The outcry over Star Wars Battlefront II‘s monetization has reached a fever pitch despite token efforts from Electronic Arts, and now investors are growing concerned.
Amidst the furor over Star Wars: Battlefront 2‘s loot boxes and progression systems, the game’s much-heralded release is fast approaching. But unless you have $2,100 or 4,500 hours to spare on its brutal monetization model, you and millions of others are almost certainly losing interest already. For a cornerstone entry in a loved franchise, with the backing of the biggest pop culture license in the Western world and an installed fanbase which fully represents both aspects, this is very bad news.
Publisher Electronic Arts’ response to fan outcry is the most downvoted comment in Reddit history, and the AMA with developers that recently followed was a dismal show of feeble and similarly rejected attempts at PR spin. Rather than taking the criticism seriously, EA has made it very apparent that their response is being tailored to meet the absolute bare minimum requirements to stop the online firestorm. If they are lucky, the Internet’s infamously short attention span will save them.
Adding fuel to the blaster fire, Belgium has included the game in its investigation of gambling practices, in a hopeful first step toward curtailing this new flavor of consumer abuse. The publisher has responded with a firm denial, towing the same line that others like Activision and WBIE have done with their own takes on the now-familiar formula:
Creating a fair and fun game experience is of critical importance to EA. The crate mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront II are not gambling. A player’s ability to succeed in the game is not dependent on purchasing crates. Players can also earn crates through playing the game and not spending any money at all. Once obtained, players are always guaranteed to receive content that can be used in game.
But EA Chief Financial Officer Blake Jorgensen was forced to address investors directly over the controversy at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch investor meeting. Their answers do not seem to have been received any better by financiers than fans. According to analyst Justin Post:
Management highlighted game depth and quality, but did not provide an update on unit expectations. As for the Battlefront 2 hero costs controversy, EA indicated the original hero costs were established based on targeted rate of game play progression and balance (not economics).
We see recent controversies as a potential risk for unit sales vs buyside expectations, although EA has conservative estimates for Battlefront Live Services.
Confidence in EA stock has yet to materially drop, but with decisions like the hard limit to the in-game credits you can earn via the game’s “Arcade” mode, it seems like only a matter of time until karma catches up to a gaming giant lured all too easily to the dark side.
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