History of Electronic Arts
Electronic Arts (EA) is one of the biggest game publisher companies in the world, known for hosting a huge variety of games including franchises like Battlefield, Star Wars, Mass Effect, and FIFA. Their games have been played by millions of players around the world and they have been reshaping and impacting the gaming industry since the early 1990’s where they started to appear in console games and started gathering well-known game publishers under their name like Bioware and DICE, a few names among them.
EA Net Revenue
In the 4th quarter of 2017, EA had accumulated a net revenue of $4,825 million, their biggest revenue to date. EA is a force to reckon with and their net worth would only continue to grow, if not for the tragedy that occurred in November 2017 after the release of Star Wars Battlefront II. The state of EA games in 2018 does not look very promising ever since.
EA’s first steps into decay
Electronic Arts were always associated with a company that publishes beautifully looking, open-world games with a ton of content but rather uninspiring stories, with a few exceptions such as the Mass Effect trilogy and Battlefield. While they were not associated with the best games in the industry, they were still considered very successful game publishers by gamers and their games sold pretty well. No one would argue, for example, that Mass Effect Andromeda was a very ambitious game that fell short of its promise to deliver a unique history and a breath-taking open world experience, worthy of the initial trilogy.
Check out more about Mass Effect Andromeda, HERE
Even though the game was unpolished and not ready to be launched, EA decided to stick with their deadline and release the game anyway, causing an uproar among gamers who not only did not enjoy it but also made fun of it due to the hilarious facial expressions of the characters in the game. Mass Effect Andromeda was definitely a hit and miss situation as BioWare implemented necessary features and fixed bugs with future updates that should have been there at launch. The hype, however, was gone and even die-hard supporters of the Mass Effect franchise were not willing to return to the game. Besides its many flaws, production and publishing mistakes, Mass Effect Andromeda was a promising game and was nothing compared to what would hit EA next.
EA showed their greed and reluctance to learn from their mistakes with the release of Star Wars Battlefront II. Implementing the loot box system present on the FIFA franchise, EA decided to milk every penny out of their customers by creating a loot- box progression system in the latest Star Wars game because they were aware of the affiliation of gamers towards Star Wars. They probably thought that supporters of Star Wars would be eager to spend a few thousand dollars on their favorite character which caused an uproar among gamers who started openly blaming EA for their greedy strategies.
Star Wars Battlefront II became the most hated game in history and it did not just stop there. The uproar, anger, and frustration were so much apparent that governments and lawyers got involved, too arguing whether loot boxes in games were legal or not. Legislation issues got out of hand and even Washington state got alarmed by it.
Eventually, Disney who claims the ownership of Star Wars had to step in and demand the removal of loot boxes from EA. Eventually, EA’s consumer-hostile strategy had backlashed on them causing a worldwide interference of institutions, organizations, and governments against the loot-box system which was considered as gambling.
The Star Wars Battlefront II loot-box paradox
But why was the implementation of loot boxes such a big problem in Star Wars Battlefront II? Other games like Overwatch and Battlefield 1 also have a loot-box system in place and no one seems to complain about those games. The thing with those games is that the loot-boxes are cosmetic only and do not actually affect game progression. You could spend extra money on a new armor in Overwatch or a new skin weapon in Battlefield 1, but those were optional and did not affect how good you are or will become in the game. Spending extra money was just an option for those who wanted to do it for cosmetic items only.
With Star Wars Battlefront II, however, the loot-box system was implemented into the game’s progression system since you could unlock “star cards” with abilities for your characters. There was no other progression system in place like in Battlefield for example, where, whatever class you play, you would progress in that specific class. Here, the progression system was done through loot boxes and if someone had the cash to spend, he could progress in-game through spending money leaving other players who grind at a disadvantage. This was considered gambling because you could spend real money on items that are in a game. The accusation was that it had the same effect on you as real gambling.
There is nothing more disappointing for gamers to feel like a game is unfair and does not reward each player equally. Star Wars Battlefront II achieved to outrage their supporters who swore not to buy any EA games in the future and regretted to have bought the game in the first place. EA defended themselves initially back in November 2017, claiming that loot boxes are not gambling.
The interference of Disney and EA’s forced apology
However, after the intervention of Disney a few months later, they were forced to openly apologize for the implementation of loot boxes. They also “swore” to be better and learn from their mistakes although gamers were not convinced that they would truly abandon the idea of their in-game loot-box strategy and they were right. EA stated that they would redefine loot-boxes in order to be both on the “right side of the law” and provide gamers with a fair gaming experience. And how could they ditch the idea when this system has brought them in millions of dollars in revenue?
