EA CEO reflects on Anthem’s launch, microtransactions, and loot boxes

Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson has confirmed that the publisher remains committed to BioWare’s Anthem in spite of the fact the sci-fi shooter “may not have had the start [EA] wanted”.

“IP lives for generations, and runs in these seven-to-ten year cycles,” Wilson told GameDaily (thanks, Gamasutra). “So, if I think about Anthem on a seven-to-ten year cycle, it may not have had the start that many of us wanted, including our players. I feel like that team is really going to get there with something special and something great, because they’ve demonstrated that they can.”

Wilson then reflected on the differences between usual FPS players and BioWare players more generally, acknowledging that they have “different expectations” of what a BioWare game “should be”.

“What the BioWare teams are thinking about is that we’re going to build a lot of different types of games. We’re going to have our core BioWare audience that’s been with us for a really long time,” says Wilson. “There are kids today who are 12 years old who weren’t around when BioWare started making games… and they have different expectations of what a BioWare game should be in the context of the world they’ve grown up in.”

“As a result of that, BioWare has to evolve and has to expand and has to test the elasticity of that brand. The teams at BioWare will continue to come to work every day and listen to their players old and new and seek to deliver on the promises they’ve made to those players. That’s what you’re seeing with Anthem today.”

Later in the interview, Wilson also reflected upon loot boxes, using a similar term to EA’s Kerry Hopkins who called them “surprise mechanics” when called before a UK Parliamentary committee earlier this week. Wilson called them “mystery” boxes and insists there’s no “sleight of hand” about how EA implements microtransactions or loot boxes.

“Whether it’s direct purchase or this mystery box style that’s become commonly referred to as loot boxes we really think about four key vectors: Value, fairness, choice, and fun,” Wilson explained. “We want to feel like we got a good deal. We’ve got some live services businesses that are microtransaction fueled that have some of the highest sentiment and highest engagement in the industry. So, it’s actually possible to do this right.

“We want to talk to a lot of regulators around the world. There’s no sleight of hand here. If it’s ultimately found that any form of monetization is inappropriate, we’ll do something different. Many territories and many regulators have tested it and found it to be completely fine in the same way that collecting baseball cards […] is fine,” he added.

“So, what we did last year ahead of, I think, anyone in the industry is we went out, and we started providing odds and being very transparent about the chances that you’re going to get whatever it might be in any one of these packs. We’re going to continue to do that because our objective was never to be opaque.”

BioWare revised its development schedule for sci-fi looter shooter Anthem earlier this year, it is “not going to hit all the goals” it had originally set out on its “Act 1 Calendar”.

A Kotaku investigation recently depicted an unhealthy culture at the acclaimed studio that included specific references to senior staff from a number of anonymous sources that intimated the studio lacked focus and drive throughout much of Anthem’s pre-production and production processes.

BioWare responded to claims of “problems in the development of Anthem and some of [its] previous projects” with both a public statement and an internal memo to all staff, acknowledging the workplace “problems are real” and pledged “to continue working to solve them”.

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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