EA's 'Moral Compass' Provides Direction for Devs Following Loot Box Controversy

Microtransactions are definitely a hot topic, especially last year. With more and more publishes [...]

Microtransactions are definitely a hot topic, especially last year. With more and more publishes putting an emphasis on in-game transactions, the gaming community seems split on how to respond. Where some "loot box" trends are harmless, such as Overwatch's system where everything can be earned simply by playing and all of the additions are just additional cosmetic features, other titles continue to tread that line of "pay-to-win". EA's Star Wars Battlefront II is a perfect example of toeing that line and shows the "dark side" of how these microtransactions can negatively impact the overall gameplay experience. Luckily, the pressure from both gamers and investors was on and the mega publisher seems to have done a huge 180 regarding their approach.

Because of this 'moral compass' following the huge 2017 controversy surrounding EA, developers going forward are given more tools than ever before on how best to proceed. The publisher isn't going to do away with them all together - and why would they? People pay for them and it's a huge source of revenue - but they can tailor them to be more voluntary and less abrasive.

EA's VP of Strategic Growth Matt Bilbey recently sat down with gamesindustry.biz to discuss the hot waters of microtransactions, especially with so many countries trying to ban them for 'gambling'. "I believe what we're working through with those specific groups at the moment is an education. Not meant in a patronizing way, but just helping them understand how we design the games and the notion of choice and our commitment to making the games fair and fun. We learned a lot from Star Wars: Battlefront."

Now, the team is working with the developers under their umbrella to make sure that the Star Wars Battlefront II controversy doesn't happen again with another title. Though EA's Andrew Wilson was very adamant that EA would not cease the use of these in-game purchases, they do maintain that they learned their lesson from the harmful pay-to-win practices that take away from the game's enjoyment.

So how are they going to make sure that lesson stays in place? Bilbey explains, "I ran a team internally with Patrick post-Battlefront to actually redesign our game development framework and testing platforms to ensure we're giving our game teams the right guidance—we'll call it an EA moral compass—at the beginning of development so that we're designing our live service early, we're testing it early, testing it with gamers who are giving us feedback so we ensure those pillars of fairness, value, and fun are true."

Luckily for those interested in Battlefront II, the multiplayer in the latest title is incredibly fun - well-paced, graphically stunning, and with tons of beloved characters. The loot crates provide another means of making money - which, to be fair, is the aim of businesses. But when does the bottom line overshadow the play experience?