Against all odds, Electronic Arts is actually one of the companies at the forefront of friendly consumer practices following this year’s E3. That said, the company’s history still makes its recent stance on loot boxes sound a little… interesting.
EA’s chief design officer, Patrick Söderlund, recently sat down with GamesIndustry.biz to discuss a wide range of topics about the publisher. These topics included the aforementioned consumer-friendly business practices, which involved announcing the absence of loot boxes in both Battlefield V and Anthem, as well as confirming free post-launch content for Battlefield V. EA faced some of the most community ire in gaming history after its unhealthy implementation of loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront II, but this apparently resulted in a wake-up call and new direction for the company.
“For us, we have come together after the learnings with what happened last year,” Söderlund said. “We’ve put together a framework on how we believe a large service should function, and it’s something we apply across the whole company, across all products.”
“You have to look at it from the perspective of what’s fair. Fair is the number one thing,” he continued. “When you buy a product from us, you should get full value for the money you spend. There should be a fair game economy in the game so you can’t pay to win. We don’t want you to be able to pay your way to be better than others. That’s important to us. But we also look at trends in the market and see people are fine with paying for other things, such as how they appear in the game. That seems to be completely fine.”
This stance seems to largely contradict the publisher’s motives behind Star Wars Battlefront II and many other games prior, suggesting there has been a significant shift of intentions. Loot boxes are arguably this industry’s most contentious topic, but, as Söderlund touches on, they are tolerable if done in a way that doesn’t unbalance a multiplayer experience or make gamers feel like they are missing out by not investing more money. If fairness is (now) the “number one thing” for EA, it will require an entirely new approach to in-game economies, and the outright removal of the monetized systems in two of the publisher’s biggest upcoming games is a good start.
Not all companies are as willing to abandon loot boxes, however. Nintendo recently defended the monetization system, claiming that it has gotten a “bad rap” and stating that “for us, it’s one of many mechanics we can use to drive ongoing engagement in the game.”