In a rather bold statement, EA CEO Andrew Wilson has suggested that optional monetization and microtransactions can actually enhance its games if they’re handled in the right manner. For ‘right manner’, think the opposite of everything Star Wars Battlefront 2 did.
"Going forward, we believe that live services that include optional digital monetization--when done right--provide a very important element of choice that can extend and enhance these experiences in our games," Wilson said in a financial call.
"We're committed to continually working with our players for the right experience in each of our games and live services."
There’s little argument that digital monetization is working wonders for Electronic Arts these days. Its share price has now climbed to its highest level in history, and it only takes a cursory glance at how much EA is earning from the practice to see why. Over the last 12 months, EA has been making triple the money from live services as it has from full game downloads. More than $2 billion was spent on in-game microtransactions and subscriptions alone, compared to $682 million in game sales.
Live services are an incredibly lucrative model, even if it occasionally backfires. The likes of FIFA and Madden are proving to be huge earners for EA precisely because of this, with users encouraged to spend far more on in-game purchases than they even spent on the game itself.
The evidence clearly suggests that microtransactions aren’t going anywhere, and Wilson is pretty upfront about them being here to stay. Whether they actually improve any game they’re in is another matter entirely. Sure, they keep it churning with live events and constant updates, but the annualized model for the likes of FIFA means they’re going to be active year after year anyway. Would FIFA 18 be a worse game without microtransactions? I don’t think so.
Now I’m just trying to rack my brains for examples of where microtransactions can legitimately improve the experience. I’m coming up blank but I’m sure some members of the GD community can help me!