EA Struggles With “Perception That We’re Bad Guys”

Electronic Arts's Matt Bilbey has opened up about the perception that EA is gaming's bad guy.

EA Villains

Matt Bilbey, who works at Electronic Arts as the company’s EVP of strategic growth, has opened up about the sense in the gaming community that EA is not one of the good guys.

Any gamer could provide you with a laundry list of reasons for this public perception of the company, from the microtransaction-plagued launch of Star Wars Battlefront II to a recent claim from an EA spokesperson that loot boxes are “quite fun and quite ethical“. Doesn’t that sound like something that a Bond villain would say about their poorly-concealed evil scheme?

“25 years at EA and I still struggle with the external perception that we’re just a bunch of bad guys,” Matt Bilbey said in a candid interview with GamesIndustry.biz. “We love making and playing games. Unfortunately, when we make mistakes on games, the world knows about it because it’s of a size and scale.”

The interview goes on to focus on EA Originals, the publishing label which EA is using to sign up talented developers and support indie games. Bilbey says of the project, “As we got bigger, there is the concern that we had become disconnected from new talent coming through. EA Originals is our opportunity to connect with that talent and those smaller ideas.”

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Bilbey continues: “When you are part of a big company, it’s too easy to fall into the trap where when you see a game concept… it has to be big. The notion of actually coming up with small, unique game ideas… We know from the work that we’ve been doing on our subscription business that gamers will play a FIFA or a Fortnite — they have one main franchise — but then they want breaks from those games to play something that’s maybe five or ten hours long.”

Trying to support so many smaller projects does bring its own stresses to the table, though. “We are positively paranoid about going to E3 to sign 100 games on this or that promise, and not delivering on it,” Bilbey says. “If you make a promise and don’t deliver, you’re never going to get another chance because your name is going to be mud.”

Certainly, Bilbey seems very aware of the way EA is perceived and how the company has to be careful to avoid muddying its brand anymore. Here’s hoping that Bilbey and his colleagues can turn things around and get more gamers on their side because we’d all rather be supporting our gaming heroes than shouting about the villains.