The past few weeks have not deterred EA from pursuing the “notion of microtransactions”, although the company’s clearly been humbled by the controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront 2 – a scandal which it has described as a “great learning experience”. For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, so strong was the response to the release’s loot boxes that the publisher was forced to remove all in-app purchases from the title prior to release. An unprecedented move.
“For us it's a great learning experience,” said EA CFO Blake Jorgensen at a conference this week. “We are trying to run the company with an ear to the consumer at all times, not only in the testing phase but when the game is up and running. We're trying to build games that last for years, not for months... If we're not making mistakes along the way and learning from them, that's when you should worry about us. But our view is these are great opportunities for us to continue to tune the game.”
We suppose that’s a fair comment, but fans will be less impressed to learn that EA is not “giving up on the notion of microtransactions”. And while he admitted that the organisation hasn’t “decided yet” when they will return to Battlefront 2, it’s clear they are still on the agenda. Many are hoping that the publisher will simply remove the Star Cards progression system, which is at the heart of the title’s problems. But as Jorgensen explained, it’d need to be replaced by another economic model, as the title has no traditional DLC planned.
One solution proposed by fans is that EA could instead offer cosmetic items, similar to those found in titles like Overwatch. “The one thing we're very focused on – and [LucasFilm is] extremely focused on – is not violating the canon of Star Wars,” explained Jorgensen. “It's an amazing brand that's been built over many years. If you did a bunch of cosmetic things, you might start to violate the canon. Darth Vader in white probably doesn't make sense versus in black, not to mention you probably don't want Darth Vader in pink - no offence to pink but I don't think that's right in the canon.”
But what about less obvious cosmetic changes – like perhaps different lightsaber colours? “You may see something like that,” he admitted. Ultimately, all this really tells us is that EA has got its work cut out: it needs to find an appropriate solution to the microtransaction model that pleases LucasFilm, fans, and its own bottom line. It then needs to essentially re-launch the title, and the window of time it has to do all of this effectively is shrinking by the day.