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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Evil Assholes at EA

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Exposing Actual Employee Abuse.

It was only a matter of time before we at KoopaTV would have to talk about the EA Spouse story. After all, we ARE on a crusade here, and this story got legitimate publicity when it was told almost a decade ago.

In short, the story is about how the author (Erin Hoffman), the wife of an EA programmer Leander Hasty, is having a distressed broken marriage because of EA's scheduled 90-hour work weeks far in advance of when game development "crunch time" should begin. In return for these horrible hours, EA paid no overtime or compensation time. This is ripping apart the very soul of these programmers. Later, in 2006, class-action lawsuits against EA by EA Spouse's forces were successful.

There are some aspects that EA Spouse is absolutely wrong in. One of those is the idea that corporations are bottomless hoarders of cash that are callously paying their employees nothing while the executives profit off the work of these so-called "slaves". Of course, EA Spouse is the same person who said the "the salary was right, and the benefits were good".
I created these charts myself!
As what seems to be a direct result of the legal/regulatory environment caused by the class-action lawsuit, EA's Research and Development costs skyrocketed in the mid-2000s. This skyrocket was unsustainable as EA bled in both cash and profit. That is something that we here at KoopaTV cheer, but we'd rather have EA fail because of revenue failure from everyone boycotting their shitty franchises, not because of bleeding-heart socialists trying to affect the entire industry.

From 2008 to 2011, EA lost money every year. From 2004 to 2009, they made less money than the year before.
This graph doesn't represent true percentage change. I made it so the columns go positive if EA's net income goes up, and negative percentage if EA's net income goes down.

Cash isn't EA's only Current Asset: Their short-term investments went down for that huge spike in 2004. They were also bound by debt covenants for some of these things, and their Current Liabilities changed appropriately.
You probably don't WANT your cash flows to fluctuate by 100% in a year.
The fact that EA Spouse cited that "EA's annual revenue is approximately $2.5 billion" either means she doesn't understand how business works, or she's purposefully being misleading. A cash build-up either means you're ready to give out a cash dividend (which EA never has done and probably never will do) or you're scared shitless about something (or someone is forcing you to be) and need to pay off current liabilities. Or there's nothing to invest in (which wasn't true in the mid-2000s) or you're ABOUT to invest in something huge. For EA, they were probably scared and knew they were about to tank in net income. Perhaps it was for the huge financial investment in being about to develop for high-definition consoles.

Another amusing thing EA Spouse says is,
The EA Mambo, paired with other giants such as Vivendi, Sony, and Microsoft, is rapidly either crushing or absorbing the vast majority of the business in game development. A few standalone studios that made their fortunes in previous eras -- Blizzard, Bioware, and Id come to mind -- manage to still survive, but 2004 saw the collapse of dozens of small game studios, no longer able to acquire contracts in the face of rapid and massive consolidation of game publishing companies. This is an epidemic hardly unfamiliar to anyone working in the industry. Though, of course, it is always the option of talent to go outside the industry, perhaps venturing into the booming commercial software development arena. (Read my tired attempt at sarcasm.)
Blizzard is of course now part of Activision-Blizzard, BioWare got bought by EA, and id is part of Zenimax. So things got a lot worse for the industry since.

Of course, EA itself has suffered a multitude of layoffs and workforce cuts since EA Spouse was part of the class-action lawsuit that effectively increased the cost per employee. EA Spouse's solution?
the solution therefore should be to hire more engineers, or artists, or designers, as the case may be.
EA had to do this to survive. It's why they've been playing it very safe by releasing the same game over and over, and releasing fewer games a year. They've been consolidating and are stuck in survival mode  rather than doing anything innovative. As I've written about before, they're a major part of the stagnation in the industry and though it may be a bitter pill to swallow, they need to go.

So what have they done to try to cut costs? They've outsourced their customer support capabilities to India. Hey, how is that working out for Dell? For some reason EA has a Facebook page called "EA Customer Support" where you can't actually post on their wall...

Since EA's employees in America are having such a miserable time, I wanted to know how their employees in India were doing. Although, as you can see in the following interview (that took over an hour to complete), it's internal information on whether or not they consider themselves "employees" of EA. It's also internal information on whether or not these offshore guys are even useful. Either way, they're actually employees of an organization called LivePerson.

I still loathe that they force you to make an Origin account to be able to contact Customer Support.

info: Your approximate wait time is 0 minute.
info: You are now ready to chat with Nitin.
Nitin: Thanks for contacting EA Customer Experience, my name is Nitin. How may I assist you today?

KoopaTV: Hi Nitin. Where do you work?

Nitin: Hello Koopatv.
Nitin: We are from India.

KoopaTV: Do you work directly for EA or as a third-party that handles their Customer Support?

Nitin: I am afraid that this is internal thing that I can't tell you.

KoopaTV: What you do for a living is an internal thing?
Nitin: I am afraid that I can't share any other information that is internal and personal.

