When GOG announced it would delist Ultima Underworld and its sequels from its platform in June, the news was met with major outcry from fans. While the popularity of the Ultima franchise has waned over the last decade, its retains a passionate player base that was reportedly not considered when EA sent the order to delist four games from the series.
At the time, all players were told was that the games were being removed per EA’s request.
After complaints spread across social media, the games returned to GOG this month with a message:
“It seems that twenty years on there’s still plenty of love for these titles so we’re pleased to confirm that effective immediately they’ll be available again on GOG, and we’ll be keeping them in the store for the foreseeable future. To celebrate this we’re offering these games as a free download for four weeks.”
In addition to this, EA is now doubling down on its commitment to fans of other classic titles, telling GamesIndustry the process for delisting will be revamped going forward.
“When making decisions that affect players we take the time to review exactly what the potential impacts are and whether they serve the players best interests,” Chris Bruzzo, executive vice president for marketing at EA told GamesIndustry. “When we delisted Syndicate and Ultima Underworld we missed that step and so didn’t fully consider the players perspective.”
In future, games subject to delisting will be assessed more closely, with new process being put into place that will allow EA to consider “player perspective” in all future cases.
It’s likely the initial decision came about due to financial reasons — on a business level, it makes sense to reduce product lines that don’t appear to sell well. But it’s important to note that games are a rarer commodity than other common goods, and represent history as much as any other form of entertainment. They also carry the weight of player interest and fandom, making their value harder to determine.
At the very least, it’s good to know EA recognises how important player connections with games are — and that sometimes, fandom can trump business. Hopefully we’ll see less of these missteps in future.