Electronic Arts this week said it will no longer pay gun manufacturers for the right to use branded weapons in video games, following a controversial decision to promote assault weapons dealers in one of its flagship products. EA confirmed the decision to Reuters Tuesday, while claiming that it retains the right to depict guns without a license.
The game company came under fire last year, after it included links to certain gun sellers on the website for Medal of Honor: Warfighter. At the time, EA said the promotion was part of an effort to raise money for military veterans, though it soon removed the links due to sharp public outcry.
"We won't do that again."
"We won't do that again," EA spokesperson Jeff Brown told Reuters. "The action games we will release this year will not include licensed images of weapons."
The gaming industry has come under increased scrutiny following the December 2012 shootings in Newtown, Connecticut — a tragedy that has reignited the debate surrounding gun control and violent media. Vice President Joe Biden discussed the issue with game industry leaders earlier this year, while the National Rifle Association has taken a more pointed approach, singling out video games as a driver of violent culture. After the Newtown shooting, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre described the gaming industry as "a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people."
Brown says EA's decision had little to do with politics, noting that LaPierre's comments have had little resonance among its clientele. "The response from our audience was pretty clear: they feel the comments from the NRA were a simple attempt to change the subject," the spokesperson said.
"We're telling a story and we have a point of view."
The game company claims it has the legal right to depict branded weapons in its products, likening its games to novels and other narrative-based media. "We're telling a story and we have a point of view," Frank Gibeau, EA president of labels, said in an interview with Reuters. "A book doesn't pay for saying the word 'Colt,' for example."
Thus far, gun makers haven't sued game companies for using branded weapons without a license, though EA's free speech philosophy has come under fire from Bell Helicopter, which challenged the company's unlicensed depiction of one of its helicopters in the game Battlefield. EA preemptively sued the aircraft manufacturer last year, with the trial scheduled to begin in June.