EA vs. Steam : The Battle of Crysis 2 - The War to Sell You

ea-vs-steam-300x112In June, the PC game Crysis 2 was removed from the Steam store. Mega publisher EA wasted no time in pointing the finger at Valve’s digital distribution service. When EA launched a revamped and renamed version of their own online store, now called Origin, at E3, gamers believed they knew the answer.
They were wrong.

On July 6, EA VP of Global E-Commerce David DeMartini posted to EA’s Origin blog the following update:

“…we found great studios and worked to make their games available to as many players as possible. Here at Origin we have the same principle. We want our products available to as many players as possible, which means we make them available in all the places that gamers go to download games and services. To be very clear, except under extremely special circumstances we offer our games to every major download service including Amazon, Gamestop, and Steam.”

True enough. You don’t stop selling your product to stores just because you offer it direct from the factory. So what’s the beef?

Gamasutra would quote DeMartini saying:

""Crysis was taken down because the DLC was not available through Steam; it was available through [Direct2Drive]. That would, I guess, be a situation where two partners didn't see eye to eye, and by their choice, they were going to take that product down because they were insisting that the DLC be available through Steam."

Well, that kinda makes sense, but why not simply allow Steam to sell the DLC? If EA was truly committed to selling their products in all stores, why restrict the sale of $5 add-on on the world’s largest digital storefront?

Because this is not about downloadable content either. EA couldn’t care less where you buy your $5 map or $2 leopard print camo. The PC version of Crysis 2 was destined to be a flop from inception anyway. The dribble of revenue generated by these add-on sales is insignificant in relation to the ‘long tail’ profit generated by Steam sales years after release. It certainly isn’t worth the public fiasco EA knew it would be bringing from rabid fanboys of the Steam platform. The DLC issue is a symptom, not the problem. So what gives?

Referring back to DeMartini’s blog post again, we finally discover, buried under a mountain of marketing speak, the real reason:

“…we take direct responsibility for providing patches, updates, additional content and other services to our players. You are connecting to our servers, and we want to establish on ongoing relationship with you, to continue to give you the best possible gaming experience.”

DeMartini continues:

“Unfortunately, if we’re not allowed to manage this experience directly and establish a relationship with you, it disrupts our ability to provide the support you expect and deserve. At present, there is only one download service that will not allow this relationship. This is not our choice, and unfortunately it is their customer base that is most impacted by this decision.”

This is where the rubber meets the road! Let me help clear some off the chaff from the wheat:

As we move into the era of Web 3.0, there is one commodity that is valued above all others: Your personal information; Your age, gender, and location; Your system configuration, uptime, and usage frequency; Your friends, family, and their friends and family. In short, this is about EA getting their hands on YOU.

Your demographics are the most valuable commodities on Earth right now. Advertising executives raised on the microcosm of Nielsen ratings never dreamed of having access to this level of data about you (let alone in real time!), and will spend any amount to procure it. This is the currency of tech giants like Google and Facebook. The sales of your personal information has placed Farmville developer Zynga on the doorstep to becoming the most valuable game publisher ever, potentially worth more than market leaders EA and Activision combined.

Let us take a look at the unedited marketing speak one more time with some bolding for highlighting:

You are connecting to our servers, and we want to establish on ongoing relationship with you, to continue to give you the best possible gaming experience. This works well for our partnership with Gamestop, Amazon and other online retailers.

Unfortunately, if we’re not allowed to manage this experience directly and establish a relationship with you, it disrupts our ability to provide the support you expect and deserve. At present, there is only one download service that will not allow this relationship. This is not our choice, and unfortunately it is their customer base that is most impacted by this decision. We are working diligently to find a mutually agreeable solution.”

Translation: Steam has the goods and they are not sharing.

So, why now and why Crysis 2? Simple. Crysis 2 isn’t worth anything other than leverage. It was an EA published, not EA developed game. As such, it did not include the automatic ‘eavesdropping’ and DLC services seen in other EA titles such as Dragon Age or Mass Effect’s Cerberus Network.After paying $60 why wouln't I give you my information to sell to marketers as well?

EA named their online data havester after the shadowy information brokering service in the game and no one blinked!

Moreover, Crysis 2’s target audience was the video game console market, not the PC. Once early adopter sales had been pocketed and public outrage over the game’s release state reached a fever pitch, it was nearly worthless. Why not use it as leverage in what is, obviously, an ongoing issue with Valve’s Steam service? There was so little money to loose and the most valuable resource of the information age to gain.

This leads us back to the real events of late June. EA provided Crysis 2’s DLC goodies to its partners that would deliver the Unobtainium of your demographics, forcing game owners to use a download service aligned with EA’s desires. Valve refused to play ball and instead delivered the ultimatum of ‘Give it or else’. EA called their bluff. Valve removed Crysis 2 from the Steam storefront.

On the World Wide Web the most valuable commodity is YOU and monolithic international corporations worth billions will stop at nothing to gain it. Maximum Game indeed!

No comments :

Post a Comment