Too Soon To Tell
Electronic Arts has once again publicly apologized for the entire loot box fiasco surrounding Star Wars: Battlefront 2.
Patrick Söderlund, who was recently appointed as the company's chief design officer, noted in an interview from The Verge, that the company needs to be better going forward with their products. “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 stated.“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.”
Star Wars: Battlefront 2 was notoriously lambasted by the gaming community over its use of loot boxes, which forced EA to remove them, first temporarily before fully, from the game. The controversy spiraled into the political realm, with several lawmakers addressing the use of loot boxes in games and accusing companies such as EA for the promotion of gambling, along with a net drop of $3.1 billion in shareholder value last November, selling below expectations of what they hoped for last year.
Söderlund notes that the plan to include loot boxes was an intentional move to have more people play the game for a longer period of time, noting that it was attempting to do what everyone else on the market has tried to do for years now with games such as Overwatch and Destiny 2. "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,” he says. “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.”
Both Battlefield and Anthem have had massive clouds over their heads in the wake of the loot box controversy. Anthem, in particular, has been 'written off' due to the lack of confirmed information on the games development cycle, which was given a delay to 2019. It has been speculated that Anthem, which is supposedly a Destiny 2-style open world online shooter, will be going through some retooling in regards to its monetization systems.
Söderlund acknowledges that the company's actions need to be taken into account going forward.
“It’s clear to us that players see the company differently than we do, and in that situation, as a member of the executive team, as the guy who runs all of the studios, I have to take that seriously.And we have to continue to listen and understand what’s triggering that. We have to be very cautious of what we do.
“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, and in the cases where we don’t get it right, we just have to listen and learn from it and be better.”
The company has been through numerous scandals and controversies over it's near 35 years of operation. Several instances have been addressed, such as the treatment of employees improving due to the 'EA Spouse' memo in 2004, to accusations that EA was fraudulently manipulating customers over the iOS title Dungeon Keeper Mobile. EA has attempted to combat this poor image through a number of philanthropic programs, most notably the revival of their EA Originals Indie label. The most recent release, A Way Out, sold over 1 million copies in the first three weeks, with all revenue going directly to developer Hazelight Studios.
The studio also recently announced a new update for Star Wars: Battlefront 2, featuring the planet of Endor and the Ewoks. Söderlund believes that the continuous updates to the game have helped it recover from the rocky launch six months ago. "People seem to appreciate what we’ve done, players are coming back, and we’re seeing stronger engagement numbers. People seem to think that for the most part, we got it right," he says, referring to the removal of the in-game microtransactions and the retooling of the games progression system. "It doesn’t mean we will stop. We’ll continue to improve the game, we’ll continue to push on these things, and we’ll have to be very cautious with what this means for future products.”
What are your thoughts on all of this? Do you think EA will improve? Leave your comments below.