Editorial: EA and Daedalus

As promised last week while Adeki battled (and continues to battle) pneumonia, this week’s editorial will be about the recent actions taken by and against Electronic Arts largely in regards to the game Star Wars Battlefront II which released just a few days before the publication of this editorial. The goal of this editorial is to chronicle more of what led up to the disaster of a launch the game faced and the potential future of the title not speculate wildly and batter EA any more than everyone else already has (not that they do not deserve it). That being said, there may be a few facts repeated in this editorial that one can also find in SiliconNoob’s recent news post for context.

Of course, the franchise still lives on a a third-person shooter which is...less than favorable.

In the arms of an angel…

For a bit of background information on Electronic Arts, the company has won the title of being the “Worst Company in America” in an annual poll multiple times. In all seriousness, EA has an established reputation of buying up developers like PopCap and then ruining their franchises. An example of this can be found in Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time which had perfectly fine gameplay that was unfortunately marred by an excess of microtransactions and the inability to just purchase the game standalone the way players were able to with the original Plants vs. Zombies. This has translated to the ruination of franchises such as “Need for Speed”, “The Sims”, “Mass Effect” and possibly even “Titanfall” thanks to the recent aqcuisition of Respawn Entertainment. All because Electronic Arts really does not care about producing entertaining video games, they care about what makes them money. It just so happens to coincide that games that are reviewed favorably often sell better. Star Wars Battlefront II as a whole could very well be a very entertaining and solidly-built game, but the problem is that EA took a product which could have been seen as favorable and destroyed its public image. Which brings us to today, where with each passing day there seems to be a new headline about how screwed EA appears to be at the moment.

It's too late for Respawn Entertainment, just keep running!

Pictured here are developers actively running away from being bought out by EA.

One of the main sparks that lit this online fire of rage was a post on Reddit where the user MBMMaverick complained about paying $80 to own the Elite Trooper Deluxe Edition of Star Wars Battlefront II only to have Darth Vader be locked as a playable character. The post read as follows: “This is a joke. I’ll be contacting EA support for a refund… I can’t even playing fucking Darth Vader?!?!? Disgusting. This age of “micro-transactions” has gone WAY too far. Leave it to EA though to stretch the boundaries.” Many other members of the Star Wars Battlefront II subreddit joined in on voicing their concerns about the fact that it would take an estimated 40 hours of gameplay to unlock each additional character to the point where EA decided to make a response. The main takeaway from EA’s response was, “The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.” This was more than enough to greatly upset the site of Reddit as a whole as the reply now has over 670,000 downvotes which was unprecedented at the time as the previously most downvoted comment only had about 20,000 downvotes and the user asked for said downvotes. The controversy grew and grew to the point where EA, in their infinite kindness, decided to reduce the costs of each additional character by 75%. There was one issue with this though, they also reduced the reward for completing the game’s campaign by 75% as well. Needless to say this only generated more outrage to the point where EA announced they would be removing all microtransactions from the game until further notice.

EA on the other hand, does not.

This does not even look like a bad game! Granted this screenshot is from the Beta but still! It deserves better!

So where does this put EA now? Well, there already appears to be a hefty amount of damage done as Star Wars Battlefront II has not been recieving very good reviews and an extremely large amount of customers have either cancelled their pre-orders or campaigned heavily to make sure others do not purchase the game. When compared to the previous entry in the series Star Wars Battlefront physical sales are down a whopping 60% according to Eurogamer. While a small percentage under 10% could be here or there, the signs point towards the fact that the online campaigning done by disgruntled fans and customers is manifesting itself on the physical marketplace in a very real and serious way. Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney himself, had to call EA because of how large this controversy has gotten! Not to forget that just a few days ago Representative Chris Lee of Hawaii made an official statement denouncing EA’s business practices when it came to Star Wars Battlefront II along with some other comments towards the loot box system as a whole and how predatory in can be when enacted unreasonably. While it is still unclear to see how far this controversy will take itself and what actions EA will do in order to blanket this roaring fire, it should be interesting to see if Square Enix even thinks about trying to pull any fast ones on customers when it comes to the upcoming Kingdom Hearts III given their push towards games as a service. When it comes to money the House of Mouse does not play around.

