This Dumb Industry: Wilson Boxes

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Dec 5, 2017

Filed under: Column 97 comments

Last week I linked to this video by Skill Up, which talks about how the concept of loot boxes developed inside of EA and how we got to where we are today. This time let’s talk about it in detail.


EA CEO Andrew Wilson.
EA CEO Andrew Wilson.

Like I said last time, it’s an excellent video and worth a watch, but if you’re not inclined to hit the play button then here’s a breakdown of the key points. And just to be clear, everything in the next section is from the Skill Up video and not commentary by me, so if you see something you disagree with make sure you know who you’re arguing with before you jump down to the comments. Also, this is a synopsis, not a transcript. It’s a long video with a lot of information and I’m just boiling it down to a few key points for the purposes of discussion.

The narrative floating around in gaming culture is that Overwatch is to blame for the current scourge of loot boxes. But the truth is that Overwatch loot boxes don’t make that much money, and the modern pay-to-win loot boxes pre-date Overwatch, they pre-date the pay-to-win mobile craze, and they even pre-date the loot box system of Team Fortress 2. In fact, the whole system leads back to Andrew Wilson, who currently runs EA.

Back in the 90s, EA locked down exclusive rights to make officially licensed FIFA games. Given the popularity of international football this was a huge win for the company. Even today, FIFA accounts for about a quarter of EA’s earnings. At the time they also made another game called UEFA Champions, which was basically like FIFA but with some different game modes. In the 2006 edition of UEFA, they created a mode called “Ultimate Team”, which was sort of like football blended with a collectible card game. Cards represented players, and you built your team by earning card packs. The packs came in the familiar tiers of bronze, silver, and gold, with the better packs offering better players. None of this was connected to microtransactions just yet. Packs were earned through gameplay and couldn’t be obtained with money, but the groundwork was there.

Shortly after that, the EUFA license lapsed and EA decided that rather than paying to renew it, they would simply drop the series. However, they took the Ultimate Team gameplay mode and put it into FIFA, their flagship game. One of the FIFA developers wrote up a design paper for how they could hook Ultimate Team Mode into microtransactions. This design was approved by the executive producer, who was Andrew Wilson, future CEO of EA.

FIFA 2009 launched with microtransaction-based card packs, making it the first example of pay-to-win loot boxes in a AAA game. The loot boxes of Overwatch and Team Fortress 2 came after this point, and their designs were much more friendly. They were focused on cosmetic items, while the FIFA Ultimate Team system built a core progression system around obtaining cards packs which could be bought for money.

Here the author even coins the term “Wilson Lootbox” to denote loot boxes that are pay-to-win and tied to the core progression system.

The system was so successful that it spread to other parts of the company. In 2012, BioWare developers worked closely with the FIFA team to implement their own version of loot boxes in Mass Effect 3.

Meanwhile, the FIFA Ultimate Team mode was making hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s not sales of the game itself, that’s just what they made selling Wilson LootboxesWhich were called card packs in this context.. In 2014, it brought in $380 million dollars. EA put the Ultimate Team mode in other EA Sports titles like Madden. By 2015 these games were bringing in $600 million a year in Wilson Lootbox sales alone. By March of this year, these sales were up to $800 million.

ln 2014 EA released Dungeon Keeper, a mobile game featuring EA’s pay-to-win Actually, it wasn’t so much “Pay to win” as “Pay to do anything at all”. scheme. It led to backlash a lot like what we’re seeing today. At the time CEO Andrew Wilson responded, and his response then sounds a lot like his response to the Battlefront controversy now.

EA didn’t learn from their mistakes because pay-to-win was deeply ingrained in the company culture. An example of this is with the closing of Visceral games, who were working on a new Star Wars title. Project lead Amy Hennig did an interview where she talked about her time with EA:

Hennig also wasn't used to working with a corporation like Electronic Arts. Despite being owned by electronics giant Sony, Naughty Dog had been able to operate autonomously, in large part because they were widely perceived as the corporation's prestige video game studio. At EA, however, things were different. “She was giving these massive presentations on the story, themes,” said one person who worked on Ragtag. “EA executives are like, ‘FIFA Ultimate Team makes a billion dollars a year.' Where's your version of that?”