KoopaTV: Okay. A few weeks ago I contacted you all asking what happened to EA's announcement about the Madden Curse movie back in 2010.
KoopaTV: The support person, Durgesh (does he still work there?) said to contact EA's press core, and in particular, an individual named Elizabeth Brett.
KoopaTV: It turned out that Elizabeth Brett was terminated by EA and EA's list of press people was out-of-date.
KoopaTV: Either way, EA's press people don't respond to messages. Is there any reason or company policy for why this is the case?
KoopaTV: (And the original question about the Madden Curse remained unanswered!)

Nitin: If you have such issue you contact our phone support number as well  to get to know it well.

KoopaTV: ...Could you rephrase that?

Nitin: Phone support number-:1-866-543-5435(English (NA): 10AM-10PM EST, Monday through Saturday)

KoopaTV: ...Is it toll-free? (Not that that is rephrasing whatever you tried to say)

Nitin: That will cost you local rate.

KoopaTV: Is it just you guys in phone-form?

Nitin: I’m afraid; I didn’t understand your last message. Could you please repeat it?

KoopaTV: I didn't understand what "If you have such issue you contact our phone support number as well to get to know it well." meant but you didn't repeat that.
KoopaTV: Is calling
KoopaTV: 1-866-543-5435
KoopaTV: Just going to get you offshore guys on the phone?

Nitin: You want to know about the " Elizabeth Brett " correct?

KoopaTV: Well, she was an EA press person. She's gone now, for unknown reasons. EA's Facebook page seemed fine indicating she died or got killed or whatever. The main question is about what happened to the Madden Curse movie, and why the rest of EA's press people won't respond to my attempts at messaging them despite them (and Durgesh) claiming they'd do so.
KoopaTV: (Which also makes me wonder how much you EA people like your jobs, considering you can get mysteriously killed off)

Nitin: Phone support team have the full information about Elizabeth Brett please contact them they will provide you the informaiton.

KoopaTV: Now, the number you gave me is for what purpose? As in, is it general EA, account systems, corporate number, press number, human resources, Origin support, or what?
Nitin: Customer phone support number they will assist you further in that case.

KoopaTV: My question isn't a customer question.
KoopaTV: I'm not paying a toll to EA on your behalf to waste my time and money.

Nitin: Yes I know but you have to call them for your issue or I can escalate your case to the email team so that they can be able to contact you through email within 24-48 hours.

KoopaTV: Elizabeth Brett isn't a videogame. She is — or was — an EA employee that was the press contact for all EA SPORTS Madden questions, which Durgesh (your colleague) said knew the answer to the whereabouts of the Madden Curse movie (which is also not a videogame).
KoopaTV: The e-mail team? Well, sure, that'd be a step-up, considering no one else in EA sends me e-mails in reply when I e-mail THEM.
KoopaTV: I'm a journalist, you see.

Nitin: My pardon when I said Elizabeth is or was a video game.
Nitin: I am just saying you to contact on that number for the full information regarding that

KoopaTV: ...You said this could be handled via e-mail, right? I'd prefer to have a transcript of these types of things.
KoopaTV: 'cause as I said, I'm a journalist, so having a record of queries is important.

Nitin: Let me tell you that may be Elizabeth is not there anymore for further information regarding that you can contact Ritu Sidhu who is handling the EA sports.
Nitin: Please go to that link for further assistance-:

KoopaTV: I went through this with both Elizabeth and also Wendy Spander.
KoopaTV: Ms. Spander actually said she'd reply to me within a day.
KoopaTV: ...Which she never did.
KoopaTV: How do I ensure a response?
KoopaTV: (Wendy also said to contact Greg Gervin, which I did and he never replied either)

Nitin: I am afraid that you have contacted on the Customer Service support I am unable to tell you the exact what is happens and what is not on the corporate level. Please contact on that number for the further assistance.

KoopaTV: But the phone number is ALSO customer service.

Nitin: Yes it is but in some rare cases you can get the further information regarding your issue.

KoopaTV: But there are no cases where I can get useful information via these live chats?

Nitin: Please contact on that number and provide them this case ID # 09155159.Then they will assist you further regarding your issue.

KoopaTV: So I take that as a "yes"?

Nitin: Regarding what?

KoopaTV: The phone number has "rare" cases where they can be helpful, so is it true that these live chats have "no" such cases?

Nitin: I am afraid that I can't say any answer on that.

KoopaTV: Is that also internal information?

Nitin: If you have any issue regarding the game please let me know and for the corporate or other please contract on that number please.

KoopaTV: Oh. The game. Well, okay. Why does EA claim to have an "unprecedented partnership" with Nintendo and then have no games coming out for the Wii U?
KoopaTV: Stated another way, when is Madden 25 coming out for Wii U?

