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Patrick Soderlund: EA "can't afford" another loot box controversy with Anthem

Newly promoted chief design officer promises publisher has learned from mistakes with Star Wars debacle

Electronic Arts exec and former DICE boss Patrick Soderlund has assured neither Anthem, Battlefield nor any future EA releases will be mired by the same controversial loot box system originally proposed for Star Wars Battlefront II.

Speaking to The Verge, Soderlund said the furore surrounding last year's shooter has definitely had an effect on the publisher and its management - likely prompting the recent executive shuffle, in which he was named chief design officer.

Battlefront II's premium loot boxes, i.e. those that cost real-world money, were removed entirely last month. They are due to be reintroduced soon, but will only yield optional cosmetic items, thus addressing complaints about the lack of balance under the previous system.

The Star Wars shooter was not alone, with Warner Bros' Shadow of Mordor and Activision's Destiny 2 among other titles lambasted for their loot box systems. But EA's title prompted the biggest backlash and has triggered concerns among consumers about the publisher's future releases.

Most notably, there are worries that BioWare's Anthem, a Destiny-like shared world online shooter from the studio behind Mass Effect and Dragon Age, will be rife with monetisation - but Soderlund has assured this won't be the case.

"We have taken significant steps as a company to review and understand the mechanics around monetisation, loot boxes, and other things in our games before they go to market," he said.

"For games that come next, for Battlefield or for Anthem, [players have] made it very clear that we can't afford to make similar mistakes. And we won't."

Famously, Electronic Arts dropped the Battlefront loot boxes just hours before the game launched, reinstating them at a later date. However, this wasn't enough to appease outraged consumers and Star Wars Battlefront II missed its original sales targets.

That said, Soderlund reports that feedback to the redesigned loot box system has been positive.

"People seem to appreciate what we've done, players are coming back, and we're seeing stronger engagement numbers," he said.

"People seem to think that for the most past we got it right. It doesn't mean we will stop. We'll continue to improve the game, we'll continue to push on these things, and we'll have to be very cautious with what this means for future products."

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