EA will not change their marketing plans
EA proved once more how right the gaming community was by characterizing them as “a greedy company with consumer-hostile marketing strategies”. They have been repeating themselves by emphasizing that they will change and have learned from their mistakes, although it is apparent by their actions that it was just another marketing trick to convince gamers to start supporting their game again with their money.
EA lost 6 billion dollars in net worth
The loot-box incident in Star Wars Battlefront II cost EA 6 billion dollars in net worth as many legal procedures shifted against them and most gamers stopped not only supporting Star Wars Battlefront II but also any other EA game released at the time. With EA’s latest offering, Anthem postponed to be released in 2019 due to the much- debated loot- box controversy, EA is in deep trouble trying to balance their initial marketing plans including loot boxes with their billion dollar loss. Some gamers only hope that EA learned their lesson and will remove loot boxes completely or, at least, add them for cosmetic items only. Many gamers, although, have lost complete interest in EA and have ditched the company completely. It is interesting to see where EA is headed and what their decisions concerning loot boxes will be after the release of their next big title, Anthem in 2019.
Huge win for gamers and a shift in the gaming industry
If it were not for the gaming industry and the fact that they fought back EA’s anti-consumer tactics causing a worldwide uproar, EA would have maintained the loot-box system as is. This win was essential for gamers and gaming in general as it showed other game producers and publishers that an unfair, pay-to-win system in their games would not be tolerated anymore. Successful but smaller game producers and publishers, like CD Project reacted to this controversy and promised not to make the same mistakes.
Bethesda, a gaming company known for games like Wolfenstein, Doom and Dishonored pointed out that the protest of the gaming industry against loot-boxes was a good thing but it could have an effect on prices of AAA titles in the future.
They also openly expressed that they do not support EA’s tactics at the game awards event of 2017. Check out the video below and see for yourself:
EA managed to become the bad example of the gaming industry and gave a lesson to other game publishers and producers on what not to do in their future games.
DICE keeps improving Star Wars Battlefront II
Not everything about Star Wars Battlefront II is negative, though. DICE, the producers of Star Wars Battlefront II has made big improvements to the game, the most important of which is the re-development of the progression system. Since the latest updates, the progression system is tied to the classes you play. Whatever character you play, will get upgraded and you will unlock features and abilities of this specific class.
The progression system is almost fixed and I say almost because EA and DICE decided not to erase the previous progression system completely. While loot boxes are gone, players who had spent money on loot boxes and unlocked most of the features of their characters do not lose those features. It would be wise to completely erase the previous system and let the player begin from scratch. Battlefront II is now a mixture of very skilled players who unlocked most of the in-game stuff with money against new players who are bound to the current progression system. While the progression system is not fixed yet, it offers every player equal in-game opportunities and rewards them for actually playing the game rather than spending money on loot-boxes. Battlefront II is definitely an enjoyable game with great graphics, a nice expanded story, free DLC content and great optimization. Definitely worth checking out.
Check out the trailer for the game:
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Some personal thoughts
The gaming industry has dramatically changed over the years, some could argue for the better, some for the worse. While this is a matter of personal opinion, the fact that EA tried to milk their customer base by using the love of gamers for the Star Wars franchise was not. Giving an advantage to gamers who have the money to spend in order to upgrade their characters was a very shady move and EA should be aware that the gaming industry would protest against their decision. The loot-box controversy stigmatized EA and gave other game producers a lesson on what to avoid in their games and also a marketing boost for themselves by promising not to do the same mistakes as EA.
It was definitely a huge win for gamers as the Star Wars Battlefront II uproar not only caused the interference of institutions and governments but also forced Disney to take the situation in their hands and force EA to temporarily abandon their loot-box approach. The incident re-shaped the gaming industry and the way publishers approach games in the future. It also broadcast that gamers are not mindless sheep who eat everything thrown on their plate. We have a voice and if something is unfair we have the obligation and ability to stop it. It is a major win against corporate corruption and greed and EA will hopefully remember this and start publishing games that are actually consumer-friendly giving gamers reasons to buy their games. By following a sincere business strategy, EA could both increase their profits and have a satisfying customer base.
If you enjoyed what you read, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below. Have you played Star Wars Battlefront II? Do you like it? Would you support EA and buy their games after what they did?