There's a lot to talk about in the report, and I may return to it here for a later entry. But my attention was drawn by a fairly peripheral point in the document--that many within EA resent the general attention within the business community and in the wider culture to companies like Pixar or even Microsoft whose size, market capitalization and/or economic performance are actually smaller than EA. This seems to me to touch on something far bigger than EA or its economic success.
Games researchers in general are keenly aware of the degree to which the economic importance of games still does not fully translate into a perceived cultural or even business centrality in the US or the global economy overall. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I want to focus on one: the lack of a usefully critical, thoughtful mode of games criticism published in newspapers and major magazines in the US.
Even newspapers that do not stoop to have a comics section could scarcely imagine going without a film critic. Even the fact that universally negative reviews from newspaper and magazine critics can rarely dissuade audiences from going to certain films does not keep the studios and many observers of the film industry from avidly reading and tracking mainstream middlebrow film criticism.
Mainstream film critics range from sycophantic bubbleheads who have never seen a film they did not like--not to mention the quasi-fictional critics-for-hire whose pithy recommendations pop up in the advertisements for Grade-Z reject films like "Gigli"--to critics who are notorious for the length, aggressiveness and critical sharpness of their reviews.
That range notwithstanding, the important thing here is that even small-town newspapers and light-content magazines often feel the need to deliver film criticism to their readership. Benedict Anderson's famous work on the history of nationalism, Imagined Communities, is especially well-known for its account of how the perceived simultaneity of the act of reading newspapers in a number of nation-states helped to create the sense of one people united in their understanding of events and culture. In the United States in particular, the reception of film became an important component of that simultaneity--not just the watching of film itself, but the understanding that the nation was watching films, and its citizens experiencing key movies together through the medium of newspaper or mass media criticism. We were reminded of what we had seen, and what we might think of what we had seen, and took that with us to the water-coolers and parties where the subject of our nights in the cinema could be further discussed and digested.
That's one part of why Pixar is a bigger deal than EA, and The Incredibles more important as a moment in national (indeed, global) experience of mass culture than Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Yes, of course it is also that the viewership for blockbuster films cuts across many demographics, while the audience for GTA, though huge, is concentrated among males under 35. Still, I would argue that the lack of a popularly circulated genre of substantive middlebrow criticism directed at games and published in newspapers and major popular magazines is both a sign and a cause of the relatively diminished status of games within the central narratives of national and global culture. There are exceptions: the "Game Theory" column in the New York Times and Steven Poole's writing for The Guardian come easily to mind. But for the most part, when newspapers or magazines like Entertainment Weekly write about games, they write about them in short blurbish articles which appear to have been sent straight from the publicity department of game publishers, in breathlessly superficial, hype-infested prose. Games, for most journalistic outlets in the US, don't seem to justify or require anything more than that.
Obviously I disagree with that assessment, and writers like Poole and J.C. Herz have shown how unjustified it is. But it's an interesting cart-and-horse problem. Do you get a compelling and widespread form of mainstream games criticism only when the demographic of a national population that plays games becomes less isolated, or could the commitment of journalistic resources to developing a games criticism that matches the breadth, relative depth or resource base of film criticism help to write games more visibly into national narratives of popular culture, in line with their economic significance?