So that is it for this week’s editorial all about EA and its attempt to screw over the consumer gone terribly awry. Where do you see yourself in terms of purchasing EA titles in the future, if you even were at all? What is your take on the recent and much more outspoken greed on behalf of the video game industry? Whatever the case may be, make sure to leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

8 comments on “Editorial: EA and Daedalus”

  1. I wonder if, in our haste to scourge EA, we might be going too easy on the individual development studio. After all, EA is but the publisher, and we are short of information on how much editorial control they actually exercise. here’s a 2013 article in which former BioWare honcho Greg Zeschuk says that EA gives developers enough rope to hang themselves. After all, no one is immune from falling victim to greed. The “games as a service” model has obviously made some people ridiculous amounts of money, or people wouldn’t be trying to replicate it. With EA amounts of money backing a project, I’m sure even once-passionate heads of development studios can be lured to the dark side, and EA of course is not going to check this darker impulse.

    I say this not to absolve EA; their sins are manifest, but rather to suggest that EA is not the progenitor of this sin but its inheritor. Games are a business; they always have been. That some people produce games as passion projects is insufficient to counteract the publisher model we use for major games. And perhaps, when people are no longer told “no,” fiascoes like this result.

    But Lane, you ask, why would a studio like DICE create something anti-consumer in their game, knowing their audience would likely rebel against it, knowing the gaming press would savage it in reviews and bring down the dreaded Metacritic score? I think DICE and EA believed they were immune, that there were enough die-hard Star Wars fans who would overlook what “gamers” might consider an obvious flaw to purchase the game (after all, someone is propping up the terrible mobile pay-to-win games market). I think they miscalculated, and badly, but that doesn’t mean they were necessarily wrong. When we get down to it, there are sometimes going to be enough people who are complacent with the Skinner Box model with the appropriate, in-the-zeitgeist trappings that being “anti-consumer” and “just a smidge above actual gambling” and “probably morally wrong on several levels” isn’t a liability. Obviously, Star Wars in November of 2017 wasn’t it, and EA/DICE are going to take a bit of a financial hit. But one big enough to cause EA or DICE to change the course they’ve plotted? Nope. They have the financial wherewithal to weather this storm, and you know they’ll back to their old tricks next year, and why not? Eventually, those tricks are going to pay off for them. There’s little incentive to change.

  2. @Lane: That’s a fair point, and I do think that developers should be looked at when it comes to these issues as well. I think that I just pushed all the blame on EA because of the image it has cultiated itself over the years, especially with cases like PvZ 1 compared to the second after EA’s acquisition, but at the same time one company as an example isn’t enough to prove that this is all EA’s doing or that EA is the only one guilty of greed.

    I think that it could also be very possible that this would have been less of an issue if Disney did not own Star Wars which they’re understandably going to be much more protective of especially since Episode 8 releases in just a month and those are multi-billion dollar grossing movies. This instance alone probably isn’t enough to change these business practices (although it may be the case in the future that the Star Wars games specifically have less intrusive microtransactions due to Disney’s involvment) but instead it would take a much bigger set of actions such as different states or countries making statements on loot boxes. But even then, loot boxes are only one part of the issue at large when it comes to greed. On a lighter note, thank you for commenting! :D

  3. Hawaii made the BBC Tech front page when State Representative Chris Lee said that loot boxes were too much like gambling and should be regulated (as we’ve said here for ages): http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-42110066

    One nifty thing is this line from the above article: “EA responded to Mr Lee’s criticism via a statement released by the Entertainment Software Association.” I mean, if there were any lingering naivete about whether or not the ESA are corporate shills.

    Does this mean that Chris Lee is a reader of The Day Tonight? Well it certainly isn’t proof to the contrary! And you know what that means!

  4. The comment system ate my post. I even had a Yeats reference in it. Fie. Fie and damn.

  5. You must wait PATIENTLY until the comment appears! It will appear. It even says SUBMITTING COMMENT after a few moments, so you have something to do whilst you wait.

  6. Perhaps you never really wrote anything–perhaps it was all a dream, and the error you received was a part of that dream. Perhaps THIS is also a dream! Wake up Lane, you are at work, and there are unwashed masses in need of you!

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