For EA, Fox News and controversy are good things

EA Games Label chief Frank Gibeau claims that courting controversy isn't such a bad idea for developers and when it comes to using that controversy to sell games, Fox News comes in handy.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

When it comes to controversy and Fox News, Electronic Arts is glowing in its praise.

Speaking to IndustryGamers in an interview published yesterday, EA Games Label President Frank Gibeau said that drumming up some controversy around a game isn't "a bad thing." In fact, Gibeau told the gaming publication that he believes developers trying to build an audience around a new title "should court controversy."

Controversy is nothing new in the gaming space, especially when it comes to shooters. Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, once the most popular game ever released, allowed gamers to participate in a massacre of innocent civilians in an airport that sparked widespread outcry by critics.

That title was quickly followed up with another controversy, this time from the EA camp, in last year's Medal of Honor game. Initially, the game featured the ability for gamers to play as a Taliban fighter in the title's multiplayer mode. Less than two weeks before the launch of the game last October, EA announced that it had removed the Taliban in the multiplayer mode and renamed the group the Opposing Force.

However, by then, the outcry was already in full swing. Numerous stories cropped up prior to EA's announcement to remove the Taliban from the multiplayer mode, saying that it was an insensitive addition to the title. U.K. Defense Secretary Liam Fox was especially outspoken at the time, saying that "it's shocking that someone would think it acceptable to recreate the acts of the Taliban."

At the time, EA's Gibeau said his company's decision to include the Taliban in its title was a "creative risk." And he didn't feel that his company should field criticism for the inclusion, considering "films and books set in Afghanistan don't get flack."

But perhaps there was more to it. And the rampant outcry by Fox News and other media outlets might not have been as galling to Gibeau as he let on at the time.

"I love when they covered the Taliban," Gibeau said about Fox News in his interview with IndustryGamers. "I loved it when they covered the Bulletstorm stuff. In each one of those cases, it was true to the game and we were trying to do something creatively. The fact that their point of view is different than ours and represented an audience out there is fine by me."

Gibeau's mention of Bulletstorm is seemingly another prime example of controversy helping the company to sell more units.

In a report last month, Fox News took aim at Bulletstorm, a first-person shooter developed by Epic Games and published by EA, saying that the title "rewarded [players] for shooting enemies in the private parts (such as the buttocks)." It went on to say that the title featured "an excess of profanity, of course, including frequent use of F-words."

But like Gibeau, Epic Games President Mike Capps wasn't too upset about Fox News' coverage. Speaking in a separate interview with IndustryGamers, Capps said that Fox News' issues with the title likely helped his company's game more than hurt it.

"For a games that's over the top, [Fox News] probably helped sell more units than they convinced people to pick at us," he said.