EA Boss Reflects On Loot Box Disaster

Half a year removed from the loot box controversy surrounding “Star Wars: Battlefront II,” EA’s newly-appointed chief design officer Patrick Soderlund admits that the response to the game has been a steep learning curve for those involved.

The game failed to reach expectations, fuelled by the online reaction against it following the game’s design which pushed people into forking out extra cash for loot boxes to make serious progression in the game. With all microtransactions in gaming now under scrutiny and some potentially on the way to being banned due to their constituting a form of gambling, EA’s obvious greed may have ultimately poisoned the revenue well they’ve been drinking from for some time.

Speaking with The Verge, Soderlund claims the company has learned from its mistakes and will try harder in the future:

“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. 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.

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…we’ll have to be very cautious with what this means for future products.”

Despite the sales pitch, many are unwilling to forgive EA for their actions. It may have been the catalyst for the loot box revolt, but ‘Battlefront II’ was hardly the first game to try this trick and subsequently past and future titles are being more closely examined in the wake of all this.

One of EA’s hopes in the next year or so is BioWare’s “Anthem”. After “Mass Effect: Andromeda” had such a rocky development process and resulting game, BioWare GM Casey Hudson is also offering a mea culpa of sorts and says they plan to do better. He tells Variety:

“[We need to] delight players with new experiences and innovation, but we must stay focused on the importance of the world, character, and storytelling elements that players expect from our games. And our games must be designed to continue delivering new stories and experiences, in an ongoing relationship with players in the worlds we’re evolving together. It will be unlike anything you’ve played, but if we do it right, it will feel very distinctly BioWare.”

This matches talk that the plan for BioWare (and EA) going forward would be to rely less on big self-contained single-player games and more on ‘games as a service’ like “Destiny” where it’s all about hooking players in long-term to provide an ongoing revenue stream.