You might remember video game publisher Electronic Arts (EA) facing criticism last week for a harmless but baffling tweets sent by the official brand account.
Piggybacking off a popular Twitter meme format — this person is perfect but (insert superficial character flaw here) — the likely intent of EA’s tweet was something like “this person is cool, but we can’t play games together.”
The message received? Single-player games are rubbish.
What makes the tweet particularly confusing is many of EA’s own studios are currently making single-player games, and many of the publisher’s most beloved titles are also solo experiences. In the past, the studio has also canceled projects because they don’t contain a multiplayer component.
They’re a 10 but they only like playing single-player games
— Electronic Arts (@EA) June 30, 2022
It might have been a daft joke, but there’s history and context there – especially from a company that constantly publishes multiplayer games jammed with some of the most egregious monetization methods. Fifa Ultimate Team allows you to build your dream soccer team if you’ve got the cash for it. Star Wars Battlefront 2‘s loot boxes were such a mess that the team had to rework the entire progression system.
The tweet in question hit EA’s Slack within an hour after it was sent, landing in the channel for the company’s social media teams, according to two sources who work at EA (we have verified the exchanges and screenshots of the Slack messages).
Initially, employees pointed out how the tweet was getting a negative reaction on social. But as the tweet started getting more traction, EA employees shared replies from other industry folks, including indie publisher Annapurna Interactive telling the company it “shoulda kept this in the drafts” and influencer Jackseptice saying“They’re a 10 but thought this tweet was a good idea.”
“As the negative reactions grew, and more of us began being more assertive, a plan was put together – very haphazardly! – to have other internal studios reply to that tweet,” one of our sources explained. “They were desperately trying to turn things into a positive. Even people working on multiplayer games didn’t like it.”
There was a call to action in the Slack channel featuring an “all hands on deck” plan asking social managers to workshop replies where EA studios would publicly ridicule their publisher online. The idea was to get more attention on the tweet, then use it to highlight some of EA’s single-player games. They wanted to flip the narrative and turn it into a marketing win.
Some EA employees pointed out that the “roasting EA strategy” would feed into the “big, bad EA” narrative that even their own studios and franchises don’t like them.
Multiple social media managers opted out straight away, according to our sources. With a lack of solidarity, the plan fell apart.
“The most agreed-on idea was to take responsibility for it and apologize,” one source explained. That ended up coming in a different form.
There’s actually a good reason for this, according to our two sources: The main EA account isn’t actually managed by EA’s internal social brand or communications teams.
Following the tweet, EA is hosting roundtable discussions and meetings with executives who were angry about it since some studios saw the tweet as an insult to them.
“I’m 99 percent sure the person who posted the tweet and their manager don’t even know about the single-player games comment from a decade ago,” said one of our sources, referencing EA Games label president Frank Gibeau’s famous 2010 comment about the death of the single-player game.
“They’re all new and most of them, to my knowledge, aren’t really game industry people. The person who posted that tweet didn’t know and wasn’t supported properly to ensure something like this didn’t happen.”
The person who wrote the tweet isn’t to blame for the controversy – the blame lies in company politics. The official EA account should be operated alongside all the studio accounts, and run by a team that knows games and the history behind the company they’re representing. If not, someone should at least be overseeing the operation. After all, this is a multi-billion dollar company, so the basics should be nailed down.
We’ve reached out to EA for comment.
Written by Kirk McKeand on behalf of GLHF.