At least one minor celebrity has posted an angry rant on social media alleging video game publisher Electronic Arts tried to buy his endorsement of the upcoming Star Wars-themed game.
Despite being the publisher behind such popular titles as Madden NFL and the FIFA series, EA does not enjoy, shall we say, a sterling reputation among gamers and game developers.
In fact, The Consumerist famously declared EA the “worst company in America” back in 2012, following numerous controversies and complaints. If we lived in the same world as EA’s newest game, Star Wars: Battlefront, EA would probably be considered by many to be the Empire, is what we’re trying to say. Which, we guess, makes Benjamin Burnley—minor celebrity, musician and frontman of that early 2000s band Breaking Benjamin—one of the plucky (albeit foul-mouthed) Rebels.
You see, while the company has never been officially exposed for doing so, it has long been rumored that EA occasionally resorts to offering payouts to popular YouTubers and other moderately famous people with clout in the gaming community to casually endorse one of the publisher’s games on social media. And now, Burnley is alleging that’s exactly what the organization attempted when it supposedly approached him about expressing his fondness for Battlefront, which released on November 17.
Unfortunately for EA, if the exchange really did happen, they either didn’t offer to pay Burnley enough, or didn’t anticipate the musician’s burning, frothing-at-the-mouth hatred for EA’s newest online shooter:
There’s a fair bit to unpack here: First, unless Burnley or someone else comes forward with incriminating emails or a contract or something, Burnley’s accusation isn’t necessarily tantamount to hard evidence of wrongdoing on EA’s part. But it does raise some flags given the persistent rumors that EA engages in so-called “stealth advertising”—wherein celebrities are asked to casually endorse a product without mentioning that they’ve been paid to do so. It’s also worth noting that Burnley does, in fact, have at least some clout with gamers, as he himself is a big fan of games and his band sometimes produces original songs specifically for video game soundtracks, so he’d be a pretty good candidate for EA to approach for some kind of undercover advertising.
Weirdly, stealth marketing—while seen as a supreme deception by western consumers—is, more or less, tacitly accepted by Japanese consumers in a weird wink-wink-nudge-nudge, I-see-what-you-did-there kind of way. Stema (a Japanese portmanteau of “stealth marketing”) is often an explicit part of Japanese entertainment publishers’ advertising budgets, and the public is typically well aware of when it’s happening, even when there’s no specific mention of an endorsement being paid for.
We’ll have to wait and see whether or not Burnley’s accusation spins off into something more substantial, but we do want to take a moment to point out that, shenanigans notwithstanding, we’re enjoying Star Wars: Battlefront just fine! Was that OK, guys, or should we do one more take? What do you mean the mic’s still o—