If there’s one thing sure to light a fire under a publicly traded company’s arse, it’s unhappy shareholders. Following on from the Star Wars Battlefront 2 controversy, a hefty $3.1 billion has been wiped off the value of Electronic Arts during November. Month over month, EA stock value is down 8.5%, a drop which Wall Street analysts put down to an aggressive micro-transaction strategy for Star Wars Battlefront II.
"We were underwhelmed by sell-through for Star Wars: Battlefront II (EA) over the Black Friday weekend, which follows a controversial launch for the game," wrote Stifel market analyst Drew Crum in a letter to clients. Sales of Battlefront 2 have undoubtedly been hit hard, with figures from the first week of UK boxed sales down 61% compared to the original. Likewise, CNBC reports that Star Wars Battlefront 2 has failed to crack the top 100 best-selling video games list of 2017 on Amazon, which is just astonishing.
Player power genuinely seems to have worked this time around, and a number of people have actually stuck to their guns and withheld from buying Star Wars Battlefront 2. I do think it’s important to note, however, that piling in on people who have bought the game isn’t the right way to go about things. For some, Star Wars Battlefront 2 delivers, and they’ve every right to feel that way. For others, the MTX situation is too overbearing to look past.
The ramifications of this groundswell could be further reaching than EA and DICE’s sci-fi shooter though. Wall Street has sat up and taken notice, particularly when the threat of regulations for microtransactions came into play. This would reach far beyond Battlefront 2 and potentially hurt just about every free-to-play title out there.
"Battlefront II is the pointy tip of the iceberg. The biggest recent controversy has centred around EA's Star Wars Battlefront II, where early evidence suggests player anger over a mishandled loot box economy may, in fact, be impacting initial sales," wrote Cowen's Doug Creutz to clients. "We think the time has come for the industry to collectively establish a set of standards for MTX implementation, both to repair damaged player perceptions and avoid the threat of regulation."
Change is certainly afoot, particularly at EA. While EA isn't in any immediate danger (the powerhouses that are FIFA and Madden put paid to that), three high-profile games were lost causes this year - Mass Effect Andromeda, Need For Speed Payback and Star Wars Battlefront 2. Two of these games' issues were so easily avoidable. It's meant that Anthem has dropped from a feeling of great anticipation to a slump of trepidation. If you're willing to drop a pre-order for EA's next title, you're a braver man than I.