2017 was clearly a bad year of the industry’s giant, Electronic Arts. For years, they have found more and more ways to monetize their games to maximize revenue from each title they release. Past employees who worked for developers under the Publisher have said things like “EA doesn’t care about making games. They care about making the most money they can for investors.” This statement feels very accurate when looking at past games EA has published. When a developer falls short of their expectations, they get shut down and absorbed into other teams.
Developers EA has destroyed over the years:
⦁ Dreamworks Interactive
⦁ Black Box Games
⦁ Visceral Games
Preying on Developers
EA has gained a reputation of buying up and cannibalizing developers. Thankfully, many other developers have taken notice and thankfully are weary of selling their studios to them. Slightly Mad Studios Ian Bell talked about how EA offered them 1.5 million dollars if they wouldn’t talk to any publisher about their games. If they did that, they would sign off for Shift 3. Everything looked great. Then, suddenly, Shift 3 was cancelled with no warning by EA and Slightly Mad Studios suddenly found itself struggling to even pay it’s staff. EA, in their “Benevolence” (I use that term sarcastically) offered to hire some of their employees into development teams working for EA. So, they basically where poaching the development team right out from under Bell’s nose. It became apparent that making profits from Shift 3 was never EA’s goal. What EA really wanted was their madness engine and development team.
Slightly Mad Studios barely managed to escape EA’s cannibalistic grip. Ian Bell remortgaged his home to be able to pay his employees. He was able to release Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends and Bike Bash to keep his company alive. Slightly Mad Studios pulled itself from the brink of death from the deathblow delivered by EA. Obviously, they have had no love for EA ever sense.
Preying on Customers
Many already know before reading this article, how EA has treated their customers over the years. Games with EA’s name, especially sports games, have slowly increased in predatory loot boxes and microtransactions. With other developers following suit, many gamers obviously felt preyed upon in the gaming industry. When EA released Star Wars Battlefront 2, they finally broke the last straw. EA’s excessive use of Loot Boxes being tied to progression finally got gamers to do what they (and even gamers themselves) thought was impossible. To unite. Players saw though sceptical eyes, a glimpse of SWBF2 before it was launched and saw just how predatory it was. While games flew off the shelves during Black Friday sales events, Star Wars Battlefront 2 stayed to collect dust. Even past employees of EA will tell you “EA doesn’t make games for customers, they make games to make money for investors.”
The hurdles Bioware’s Anthem must pass
One developer in particular is worries about its future, Bioware. Bioware is known to be working on a new Dragon Age game as well as Anthem. Currently, it’s reported that Bioware’s employees are all working full force on Anthem and finishing this game as soon as possible. The sentiment among Bioware is that if this game fails, Bioware will be cannibalized like so many devs before them. A gamer on Reddit voiced his concerns about Anthem being built around a Loot Box economy. A response from Bioware’s Creative Director Brenon Holmes reads:
“I hear you. We’re talking a fair bit about this at the moment. I can’t really talk about it too much, but it’s an ongoing discussion.” Holmes then adds that, “a bunch of folks on the team have similar positions on monetization…so that perspective is definitely represented [in the debate].”
It would seem that many on Bioware’s team share the sentiment that much of the gaming community feel about Loot Boxes. Holmes also commented on his own preference “Personally I prefer games where the ratio is somewhat reasonable… ie: I can reasonably acquire currencies to purchase things through regular play.” He also doesn’t like it “when some things are only available for premium purchase.”
Michael Pachter, an industry analyst at Wedbush Securities, believes that EA has learned a lesson with Star Wars Battlefront 2. He went on to say that he felt EA knows they are under scrutiny and will likely tone down Loot Boxes to Cosmetic-Only when it comes to Anthem. For now, only time will tell what they plan to do. Anthem was scheduled for release late 2018, but has been postponed to early to mid 2019. Hopefully this is to help gear progression to not focus around Loot Boxes.
Uphill struggle for Bioware
Because of EA’s almost non-existent “Player Trust”, developers like Bioware must work harder to push past this to earn trust for their game(s). Many customers look at any game with EA’s name on it with skepticism. They expect some form of greed to spoil what should be a great game. So, if they want Anthem to sell, they will have to be transparent with the community. They will need to allow beta testing and hopefully early-access reviews to prove the progression system isn’t predatory like SWBF2 (before Disney stepped in). They also need to ensure that people know the reviews are honest and not being paid to leave a “Positive Review.” If they can prove they have a good single player game with good multiplayer. If they can prove the progression is earned by playing and NOT buying your way to the top, then they may stand a chance.
Call me old-fashioned, but I think nobody wants to play a competitive multiplayer game where people can buy their way up the leaderboard with buffs and advancing progression unfairly. I remember the days when a game’s success was measured by positive feedback from customers. Not money they bleed off their customers for their investors.