If there is one thing people could be assured of in 2017, it is that EA was going to cause ill will among the general gaming population. The company has made numerous bad decisions. One of them involved destroying Visceral, a studio people cared about. Another involved a series of missteps surrounding Star Wars: Battlefront II and its microtransactions. But now, there is a bigger question to consider. Has EA finally dug itself into a hole it can not escape?
After all, EA is a company with quite a reputation. It won the “Worst Company in America” award in both 2012 and 2013. And it is certainly no stranger to closing down studios. Black Box Games, Bullfrog, DreamWorks Interactive, Maxis, Mythic, NuFX, Origin, Pandemic, Phenomic, PlayFish, and Westwood have all met their doom after being acquired by the publisher. It certainly has had microtransaction woes before, present in series like Star Wars: Battlefront, Madden, and Battlefield. But this time, it seems like the company may have pushed things too far.
One big part of this is EA not backing down on Star Wars: Battlefront II microtransactions until the owner of Star Wars stepped in. The company was doubling down on all fronts until Andrew Wilson, EA’s CEO, had a phone call with Jim Pitaro, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media Chairman. It wasn’t until after the actual owner of the IP stepped in and made a call that EA realized it was making alienating and terrible moves. Then, and only then, did microtransactions get almost immediately pulled from the game. This is a huge deal. For the first time in EA’s history, one of the rights holders for a property spoke up and apparently against their behavior.
Another has to do with fan outcry loud enough to create a rather successful petition. People are so upset, they are asking Lucasfilm to revoke EA’s license to create Star Wars games. The Change.org petition was asking for 75,000 signatures, and it seems like it will reach it. Fans are so upset, they are asking for a permission that isn’t given lightly to be taken away. They are working hard to remove money from EA’s pockets. And, given the fact that a Disney executive already called EA out on Star Wars: Battlefront II’s microtransactions, maybe there is a chance such a ploy could prove successful.
Then, there is the matter of the stock price. Now, the actual cost per share did not hit an all-time low in 2017. The lowest point was in 2012, when it was $14.48 per share on May 8, 2012. However, things are bad. Shares fell 4% on November 1, 2017, after the character progression and microtransactions were revealed. Then, by November 28, 2017, $3.1 billion of shareholder value was completely taken away due to Star Wars: Battlefront II’s controversy and performance. That is an obscene amount of money to lose in a short amount of time, even though the price per share was around $105.79 when all this was going on. Even when other, past controversies were going on, EA never experienced such a hit.
EA has been in trouble before. It has caused problems in the gaming community with its practices and behavior. However, this time it seems like things may have gone too far. Its decisions with Star Wars: Battlefront II have created a situation that could prove difficult to recover from. After all, fans of such a notorious series have good memories and Disney certainly won’t want to risk any bad PR that could tarnish its reputation in any way. This may end up being the first time EA will have to acknowledge and pay for its behavior.
Image Credit: John Hunt