At least one analyst has sided with Electronic Arts over its decision to include microtransactions in Star Wars Battlefront II, and believe that the outrage by gamers is unwarranted. Furthermore, the analyst in question believes that, if anything, EA and other publishers should be charging more for their games. Say what!?
"We view the negative reaction to Star Wars Battlefront II (and industry trading sympathy) as an opportunity to add to Electronic Arts, Take-Two, and Activision Blizzard positions. The handling of the SWBF2 launch by EA has been poor; despite this, we view the suspension of MTX [microtransactions] in the near term as a transitory risk," KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Evan Wingren wrote in a note to clients.
"Gamers aren't overcharged, they're undercharged (and we're gamers)… This saga has been a perfect storm for overreaction as it involves EA, Star Wars, Reddit, and certain purist gaming journalists/outlets who dislike MTX," Wingren added.
Wingren's comments follow an Internet backlash over EA's in-game purchase model to unlock premium characters in Battlefront II, such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. The situation blew up in EA's face when the publisher responded to an angry post on Reddit by a gamer who was livid over paying $80 for the Deluxe Edition, only to discover that he would have to grind for around 40 hours or pony up more money to access premium heroes. EA's response quickly became the most downvoted post in Reddit history, with hundreds of thousands of users disliking the company's answer.
In the days that followed, EA extended an olive branch by temporarily disabling microtransactions and reducing the amount of credits required to unlock characters. Apparently Wingren thinks that was a mistake on EA's part.
Doing some math of his own, Wingren calculated that if a gamer spent $60 for the game plus $20 per month on microtransactions, that would amount to around 40 cents per hour of gameplay, assuming 2.5 hours of game time per day, for a full year. He then compared it to pay television, which works out to 60 cents to 65 cents per hour, or 80 cents per hour for a movie rental, and more than $3 per hour if heading to the theater.
"If you take a step back and look at the data, an hour of video game content is still one of the cheapest forms of entertainment," Wingren wrote. "Quantitative analysis shows that video game publishers are actually charging gamers at a relatively inexpensive rate, and should probably raise prices."
Right or wrong, the backlash is a problem for EA, and it has drawn the attention of Disney, which owns the rights to the Star Wars brand. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Disney is upset over the situation and called EA to let the publisher known. Disney is very protective of its brand and its Star Wars IP, so this isn't sitting well with the company. The good news for games is that despite Wingren's view, Disney's displeasure should put sufficient pressure on EA to resolve the situation in a way that makes games happy.