The usual defense for this is that games need this kind of monetization because production costs have gone up. But in truth production costs are actually going downThe author doesn’t say where this information comes from. I assume the EA earnings reports?. Costs peaked in 2009 and have gradually fallen since then. Adjusted for inflation, last year EA spent $300 million less of game development than they did in 2009.

In 2012, about 17% of EA’s revenue came from stuff like loot boxes and season passes. This year, about 45% of their revenue did.

In 2012, EA made $76 million dollars, and in 2017 they made $976 million. The kicker is that we know $800 million of that comes from FIFA, which means all the rest of their games combined earned the other $197 million.

Wow. That ended up being longer than I anticipated. Again, all of this comes from the video. Actually, this is just a little over half of the points the video has to make, but it’s a long video and I can’t hope to do the whole thing justice here. I think I’m missing some context because at one point the author says FIFA makes about 45% of EA’s revenue, but then they also present that $197/$800 split and that doesn’t jive with 45%. If I’ve misrepresented anything the video claims in my summary then I apologize, but I wanted to get the key points into writing before we move on.

So What Does it All Mean?

Taking the claims of the video at face value, it confirms many of my suspicions regarding EA, but disproves others.

In the past I’ve said that EA could be making more money if they understood their products and their customers. This is true if we’re talking about their games, but loot boxes are far more lucrative than I would have guessed and criticizing their policies is going to require a bit more finesse.

See, making $800 million on FIFA is really good from a business perspective. I might not like it, but I can’t claim it’s bad business. Even better, it comes from an optional game mode within FIFA. While I don’t play FIFA myself, fans have explained that you can still play FIFA in standard mode and get the full FIFA experience. (Whatever that is.) So that $800 million is coming from people who willingly choose to play the optional Ultimate Team mode and who then choose to pay for card packs. That’s completely amazing to me.

Maybe you don’t like Wilson boxes because they’re gambling. Or they exploit people. Or they’re aimed at kids. Or whatever. Maybe you dislike them on moral or aesthetic grounds. That’s fine. I’m not here to argue about that. Over the past several years my criticism of EA has been focused on them as a money-making entity, because even if you accept the premise that the only legitimate goal of a CEO should be to maximize short-term shareholder value, EA has still come up short. Having said that, I admit that the FIFA Wilson boxes are a huge win for the company and I can’t really come up with an argument against them that doesn’t involve an appeal to altruism.

But this doesn’t begin to excuse their other blunders. In fact, it sort of highlights just how inept and uninformed the EA leadership has been. The vast majority of their income comes from one mode in one game. EA locked down the FIFA exclusive license 20 years ago and they came up with the Wilson box idea 9 years ago. Those decisions are making them a lot of money right now, but what has the current management accomplished? They’re riding the coattails of past leaders and not really coming up with fresh ideas of their own. Instead they’re burning through IP and alienating their customers chasing the Wilson Box dream rather than trying to make good products. At this point is seems like EA doesn’t want to make games except as a vehicle for loot boxes.

Wilson rose to the CEO spot. It’s reasonable to assume this was at least partly because of the success of his Wilson Box policy. But now that he’s at the top his only strategy is to implement that same idea in all their other blockbuster games, ignoring the important differences between the titles in terms of gameplay, user experience, and playerbase.

Imagine if Andrew Wilson was a product manager at General Mills. Someone gets the bright idea to put little colored marshmallows in Trix, their unpopular and almost flavorless breakfast cereal. Wilson approves the plan. Overnight the cereal becomes a smash hit and makes the company billions. So then he gets promoted to CEO of General Mills based on that success. Once in power he announces his vision for the future: Marshmallows in everything, without regard to flavor or the intended market. Wheaties. Cheerios. Pillsbury biscuits. Chex Mix. Progresso soup. Hamburger Helper. Totino’s Frozen Pizzas. Old El Paso Tex-Mex foods. Everything. Marshmallows everywhere. This is how absurd and primitive their monetization strategy has been.

