There has been a lot of furore over the implementation of microtransactions in Star Wars Battlefront 2, and to a lesser extent, Need for Speed Payback, leading to blowback from the players as well as a lot of bad press. However, it sounds like EA believes that these microtransactions are helping them build a stable business more than anything.
Speaking at the UBS Global Technology Conference, the publisher’s chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen noted that their monetization of their existing games, as well as services like EA Access, have led them to have ‘uncapped’ monetization potential.
“If you have a live service component to [games on EA Access and Origins Access], you can have a subscription that’s uncapped,” he said. “Give people a way to spend money on things they want to do and that they enjoy doing vs simply capping them at $9 or $10 per month and that’s all they can ever spend.
“We find people play twice as many games, they spend twice as long on them, and they spend twice as much money, because you’ve reduced the cost of trial to close to zero.”
Speaking about the usefulness of monetization in games, he said, “Battlefield 4 is often the fourth, fifth or sixth most played game in any given day. Oftentimes, it’s consistently in the Top Ten – and it’s a game that’s four years old.
“If we had a live service on that, and we could keep people engaged, give them even more to play them, we would also be able to try and monetize them over time. That’s a huge opportunity, to continue to build the live-service piece of our business.”
He added that recurrent customer spending on the same games has led EA to have less of a reliance on actually needing to release new games- they can rely on simply monetizing the user base they have in their existing games instead.
“Less and less of our business is dependent on brand new titles. But we’ve been able to bring out some great new titles that have turned into franchises, like the Star Wars activity, like Battlefront, for example, that layer in more franchises over time. We’re trying to do that with BioWare’s Anthem game – I was up in Edmonton with the team a few weeks ago, looking at the game and playing it. It’s looking very exciting, the team’s done an amazing job and we’re really excited about that for next year.
“We have a team in Montreal that is building a brand new action franchise, probably for our Fiscal [Year] 2021 that also looks fantastic and very exciting. A new game, with a lot of new interesting gameplay that I don’t think anyone’s ever seen before.
“For us, trying to move the business to more live services, grow our subscription part of the business, is trying to build a much more steady business. I’m very comfortable with a steady growth rate, and with digital that continues to become a bigger part of our business and continues to expand the profitability of the business.”
I can totally see and understand his point from a business perspective- but it is all so blatantly anti consumer, and so anti artistic and creative integrity, that it is now clear that EA is no longer interested in making new games– it just wants to make money, and games are the means to that end. It’s a shame, because once upon a time, some of the very best games would come from EA. Increasingly, it seems that will be unlikely going forward.