Ebeneezer Scrooge was a tight-wad, money-grubbing weasel who made his fortune off selling poor housing to people at inflated prices, kicking them out when they couldn’t pay the rent, and then putting them in a worse house. He did this with the reasoning that if the poor are starving and dying that they “better do it and decrease the surplus population”. He was so vile, that the name “Scrooge” has become an adjective for someone who is greedy and unfair to others.
Electronic Arts is the successor to LucasArts in the development of video games inspired and based on the Star Wars franchise after Disney canceled all LucasArts productions and closed down their in-house video game developers. There are three projects that we know of that have come from EA’s deal: Battlefront, Battlefront 2, and an unnamed adventure game. Subsidiary companies are also working on various games.
Gamer’s view of these games has been loud and clear: they’re broken. EA’s Battlefront was lacking in nearly all aspects with mechanics that looked like you were smashing two action figures together rather than playing a character, a lack of a single-player campaign (the big appeal to ‘00s Battlefront games from Pandemic studios), and microtransactions.
The second battlefront wasn’t better. While more elements from gamer requests were acknowledged, behind the scenes takes show a corporate reluctance to add an unprofitable single player mode and major chunks of the game were hidden behind paid content and pay-to-win gates that made the game empty and borderline unplayable without shelling out more than what you bought the game for. The backlash from this resulted in an 8% and 3.1-billion-dollar loss in company value for EA as well as a loss of endorsement from some of the internet’s more prominent gamers.
The third, unnamed project wasn’t like battlefront at all, but is more of a 3rd person adventure game directed by Amy Henning (the director of the Uncharted 1-3) taking place between Episodes 4 and 5. The game was teased briefly at E3 2016 and was slated for a 2019 release date. That date has since been wiped with no new release date figured.
EA stated to Game Center magazine that “fundamental shifts in the marketplace” forced them to “pivot the design” of this third game. What does this tell me? They have more of the same problems of microtransactions and pay-to-win planned from the beginning.
EA has gained a nasty reputation of withholding important elements from players as well as overpricing small cosmetic changes, and a franchise like Star Wars is an opportunity to reach an audience like the company has never seen before. With that comes the temptation to bleed the audience dry. Obviously, that didn’t work out in their favor and resulted in a less than stellar opening for the game. At this point though, I don’t believe that EA can recover. Being burned once by a game is one thing. Games historically get better as the franchise goes rather than worse, but two critical and consumer flops aren’t an easy thing to put behind you.
My solution? Disney needs to give the rights to a different company. While video games are a business, they’re a business built on artistic integrity. Everything from EA’s prominent logo in the title of their games to locking the biggest aspects of the game behind microtransactions proves that they care more about the shareholders and name brand than the product which is not a healthy business plan. Even their promotional trailers are littered with “prove this company” or “look at our creators”. If you make a good product, your name will follow. It’s worked for Pixar, it’s worked for Nintendo, it worked for George Lucas. It’s the product that goes down in history and drags its creator in with it.
As of now, EA will go down in the history of the franchise. Not as a success, but as a Scrooge.