Actually, it’s worse than this. The latter implementations of Wilson Boxes are more heavy-handed than the system used in FIFA. In FIFA the Wilson Box is part of an optional game mode, and in Star Wars Battlefront they have been made part of the core gameplay mode. FIFA Ultimate Team Mode has a single-player mode where you can play against the AI while you’re building your team, so you’re not doomed to go against an entrenched playerbase with fully-developed teams when you’re just getting started. (Yes, Battlefront has the single-player campaign. But you can’t unlock PvP loot boxes by playing the campaign. The point is that FIFA doesn’t just shove you into a world of pay-to-win PvP. It gives you a chance to prepare.)

EA duplicated the Wilson Box idea, but they put it into a new franchise that has very little overlap with FIFA players and they made the Wilson boxes part of the core game mode, which is PvP only. I can’t blame them for wanting another shot at a $800 million cash cow, but I can certainly fault them for doing so in a way that’s so clumsy, crass, tone-deaf, and reckless. A clever CEO would have rolled out an optional new game mode built around Wilson Boxes, waited until players were used to the idea, and then (assuming there wasn’t a backlash) tried to encourage players to engage with this new mode of play by quietly neglecting the original mode and focusing their free content updates on the mode driven by Wilson Boxes. That would be scummy and money-grubbing, but it would at least be the cunning form of scummy money-grubbing.

It’s not like they weren’t warned. When Dungeon Keeper blew up in their face it should have been a pretty big clue (not that a CEO at this level should need one) that “gamers” are not a single monolithic group and that different groups of people require different products and different marketing approaches. The Dungeon Keeper backlash. The SimCity backlash. The UFC backlash. The Star Wars Battlefront backlash. EA keeps getting blindsided with these disastrous product launches. Ubisoft and Activision are far from perfect, but note how they don’t seem to have this same inability to judge public reaction before a product launches. Having it happen once is understandable. Having it happen twice is unfortunate. But having it happen again and again suggests a complete blindness to what the market wants.

People have argued about whether or not loot boxes are gambling. Regardless on whether or not you think they’re gambling for the end user, they certainly seem like gambling for EA. They won the jackpot with FIFA, and now they keep coming back to the table and hoping the magic will happen again. Only they’re not gambling with money. (At least not directly.) They’re gambling with IP. EA bet Need for Speed, UFC, and Star Wars on their Wilson Box idea. It’s like a guy who wins the lottery by betting his house number, and now he’s convinced that’s his “lucky number” and he’s going to keep betting on it again and again.

Last week in the comments Richard said:

The other bit of idiocy is that EA have almost certainly lost all Disney franchises forever.

EA put something that is now publicly associated with gambling into a Disney game.
â€" The UK gambling commission have been publicly investigating whether loot boxes are legally gambling for over a year (they have yet to report), so it's not as if it was a surprise.

Disney have a fundamental, core company value of “No Gambling”, going all the way back to Walt himself. They know how much profit casinos and other forms of gambling make, but it is simply not what they do.

For a concrete example: Every cruise line has an onboard casino â€" except for Disney cruise ships.

That is particularly damning. And let’s not forget the quote I mentioned earlier. When the EA executives were looking at the single-player Star Wars game and asking, “FIFA Ultimate Team makes a billion dollars a year. Where's your version of that?” If I was an executive at Disney and I heard about this, I would be pissed.

We entrusted these guys with our billion-dollar family-friendly property, and their first priority is to turn it into a slot machine?!

Yes, Disney entered into this Star Wars deal to make money. But unlike EA, they’re incredibly brand-conscious. They want EA to make cool Star Wars stories that keep people interested in the property. Their priority is not damaging the brand, because the brand is already making billions elsewhere.

The deal giving EA exclusive rights to Star Wars was made back in 2013, and the terms of the deal have not been made public. It’s unclear what the duration of the deal is or if Disney has any power to end the deal early or otherwise punish EA, but it will be interesting to see if there’s a reaction.

