Let’s put EA’s CEO’s $20 million payout in context

EA CEO Andrew Wilson stands on stage at a video game showcase contemplating his next million.

The CEO of mad manufacturer Electronic Arts is set to rake in $19.8 million in total compensation for her company’s strong performance in 2021. That’s about half of what it was for 2020 after EA’s board of directors ruled. clamped down on sky-high bonuses in the face of shareholder backlash, but still several hundred times more than some of EA’s lowest-paid employees are earning during this period of record inflation.

“For fiscal year 2022, our median employee’s total annual compensation was $115,569, and the total annual compensation of [CEO Andrew] Wilson, was $19,858,539,” EA notes in its most recent SEC filingfirst reported on by Axios. Most of it came from stocks, with Wilson’s base salary being $1,267,000. That’s a far cry from the roughly $39 million he earned in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Following a non-binding shareholder vote rule over executive compensation that year, EA’s board approved a much smaller salary package for 2021, calling the previous year’s windfall an “exception”.

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But it’s all relative, and in this case, less money is still a lot, especially compared to what everyone else who works at EA earns. Wilson’s earnings in 2021 still make him one of the Top 10 highest paid CEOs in gamingand placed it well above the median salary of S&P 500 CEOs last year ($14.5 million). It also means that Wilson still earns 172 times more money than the median total compensation for EA employees ($115,569) and 636 times what some customer service staff laid off earlier this month have been paid.

A slide from EA's 2022 earnings presentation shows how most of its revenue comes from live service games.

A slide from EA’s 2022 earnings presentation shows how most of its revenue comes from live service games.

One of EA’s recently fired customer service reps, who wished to remain anonymous because he didn’t want to be seen criticizing a former employer while looking for a new job, said Kotaku they were only making $15 an hour after their last annual raise of just $0.10. They and other staff, located at EA Austin, had complained of being forced to come to the office while facing poor pay. A MIT study estimated a “living wage” for the Austin, Texas area of ​​$17.46 for someone living alone, but EA would reject requests for increases, saying it was already paying market rates.

“EA does not compensate for cost of living, we base our compensation ranges on market data for similar paid roles in a geographic area and make adjustments as needed,” a human resources representative told Austin staff. last November in the Slack company, based on screenshots shared with Kotaku. The company used a similar line when someone asked why EA’s pricing always seemed to lag the median range for other tech support roles in the city, based on data provided by recruitment sites like Glassdoor. EA did not respond to a request for comment.

While QA developers are one class of video game employees that have historically been undervalued and underpaid, customer service and tech support are increasingly another as companies turn to live games. Microtransactions in online multiplayer games like Apex Legends, Fifaand mad taken into account 85% of EA net bookings last quarter, and “Advisors”, as they are referred to internally, are on the front line helping players deal with errors, questions, and other issues related to these massive in-game savings. More of these jobs are now shipped to overseas suppliers in cheaper labor markets like Romania and India.

“Outsourcing most of the support teams at EA to cash in on a higher profit is not acceptable,” the former employee said. Kotaku. “Ultimately, lower-level employees were the backbone of connecting with gamers and realizing their passion and vision for games. During the pandemic, EA made a huge profit and always refused to increase salaries according to the cost of living.

Numbers these days have become so important—Diablo Immortal raised $24 million in its first two weeks and Microsoft is shell out $69 billion buy Activision Blizzard – that it’s easy to lose sight of the magnitude of the gaps. In 1965, the ratio of CEO to median employee compensation was just 20. The federal minimum wage at the time was $1.25. If he had followed some measures of inflation, the minimum wage would be $24 today. Even quality assurance workers on money presses like Call of Duty and candy Crushwho recently won increases from Activision Blizzard, still not earning as much. Andrew Wilson, meanwhile, got a $40,000 raise to his base salary alone this year.