Battlefront 2 was the punch bag at the centre of last year’s loot box controversy. Now microtransactions about to return to the title after they were unceremoniously yoinked soon after launch. And EA’s recently retitled chief design officer, Patrick Soderlund, has been on something of a charm offensive of late too.
“We have taken significant steps as a company to review and understand the mechanics around monetization, loot boxes, and other things in our games before they go to market,” Soderlund told The Verge yesterday. “For games that come next, for Battlefield or for Anthem, [players have] made it very clear that we can’t afford to make similar mistakes. And we won’t.”
The first step is that Battlefront 2’s rejigged microtransactions only contain cosmetic items – so game balance hinges only on the skill and hard work of its players.
“We have to take action and show people that we’re serious about building the best possible products, that we’re serious about treating the players fair, and we’re here to make the best possible entertainment that we can,” he continued. “And in the cases where we don’t get it right, we just have to listen and learn from it and be better.”
And all that should feed into a far more measured approach to monetisation when it comes to next year’s Anthem. The game looks to be closest in structure to Destiny 2, which also suffered from fan opprobrium for its approach to making money in the long term.
“I’d be lying to you if I said that what’s happened with Battlefront and what’s happened with everything surrounding loot boxes and these things haven’t had an effect on EA as a company and an effect on us as management,” he revealed. “We can shy away from it and pretend like it didn’t happen, or we can act responsibly and realize that we made some mistakes, and try to rectify those mistakes and learn from them.”
While console game makers have rushed to embrace the potential riches of a model that worked so well for mobile games – they have also wanted to retain the big upfront price. But for every title where the model has worked fantastically, FIFA Ultimate Team for instance, there are now numerous more that have fallen foul of fan ire.
EA is hoping that Anthem (coming in 2019) will have gamers singing along, rather than singing in protest, but managing the balance between profits and players is looking to be a rather tricky balance act in full-priced games.