EA recently took a huge financial hit, following the controversy regarding their usage of loot boxes and micro-transactions in Star Wars Battlefront II. The company’s stocks experienced an 8.5 percent decrease which equated to a loss of over $3 billion in shareholders value. Stock values for EA closed at the 121.97 mark on August 30, fell to 117.58 by October 30 and dipped down to 106.35 as of November 30.
The controversy surrounding EA’s micro-transactions stemmed from the mounting expenses players had to go through in Stars Wars Battlefront II. Trying to unlock base characters such as Dark Vader proved to be an expensive endeavor as players had to put in a lot of time and effort to receive sparsely appearing loot boxes that might not even contain the items they needed. Players could pay more money for more loot boxes but the money needed to obtain those boxes for basic character content was too much for most people. Instead of continuing to pay for a ridiculous amount of microtransactions, “the community took to social media and Reddit with thousands of negative posts saying EA is unfairly compelling consumers to spend more money through micro-transactions for content that should be part of the initial $60 game price.”
EA shareholders decided to back out of the potentially risky and failing gaming business model, due to fans refusing to purchase the game, refusing to purchase reduced priced micro-transactions and the mounting negative reviews from fans who felt cheated by the system.
Politicians have also taken issue with the micro transactions debate, calling for changes to protect underage kids from unfair monetization practices. Doug Creutz stated:
“We think the time has come for the industry to collectively establish a set of standards for MTX implementation, both to repair damaged player perceptions and avoid the threat of regulation.”
Some politicians also believe that EA’s micro-transaction and overall loot box features fall under the category of gambling money and that kids should not be exposed to such things in any game.
“Loot boxes are a voluntary feature in certain video games that provide players with another way to obtain virtual items that can be used to enhance their in-game experiences. They are not gambling. Depending on the game design, some loot boxes are earned and others can be purchased. In some games, they have elements that help a player progress through the video game. In others, they are optional features and are not required to progress or succeed in the game. In both cases, the gamer makes the decision.”
It seems neither side of the debate has agreed to reach an agreement as to whether or not loot boxes should only be allowed to contain necessary items for in-game progression or solely cosmetic items that won’t hinder gameplay if players choose not to buy them.
Even though the micro-transactions model has made EA millions through their sports games purchases, the new changes the company is forced to make may cost them a good deal of profit in the near future. Other companies such as Take-Two and Blizzard use the loot box feature in their games, but players are still able to access key in-game content without going through micro-transactions. Instead, in games such as Blizzard’s Overwatch, there are cosmetic loot box items such as limited edition skins and extra voicelines that look and sound nice but are not imperative to progression in the game at all.
Ultimately, if EA continues to use their current micro-transactions model for future games, players may continue to boycott their products which will negatively impact the company’s profit and overall playerbase. More changes are likely to be made, but the company has not released a definitive statement on what they plan to do next.