Electronic Arts, which recently won the Golden Poo award as America’s most unpopular company for the second year in a row, angered a few more people by turning its back on a long-standing understanding between the gaming industry and the gun industry.
In the past, Electronic Arts paid gun manufacturers top dollar for the license to use guns in games. The first person shooter game Battlefield 4, for example, includes guns like the G18 from Glock and the HK416 by Heckler & Koch.
This year, however, EA announced that it would not renew any of these contracts. The gaming giant will continue to include real-life firearms in its games, but EA isn’t willing to pay for that privilege anymore.
“We’re telling a story and we have a point of view,” said Frank Gibeau, the president of EA Labels. “A book doesn’t pay for saying the word Colt, for example.”
EA officials claimed that this move didn’t have anything to do with politics, Newtown, or other issues in the gun control debate. The company is simply asserting its right to exercise free speech under the fair use principle.
This complicates the already tangled relationship between the gun and video game industry. On the one hand, the video game industry provides free advertising as players whip out digital versions of real-life guns to wage battle. On the other hand, video games companies might use the guns to promote messages that go against the principles of gun manufacturers.
Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the NRA, once called the video game industry "a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people." Ironically, that isn’t far off from what gun control advocates say about the NRA.
In any event, there isn’t much that the gun industry can do about EA’s stunt. Paying for licensing privileges was essentially an undeserved courtesy – the gun industry couldn’t force video game manufacturers to hand over money for portraying guns any more easily than they could force reporters to pay royalties for writing about guns.