Patrick Söderlund, EA’s new chief design officer, has stated that the company has learned a lesson from the controversy surrounding Battlefront 2‘s loot boxes.
“We have taken significant steps as a company to review and understand the mechanics around monetization, loot boxes, and other things in our games before they go to market,” said Söderlund in an interview with The Verge. “For games that come next, for Battlefield or for Anthem, [players have] made it very clear that we can’t afford to make similar mistakes. And we won’t.”
Söderlund goes on to state that EA implemented the loot box system as a way to incentivize people to play long after the game’s release. He says that the company “got it wrong” when it came to the implementation of that idea. That is what led to them having to drastically alter that loot box system and even go so far as to remove all microtransactions from the game for a brief period of time. Söderlund indicates that EA has seen players coming back in large numbers after the publisher fixed the game’s loot box system.
That is, perhaps, the biggest takeaway from that section of the interview. Söderlund says that he thinks EA eventually “got it right” for the most part and that the publisher is going to have to be “very cautious” when designing future products. To us, that doesn’t sound like a pledge to not include loot boxes in future EA games, but rather to not try and revisit the audacious loot box system that Battlefront II launched with.
Will that be enough? Well, we’ve seen other games – most notably Overwatch – get away with being a full price title that so happens to feature loot boxes containing cosmetic items. It’s entirely possible that EA will stick to similar systems moving forward rather than trying to hide valuable pieces of a game behind a paywall.
If that is the case, then it does feel like EA may have missed the point of the subtext of this entire fiasco. Söderlund notes that the point of the loot box system was to extend player engagement. Typically, a game does that by being engaging. The problem with Battlefront II is that its fairly vanilla gameplay offered little incentive to keep playing beyond the value of the Star Wars license and the “thrill” of the grind for content.
We don’t know what kind of microtransactions future EA games will feature, but we hope that the company doesn’t confuse those transactions with engaging content.