Electronic Arts Named Worst Company in America

Video game publisher beats out Bank of America, AT&T, Comcast and Best Buy in annual bracket-style contest hosted by Consumerist.com.

With March Madness now over, Electronic Arts just won the type of college basketball-style tournament that no company wants to be associated with. EA was voted the worst company in America by Consumerist.com. The consumer site is published by Consumer Media LLC, a not-for-profit subsidiary of Consumer Reports, and takes no outside advertising.

The game publisher, which is best known for its Madden NFL, FIFA Soccer and the just-released Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 games, was hammered by fans for its recent Mass Effect 3 game to claim this year’s 2012 grand championship title. EA overtook Sony, Best Buy, Comcast and finally Bank of America to claim the crown.

A portion of gamers have been up in arms since the third game in the Mass Effect science fiction trilogy was released with an ending that didn’t serve closure in fans’ opinions. As a result, this small but vocal group, which has been extremely active online for weeks, set out to push the game-maker past real corporate villains like Bank of America, which was involved in the mortgage crisis.

Over its three-week run, the seventh annual Worst Company in America tournament drew more than 260,000 total votes, setting yet another contest record, from people fed up with the poor consumer policies of the 32 companies nominated from a range of industries, including airlines, telecommunications, retailers, financial institutes and more. Gamers drove the final vote to a tournament record 50,575 total submissions.

"We're sure that bank presidents, oil, tobacco and weapons companies are all relieved they weren't on the list this year,” said Electronic Arts spokesman John Reseburg. “We're going to continue making award-winning games and services played by more than 300 million people worldwide."

EA has sold 2.8 million of the 3.5 million copies of Mass Effect 3 that the company shipped worldwide, according to Michael Pachter, videogame analyst, Wedbush Morgan Securities. 

While last year’s winner, BP, narrowly beat out rival Bank of America in 2011, this year EA easily claimed the prestigious Golden Poo Award, a statuette modeled after a pile of poo, with 64 percent of the votes.

Both Bank of America and EA drew consumer ire for their poorly-received practices of swallowing up smaller competitors and nickel-and-diming customers with up-charges and fees, but EA’s success in this year’s tournament shines a spotlight on an industry that is often considered ignored by regulators, courts and the mainstream media.

"Some may look down their noses at the idea of voters picking a video game publisher as the Worst Company In America, but that is the exact kind of attitude that has allowed EA and its ilk to nickel and dime devoted customers for a decade,” said Chris Morran, deputy editor of Consumerist.com. “This is not just a few people complaining about bad games; this vote represents a large group of consumers who have grown sick and tired of being ignored and taken advantage of."

Although Bank of America wasn’t able to clinch the top honor in this year’s competition, it did earn its second consecutive Silver Poo Award. This year, Consumerist.com also awarded its first-ever Bronze Poo Award to AT&T, which beat out Walmart for the third-place spot in the tournament.

What impact the Mass Effect backlash will have on the movie in development at Legendary Entertainment remains to be seen. EA-owned developer BioWare is working with Arad Productions and screenwriter Mark Protosevich on a script for the sci-fi film.

Electronic Arts-owned developer BioWare is releasing a free downloadable "extended cut" of Mass Effect 3 with a new ending this summer in an attempt to keep its fan base happy. That good will gesture comes too late to impact its current title of worst company In America.