Electronic Arts (EA) conducted their quarterly earnings call yesterday and provided a number of interesting stories to talk about for the days to come. The biggest story was the reveal of Star Wars Battlefront II’s official sales numbers. The second was the fact that microtransactions will return in the next couple of months. SWBFII’s sales numbers shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Everyone expected some impact over the loot box controversy but didn’t know the extent of the impact.
The announcement of microtransactions making a return, however, was a bit of a surprise. After all, over the past couple of weeks, a number of articles claimed that the industry will scale back on their efforts to use the practice. As expected, it didn’t take long for reactions, to appear in social media commenting on the (re)introduction of the feature.
Reading between the lines
It’s easy to read the headlines about the return of SWBFII’s microtransactions and jump to conclusions right away. One might assume that EA was just holding them back, only to bring them back exactly the same way as they were initially implemented at launch. We don’t think that’s the case.
If you listened to the call, all EA execs participating acknowledged multiple times that they got it wrong in their first attempt. In specific, they mentioned that they want to create a level playing field and give players more choices. Considering the original backlash over microtransactions, we don’t think that EA will go down the exact same path. Back then, the system was as pay-to-win as you might expect. You would buy crystals using real money and in turn, use them to purchase loot boxes. As you already know, loot boxes give you star cards equipment and more. Back then, someone willing to spend the money could hypothetically buy their way to a higher level. Microtransactions were removed from the game right before launch.
Scenarios to consider
We don’t think that EA (and DICE) will go “all-in” with microtransactions this time around. The reason is that they have already paid the price for their first implementation. After all, SWBFII fell 1-3 million short of their sales expectations and that’s not an experiment they would want to repeat. It didn’t only cost EA in terms of sales but also in reputation.
Our guess is that microtransactions will be less invasive as compared to the first time. Again, this is just a speculation on our part. It would make sense to bring them back but without impacting progression. If you ever played Star Wars The Old Republic (SWToR) then you know that the game went through a similar phase and also faced criticism. The game introduced an in-game shop that offered booster packs (i.e get double XP for a limited period of time) and cosmetic items.
We could certainly see, a less impactful microtransaction approach implemented in SWBFII. As fans, we want the game to succeed and continue with content updates for a long time to come. If non-invasive microtransactions ensure that, then, by all means, bring them back.
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