Unless you’ve been digging through an interview on The Verge, you may or may not know what’s going on with EA and Patrick Söderlund, a long-time EA executive who was just promoted to EA’s chief design officer. With his promotion also comes a seat that’s already on fire due to the Star Wars Battlefront II controversy that led into some other EA high-profile titles and even some non-EA titles that have caught the attention of lawmakers around the world due to loot boxes being viewed as a form of gambling.
But with this news also comes Patrick Söderlund stating that EA has learned from their mistakes. You can see his statement down below before I state why you shouldn’t buy the statement just as I am not.
“We had the intent that was designed for us to have more people play it over a longer period of time,” explains Söderlund of the decision to include loot boxes. “And like a lot of other games on the market, to be able to afford to do that we had an idea of getting returns from that. But at the same time, we got it wrong. And as a result, we had to take very quick and drastic actions to turn everything off, and we’ve since worked and redesigned the progression system. 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. 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.”
Upon reading this, here are a few things I’m taking away from this. One, Söderlund isn’t acknowledging that Star Wars Battlefront II isn’t their only high-profile game that is being ruined by microtransactions. Don’t get me wrong, I play an obscene amount of Overwatch by Blizzard Entertainment, I love the game and I realize it has loot boxes, but you know what? I’ve yet to really get screwed by Blizzard the way I have by EA. They didn’t focus on that aspect of the game being their source for a solid Quality of Life. Overwatch is still selling copies.
Their Overwatch League is extremely profitable and is already serving up some solid esports competition by teams from around the world. To be honest, Blizzard really hasn’t ever screwed me over the way EA did and it doesn’t seem like they’re going to, but when it happens, I’ll draw a line and say when enough is enough.
I’ve had a lot of problems with EA in recent years. One, their business model sucks. They’re notorious for shutting down studios that they feel don’t perform the best. They absolutely can’t stand single-player games anymore. Oh, and they already shut down Visceral Games during the production of a seemingly linear Star Wars title that had yet to even see the light of day. Let’s also take a look at the other angle. They did fix Star Wars Battlefront II, but they only did it due to the player uproar when the community learned just how pay-to-win those microtransactions were. Until then? They didn’t care.
Disney seemingly didn’t care until the backlash hit their doorstep. EA has been like this for years and they didn’t care. They knew that players were growing frustrated with microtransactions. Just look at how hard they focused on them with the Mass Effect series and look at how bad it hurt Mass Effect: Andromeda, which wasn’t the best title, but it had a lot of opportunities had EA just nixed the multiplayer and microtransaction portions for an optional season pass with some astoundingly well done story-based DLC.
Then let’s take a look at their sports franchises. Do you really think EA is going to just reapproach microtransactions for their ultimate team systems in their sports games? We’d be crazy to think that they will. They make a lot of money off that, well over a billion dollars (source: Tweak Town) a year, and that’s not including what they could have earned from Star Wars Battlefront II had the system not been so cash-grabby. So why are they sorry and why are they even stating they’ve learned from their mistakes? Is this just a publicity stunt to try and win former fans back?Let me be clear. I’m not buying it. Neither should you. EA screwed up. Sure, they have some really good franchises, even I will admit that. However, they are notorious for shutting down studios that don’t meet their expectations. Look at Visceral, Lucas Arts, Westwood Studio, Maxis, Pandemic, Origin, and Criterion Games. They shut all of them down because they didn’t meet EA’s requirements. Hell, it even happened with 38 Studios. EA could have actually tossed out the needed money to help Kurt Schilling and his team out of their financial hole they dug and helped the team at 38 Studios keep their jobs as well as make new and amazing games within the Kingdoms of Amalur universe.
However, we know that’s not how EA works. It didn’t benefit them. While the story behind 38 Studios and their closure is a really odd one (there’s a ton of reading you’ll want to do), EA treated them just as they do any of the other minor studios that they have worked with in the past. They weren’t as profitable as EA had hoped, so to fix this issue, EA shut them down. But back to the discussion at hand.
While I will admit, the Star Wars Battlefront II progression update is definitely a 2.0 version of the game, I can’t forgive EA for burning my trust, for throwing me under the bus and throwing microtransactions in my face. It’s not what I want when I game. It’s not needed when I’m there to sit down and play a game for hours-on-end. I don’t want to navigate back to my menu and have loot boxes tossed in my face. I don’t want it at all really, even if cosmetic. Sure, the guy who may get a Hoth costume for Luke, Leia, or Han Solo might get my attention, but it’s not going to drive me out to buy loot boxes and it sure as Hell is going to let that fire simmer a bit longer.But wait, EA isn’t done, they’ve already added loot boxes back into Star Wars Battlefront II, almost as if they are trying to get the last laugh. It’s as if they are TRYING to once more force microtransactions down our throats. Albeit these are purely cosmetic at this point in time. I guess they really “learned their lesson” didn’t they? Not really. They just want to make themselves feel better about burning consumer trust. They lost a lot of money on this one, billions actually and they know it. So what’s a better way to make back that lost money? Make skins that are locked exclusively behind real money transactions.
It’s a load of crap and we all know it. Sure, I know this article could hurt our press relations with EA, but I’m being realistic here. I’m letting my frustrations out as both a consumer and a journalist. Sure, you can earn the loot boxes, but imagine the time you’re going to spend grinding out a specific skin instead of just going out and having a gamble at getting it. You’re probably going to get it a lot faster with your money. Even Blizzard knows this and they’ve worked around this situation with the Arcade mode in Overwatch. Hell, they’ve even worked around it with their free-to-play titles Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone and it has worked out for the best.Sadly, EA’s not Blizzard and they will never try to learn from a team that has been successfully doing loot boxes for several years. The only part of EA I will openly admit I’ll support? EA Originals and that’s mostly due to the fact that developers such as Zoink, the team behind Fe and Hazelight Studio, the team behind A Way Out (remember that weird reveal at the VGA’s last year?) see all the returns, not EA. It’s all about the indie developers. But for now? Even that portion of EA might be off limits for me until they can prove they won’t be burning any more bridges and they won’t be forcing microtransactions down our throats with the upcoming BioWare title Anthem and the unannounced Star Wars title that’s currently in the works.
But lets also not forget, EA doesn’t believe we want linear games (despite the fact that A Way Out just solid more than 1 million copies in a week). They don’t believe we want games that will engage us with strong and narratively driven stories and gameplay mechanics. They want games as a service, they want microtransactions and most of all – they don’t care what you think. They only see profit margins, they only see DLC and loot boxes. They don’t see quality products, singleplayer games and the profits that could be made from upgraded versions of HD collections of games like Dead Space, Army of Two or the PS2 classic Black. I’m drawing the line, I’m done and this time, I can’t forgive as easily as I had done in the past. They’ve struck out a solid three times.
Which brings me to say this: I’m steering clear of EA. There’s a lot of work that will need to be done in order to repair this bridge and at the moment? I’m more tempted to let it crumble than being rebuilt. Had they wanted to earn the trust of players, they should have opted out of loot boxes altogether and let the public see just what they are capable of in order to drive sales for their game and continually grow it outside of the reliance of cosmetic items. I’ll continue to enjoy the few games I’ve bought in recent years, but outside of that? I’m done and you should be just as well.
All opinions are that of the writers and do not reflect upon Blast Away the Game Review as a whole. Find out more about our ethics policy here.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPGs, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.