"You probably don't want Darth Vader in pink"
EA CFO Blake Jorgensen says faithfulness to Star Wars canon prevented a cosmetic microtransaction model for Star Wars Battlefront II
For months now, Electronic Arts has insisted it has been listening intently to fan complaints about Star Wars Battlefront II and how the game implements microtransactions. Speaking at the Credit Suisse 21st Annual Technology, Media & Telecom Conference today, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen had a chance to offer the company's takeaways from the whole experience, which came to a head earlier this month when the publisher temporarily deactivated microtransactions in the game just hours before launch.
"Listening to the consumer when they start playing the game, six months from now, and even six years from now, is very important for us," Jorgensen said. "And I would say if we're not making some mistakes along the way and learning from them, that's when you should worry about us. But our view is these are great opportunities for us to continue to tune the game, to adjust these things.
"We pulled off on the MTX, because the real issue the consumer had was they felt it was a pay-to-win mechanic. The reality is there are different types of players in games. Some people have more time than money, and some people have more money than time. You want to always balance those two."
When asked why EA didn't then pursue a microtransactions model centered around cosmetic items instead of gameplay boosts, Jorgensen said the company is working with LucasArts on ways to do cosmetic items, but added it's not as easy as it sounds when dealing with an established IP.
"The one thing we're very focused on and they're extremely focused on is not violating the canon of Star Wars," Jorgensen said. "It's an amazing brand that's been built over many, many years. So if you did a bunch of cosmetic things, you might start to violate the canon. Darth Vader in white probably doesn't make sense, versus in black. Not to mention you probably don't want Darth Vader in pink. No offense to pink, but I don't think that's right in the canon."
Despite the uproar over Battlefront II, Jorgensen still painted it as a positive for the publisher overall.
"The great news is this is one of the best games we've ever built," he said. "And we're hearing that from the players who are actually playing the game and engaging in the game. The retention day over day is better than we've seen in almost any of our games. The depth of the gameplay is incredible. The size of the game is incredible. And we'll be adding in the next couple weeks, more content than we've ever added in a game before."
While Jorgensen couldn't give a time frame as to when microtransactions would be turned back on in Battlefront II, it's clear EA is still committed to the idea.
"We're not giving up on the notion of MTX," Jorgensen said. "We're learning and listening to the community in terms of how best to roll that out in the future, and there's more to come as we learn more. But I would say we're certainly not changing our strategy. We think the strategy of deeply engaging games, keeping the community together, and allowing people to play those games with new content coming via events over time is critical to the future of our business. We feel like we've nailed that in the sports games, and we'll continue to try and find the best model that works in the non-sports games."