Nitin: Koopatv if you any issue regarding your game is not working  and etc please ask to me, question you are asking to me I have no knowledge as all this are decided by the high level team
Nitin: I am helpful to you in terms of you are game are not working your unable to update the game ets

KoopaTV: How is this possible? Madden 25 isn't even OUT.
KoopaTV: So why is this even an option of inquiry on EA's website?
KoopaTV: If you can't handle any questions about it period since you'll never have a question asking why the game can't work if no one has it because it isn't even done yet.

Nitin: Actually in EA chat support we are not trained enough to handle the EA management query, so I would request you to contact us through website link that I have provided to you.
Nitin: Or else you can contact our phone support team.
Nitin: If you have any other concern related to gameplay issues, please feel free to contact us anytime.
Nitin: Have a great day!
Nitin: Bye and take care!

KoopaTV: ...
KoopaTV: How can I have a gameplay issue
KoopaTV: about a game that isn't released?

So I DID send that e-mail to Ritu Sidhu. On June 28. No reply yet as of publishing. And look, it's written specifically to get Ritu Sidhu's attention and to make my inquiry look so legitimate, the late Elizabeth Brett actually found it legitimate enough to REPLY TO.
Subject: CONTINUATION of Conversation With ELIZABETH BRETT
Message: Dear Ritu Sidhu,
I'm a videogame industry journalist, and I was in contact with the late Elizabeth Brett about the production of the previously announced (two and a half years ago) Madden Curse movie.
She was just about to tell me the status of its production when she was terminated from EA. It's not only unfortunate for her family, but also myself and the gaming world at large.
So could you please continue where she left off and tell me the status of the movie? Thank you.
Ludwig Von Koopa
To test Nitin's theory (and he's really "Nitin R.") on what EA's live chat is for, I decided to delve back in, this time with a concern that my Madden NFL 25 disc doesn't work. Note that Madden NFL 25 doesn't come out until August 27.
Haninder: Thanks for contacting EA Customer Experience, my name is Haninder. How may I assist you today?

KoopaTV: Hi Mr. Haninder.
Haninder: Hello there :)
Haninder: How are you /
Haninder: *?
KoopaTV: I feel crappy as I usually do, but unrelated to that, I have a bit of a problem with Madden 25.
KoopaTV: And I heard that this is the place to go for problems with EA SPORTS games.
KoopaTV: So my copy won'
Haninder: Okay, may I know what problem you are facing with your game?
Haninder: You mean the disc?
KoopaTV: Well I turn my Xbox 360 on and try to start Madden 25 like any other game... Yeah, the disc!
Haninder: Okay, no problem. You can send the disc to our warranty department for the replacement.
Haninder: You can find all the information on this link:
KoopaTV: Let's see... *click*
KoopaTV: (I'm reading)
Haninder: Sure
KoopaTV: Well, I sure didn't mistreat or abuse my disc. It's very special to me.
KoopaTV: It's actually worked before until... today, really. And
KoopaTV: I had my buddies over and everything and I'm like "Let's play Madden 25!"
KoopaTV: And they're like "Woah you got Madden 25?" And I'm like "Yeah! It's great!"
KoopaTV: And it just didn't work in front of everyone and it was embarassing.
Haninder: You can replace the disc though.
Haninder: I trust you.
KoopaTV: Yeah. And it's for free?
KoopaTV: (Including shipping?)
Haninder: No, it will charge you, you can check it on that link.
KoopaTV: Well they said it's "free of charge".
Haninder: Great.
Haninder: Than , you will get it for free.
KoopaTV: Because I've had it for less than 90 days.
Haninder: Oh! that's Good. :)
Haninder: Is there anything else that I can help you with ?
KoopaTV: Is it a problem that Madden 25 isn't going to be released for another two months?
Haninder: Not really.
KoopaTV: I see.
KoopaTV: Thank you very much. And have a good day.
KoopaTV: ^_^
Haninder: My pleasure :)
Haninder: It was pleasure talking to you
Haninder: If you need help with anything else, please feel free to contact us again.

Thank you for contacting EA. Have a great day.
Haninder: Bye and take care
Haninder: You may now end the chat by clicking on "end chat" option on your chat window.
So Haninder S., as he's known, really doesn't care about EA replacing games that haven't even come out yet. So Nitin was correct — these guys really are useless. But they are OFFICIAL REPRESENTATIVES of Electronic Arts. And they really don't give a shit. Their job is to be humiliated on a daily basis.

It's just one step towards EA's ultimate demise. Cut back on good American jobs, invest in inept Indians, and eventually everyone will be so sick of that they'll have to go back to American personnel. And by then, it'll be too late. If I were in EA, I'd hate my job, because EA hates me too.

If anyone wants to call the phone number and use the case # from the Nitin interview, go ahead. In the meantime, keep up the fight and boycott against EA!

To see the original Madden Curse article this is based from, read this article!
For a new e-mail to Ritu Sidhu, click here.
Haninder's interview with Ludwig might be the worst example of customer service ever on KoopaTV.

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