Killing the Golden Goose

Like we saw in the video, EA makes $800 million on FIFA Wilson Boxes and $197 million from everything else. (Note: I’m going by the claims of the video. I still haven’t dug into the EA financials myself.) The overwhelming majority of their income comes from one game mode in one game. They should be very keen to protect that FIFA income.

But this hard push to put Wilson Boxes into Star Wars didn’t just damage the Star Wars brand, it’s threatening the FIFA boxes as well. Before this, nobody was much concerned with loot boxes and gambling. EA could have continued to quietly soak up that $800 million every year and nobody would have made a fuss. But now that they put it in a Star Wars game, they’ve triggered a moral panic and politicians are eager to jump on the “We must protect the children!” bandwagon. Maybe you think it’s gambling and maybe you don’t, but what matters is what the lawmakers think. If microtransaction-based loot boxes gets banned in enough countries, then EA’s sweet FIFA money would be in danger as well.

No, it doesn’t look like the USA is moving to enact any big bans. But the USA isn’t exactly a huge fan of FIFA. This is an international brand and it depends on international sales. What happens when a handful of important countries all enact anti-loot box legislation? I promise they won’t all use the same definition of “loot box”. EA will have a compliance nightmare on their hands. Not only can they not sell their sweet Wilson Boxes in a few countries, but they would also have to make region-specific versions of FIFA to comply with local laws, or they would also lose the retail sales!

So they pissed off their gargantuan business partner Disney, they pissed off their customers, they’ve pissed off a bunch of politicians, they didn’t make Wilson Boxes work in Star Wars, and they’ve perhaps even endangered their cash cow. And just to rub salt in the wound, they managed to make shareholders very nervous. This entire story has been a stunning display of carelessness, arrogance, and clumsy greed.

The rot goes deep. EA doesn’t just need a new CEO, they need a new company culture.



[1] Which were called card packs in this context.

[2] Actually, it wasn’t so much “Pay to win” as “Pay to do anything at all”.

[3] The author doesn’t say where this information comes from. I assume the EA earnings reports?

From The Archives:

97 thoughts on “This Dumb Industry: Wilson Boxes

  1. Profugo Barbatus says:

    Maybe they can monetize the new company culture, with a loot box promotion system. Seems like a good fit.

    1. Fade2Gray says:

      EA Professional Opportunity Clerk: Next!

      Supplicant 1: Hello. I’d like to apply for the open team lead role.

      EAPO Clerk: Excellent! Lets see what the EAPO Box says. [sounds of open a package]. Oh, wow! You don’t see one of these very often. You got a $5 per hour raise!

      Supplicant 1: Does that mean I got the Job!?

      EAPO Clerk: Oh. No. But if you had you would have started with a very nice pay rate. NEXT!

      Supplicant 2: I was actually hoping for a raise. I haven’t had one for several years.

      EAPO Cleark: Wonderful. Lets see what you get. [opens another box]

      Supplicant 2: Did I get it?

      EAPO Clerk: No, sorry. But you did get an opportunity to transfer to an entry lever EVS role.

      1. Hector says:

        I want to introduce this to all vendors serving EA .

        “I’m sorry, your payment only entitles to *basic* cleaning services at this level which involves us looking at your trash. But for only $49.95, you can buy a Clean Box. It might contain a pass you can redeem for a full cleaning service, although it might only contain some paper towels. Of course, we won’t be able to tell you the odds.”

        1. BlueHorus says:

          EA is excited to announce their new Dynamic Toilet Experience. For basic users, the toilets will be in a state of slow replenishment, ensuring that the contents of the bowls will be slowly removed and replaced over a 24-hour period, and toilet paper will be be released at a steady rate over time in each cubicle.
          This was introduced to provide users with a sense of pride and appreciation for when toilets are clean.

          Any user can purchase a Premium package for $14.99 if desired, which entitles you to 10 Coins. Each coin can be redeemed for either a single flush of any toilet, or a roll of toilet paper.

