By now most of you have heard of the numerous incidents of overbilling by Mythic Entertainment – for those of you who haven’t, Scott Jennings has a nice summary over at his “Broken Toys” web site here. “Incident” is, perhaps, too weak of a word when customers have reported being charged hundreds of dollars in a single month – words like “fiasco” seem equally insignificant. It puts me in mind of a line from the James Bond Movie “Moonraker”…
“To lose one aircraft may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two seems like carelessness.” – from “Moonraker”
Scott Jennings points out that there has been no “clear-cut statement of responsibility and assurance this won’t happen again.” This is only to be expected, given the circumstances, as there are no doubt concerns by Mythic Entertainment that anything more than the given “apology for inconvenience” might place the parent company, Electronic Arts, in a position of liability for things like bank fees, damaged credit ratings, missed bill payments and the like. This was their response after a statement of the facts:
“We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience that this issue may be causing our players. Please continue to watch the Herald in the coming days for further information regarding this issue.” – Mythic
In business parlance, this is known as a “boiler plate” response – something set aside as an automatic response in the event of a catastrophic business error more akin to an eruption of Mount Saint Helens than an “inconvenience”. But that’s what business executives do, that’s their autonomous response…it’s like breathing.
On the face of it one can simply cite that a trust was violated between a company and their customers, but the nature of the response seems to go beyond that. Trust is when Turbine or Cryptic sells me a lifetime subscription – I trust that my expenditure will be justified and the lifetime of the game will be more than bag of marsh mellows at a Girl Scout camp out. The response is indicative of a larger issue and that is a lack of respect. A customer should be something that is valued; increasingly that is not the case.
It may be considered archaic in some business circles but the term “valued customer” once meant something. In my younger years there was a local business named “Rays Meat Market.” Ray knew his customers and he cared about them and their families. With the growth of business to international conglomerates that stretch anti-monopoly laws to the limits, “valued customers” instead become viewed as a commodity – as something to be used and discarded. Companies like Activision become known as the “800 pound gorilla” for a good reason, and a large bottom line is only part of it – attitude is the rest. Without mentioning any game developer or publisher in particular, it is easy to claim you care about your customers when you are busy trying to stay the coffin makers hand from pounding in the last nail. At that point it seems far less gregarious and a lot more like a prayer by someone who has suddenly “found God” upon finding himself in a life threatening situation.
But there are people out there who do care about their customers, who do care about the people around them both inside and outside of any given industry. One of them is our famed “guy who knows a guy” of which I always speak. Modesty on his part (and perhaps a bit of caution) prevents me from telling you who he is. I will only say that he is a prince among businessmen and should be the epitome of all in his industry…and certainly we hold him in such regard as to consider him the paragon.
Everyone in his industry should be like him. You know who you are friend.
Thanks for all that you do.