At the height of the controversy over Mass Effect 3's ending, fans on forums claimed to be filing complaints about developer BioWare with the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau.
The FTC required a Freedom of Information Act request be filed before it could disclose the nature of any complaints against a company. Having spent months on previous FOIA requests only to wind up with heavily redacted nonsense for the flimsiest of reasons, we turned to the Better Business Bureau. One representative told us that no complaints about Mass Effect 3 had been filed with publisher Electronic Arts. However, a Canadian representative confirmed that "a couple" had been received in regard to the game's Edmonton-based developer.
BioWare has since said it is addressing the complaints with "new content initiatives" next month, likely appeasing the outstanding complaints and (with luck) bringing the entire saga to an acceptable resolution. But not all gamers' BBB complaints have happy endings. GameSpot compiled BBB data on a number of the industry's biggest publishers, and found a massive disparity in the number of customer complaints each has to deal with (as well as how they deal with them).
No gaming company we looked at ticked off more customers in the last three years than one that didn't even exist three years ago. Since 2009, the BBB has received 1,857 complaints about social gaming giant Zynga (which only adopted that name in November of 2010). The BBB worked with the company and its customers to address most of those users' issues, but nearly 20 percent of them were still ultimately unsatisfied with Zynga's resolution. Those numbers were good enough for the company to earn an A rating from the BBB.
Among the console makers, Microsoft drew the most ire from consumers, drawing 1,510 complaints in the last few years. But it also garnered an A+ rating from the BBB in light of its massive customer base and relatively small 16.4 percent of complaints that were not resolved to the customer's satisfaction. However, it's worth noting that's for the entirety of Microsoft--from Windows Phones and Xbox 360s to productivity software and servers--whereas Sony's PlayStation division is counted separately by the BBB. As such, Sony Computer Entertainment on its own only drew 1,314 complaints to the BBB in three years, but with 455 of them leaving customers unsatisfied and another 51 getting no response from the company at all, SCE drew an F rating from the Bureau. Nintendo was far and away the best of the big three when it came to customer complaints, as the Mario maker drew just 53 complaints in three years, and resolved all but three of them to the customers' satisfaction.
Completely ignoring complaints seems to be the easiest path to a failing grade, as even companies like Sega and Namco Bandai, with 10 or fewer complaints in the last three years, were given an F. Sega had not responded to eight of its 10 complaints, while Namco Bandai ignored two of its seven. BioWare and THQ were the only other game companies we looked at listed as not responding to some complaints, and each received an F rating.
If one were to judge the companies not by the number of complaints but by the percentage of them happily resolved, Blizzard Entertainment can easily boast the best customer satisfaction rate. With only 20 customers left unsatisfied from a pool of 1,264, the World of Warcraft publisher addressed more than 98 percent of the complaints levied against it. (This might change soon, considering a recent push to log BBB complaints against Blizzard over promises the developer made with its World of Warcraft Annual Pass regarding beta access to the Mists of Pandaria expansion.) Other publishers with unsatisfied customer rates in the single digits include Activision (6.7 percent), Sony Online Entertainment (5.2 percent), and Nintendo of America (5.7 percent).
All numbers regarding BBB complaints were current as of March 21, 2012. The Bureau classifies complaints it deals with in four categories, two of which are those resolved with BBB assistance, and those for which the business in question never responded to the BBB. The remaining two categories cover instances where the customer was unsatisfied, one where the BBB found the business made a good faith effort to resolve the situation and one where it didn't. For the purposes of the graphs on this page, the latter two categories were combined into one category of complaints where customers were not satisfied with the outcome. The complete breakdown for each company's numbers is available on the Better Business Bureau's web site.