facebreakerI don’t know about you, but I have always felt that Electronic Arts was the meanest company in our nice and cool gaming world, the big bad wolf who cares about money and nothing else (except from eating us alive, maybe), the company that still sells games better than anybody else, despite the fact that their quality goes down the drain. For me, Electronic Arts was the biggest disappointment, the one and only company which deserved to suffer because it simply used us, gamers, to get covered in cash. But this year, things changed.

This year Electronic Arts took a big step forward and managed to pleasantly and unexpectedly surprise me. First, they released a bunch of quality original IPs which, to be honest, is a huge improvement: the publishers simply seemed to live off sequels until now, while every shot they had at new IPs was a huge, embarrassing miss (with a few notable exceptions, of course, like Mass Effect). Second, they sticked to their word and managed to increase those Metacritic ratings which kept going down in the past years, which means that they did manage to bring quality to our consoles, handhelds or PC systems.

2008 was the year when EA released some “franchise-makers” (and they’ll probably take advantage of that, too): Army of Two was well received by fans, Boom Blox was an instant hit on the Wii (and one of the best games of the year!), Mirror’s Edge could mark the birth of a new genre (even though sales-wise it was a flop)mirrors_e and Dead Space is probably the scariest game ever (and clearly one of the best games developed in-house and published by EA in recent times).

The company also managed this year to take some of the existing franchise to the next level, with Battlefield: Bad Company topping the list, closely followed by an awesomely improved FIFA 09, a FIFA Manager 2009 which finally seems to look and feel like a true management game and, of course, with quality games set in the Command and Conquer universe.

Of course, EA did not change completely. They still did not manage to rise up to the expectations with Spore – a game with a huge potential which was turned into a joke (and actually the list I’ve linked to has an impressive 3 games out of five published by EA), with brand new add-ons for their milking cow we know as The Sims 2, with a pointless Mercenaries sequel and with titles that died hours after birth, like Boogie Superstar or Facebreaker. However, you can’t always do things right and failures are part of the game, too…

ea-logoStill, as I said, I consider EA to be the surprise company of 2008. Following the improvements which kicked off in 2007 and proving us that they’re not just some arrogant company which cares about nothing but profits and making money (even though this clearly matters A LOT to them), they have managed to make me care about them. I did not like them in the past, I did not like them for being “sequels-factories,” but things seem to have changed. All it’s left to see is if they have learned anything from the past years, or the only games they’ll release in 2010 will be Spore 2, Boom Blox 2, Dead Space 2 and Army of Three. Hopefully not.

What do you think? Did EA change into a better company that at least seems to care, or they’re still the same old publishers and they only had a “surprise” year?