are accused of being “greedy.” My question whenever the issue of “greed” comes up is this: how much money is someone allowed to try to make before they’re considered too “greedy”? Is there a specific line that needs to be crossed? If someone tries to make a 20% profit margin on a product they sell is that too greedy? How about 10%? Is that morally acceptable? Who gets to decide these things?

Greed is when there’s 10 kids and 10 pieces of cake at a birthday party, and some kid takes two. Greed isn’t the baker charging the parents for he cake. He made the cake, and he’s free to charge as much as he wants for it. He doesn’t owe the parents cake, and if they don’t like what he’s charging they don’t have to buy it.

EA doesn’t owe anyone a game any more than the baker owes those parents cake. They sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into making a Star Wars Battlefront, and if they feel the best way they can make that money plus a profit back is charging players 5 cents every time their character ties their shoes, then they have every right to try that. That decision may be stupid and counterproductive, it may turn off players and end up sinking the game, but it’s not “ethically” wrong and not really a basis for any kind of moral outrage.

At the same time, though, I’m sure if people playing Battlefront after launch and getting destroyed by a Darth Vader character that someone spent $1,000 to unlock wouldn’t really comforted by the idea that Adam Smith’s invisible hand is working in the background making all right with the world. They just want to have a good time with the game they spent $60 on, without having to shell out next month’s rent to be competitive. Are they “wrong” to be angry at whatever executive at EA decided to try to squeeze a few extra dollars out of the player base at the expense of everyone’s good time? In theory, based  my little rant above, I guess you could argue that are.

But then again…I mean…Fuck that guy.