          Alternatively, users can buy Wildcard Coins for $3.99 each, which will do a random selection of four of the following things when used:
          Give you a roll of toilet paper.
          Give you a roll of green toilet paper.
          Flush the toilet you just used.
          Flush one of the other toilets in the restroom you’re in.
          Give you a roll of light blue toilet paper.
          Flush one of the toilets in the ladies’s restroom (if activated in the men’s restroom) or vice versa.
          Flush one of the toilets in one of the restrooms on a different floor.
          Give you a roll of pink toilet paper.
          Unlock the soap dispenser for 30 seconds, allowing you to wash your hands properly without paying the 20c Soap Fee.
          Activate the hand dryer for 30 seconds.
          Activate one of the taps in your restroom.
          Give you a roll of super-soft toilet paper.

          All Coin sales are final and non-refundable. Coins cannot be exchanged between users. EA are not required to disclose the chances of unlocking any given result when using a Wildcard Coin.

          1. Fade2Gray says:

            Because we value your feedback and satisfaction, today we are excited to announc the following adjustments to the EA restroom policies.

            If you receive any toilet paper from Wildcard Credits TM that you are not happy with or have extra quantities of, you may exchange them for Refresh Tokens TM*. Refresh Tokens are an exciting new currency that you can use to purchase Luxury Passes*. Luxury Passes are good for one visit to the NEW Royal Suit Restroom, in which you are guaranteed access to 1 standard toilet paper pack, a single flush, one pump of soap, 30 seconds of water at a Lux Sink and 30 seconds of air dryer time.

            You can also save your Refresh Tokens TM to purchase the Royalty Pass*, which generates one Luxury Pass every 168 hours** for the duration of your employment! Need to speed up the recharge time? We value your time and biological concerns at EA. That’s why you can also use Refresh Tokens to purchase Royalty Booster Packs* that will temporary accelerate the recharge time of your Royalty Pass at a randomized rate.

            We hope you’re as excited about the future of EA restroom policies as we are!***

            * Exchange rates for Refresh Tokens TM, Luxury Passes, Royalty Passes, and Royalty Booster Packs are subject to change without notice.
            ** Luxury Passes received from Royalty Passes must be redeemed before the Royalty Pass timer resets.
            ***Refresh Tokens TM, Luxury Passes, and Royalty Passes are non-transferable, hold no monetary value, and are subject to discontinuation without notice.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              We at EA are excited to announce the upcoming Dynamic Toilet Experience 2, which will release on Febuary 2018! As well as all the features of the original DTE, DTE2 will have the following features:

              -Enhanced Wildcard system: each Wildcard Coin (Standard price: $5.99) now provides five outcomes, from a bigger pool of possible outcomes!
              -Changeable background music in our new, improved restrooms! New tune packs are of course available for purchase, starting at $3.99/pack.
              -Faster toilet paper release rates*!
              -An always-online Restroom Pal (TM) system, that greets you by name when you enter the new restroom!
              -More restrooms, in more convenient places!
              -New and improved Royalty Pass System, offering access to new, top-grade Royal Suite facilities with even more features!
              -Four new colours of toilet paper!

              Preorders are available now for $89.99, or the Early Bird Package for $119.99.
              The Early Bird Package includes four tune packs, 5 free Coins, 5 free Wildcard Coins, access to the exclusive Teddy Bear and Pink Hearts patterned toilet papers, and immediate access to the Hot Tap additional liquid content (ALC)**

              DTE2 will also feature a new Toilet Rights Management system (TRM). This is due to increased incidents of Restroom Piracy, in which employees were hacking DTE features and using them without paying, as well as illegally trading in toilet paper as well as DTE Coins, Passes, and Tokens.
              Subsequently, all DTE2 users will need to wear their wireless ID namebadges, enter a 8-digit passcode and wait 30 seconds*** while the system checks their DTE2 Account ID online before attempting to use a toilet.

              -As of January 31st 2018, the building’s janitorial staff will be refocussing their care and attention to the new Dynamic Toilet Experience 2 facilities. This means that they will no longer be able to clean or maintain the original Dynamic Toilet Experience facilities.
              -Any Coins, Wildcard Coins, Refresh Tokens, Luxury Passes, Royalty Passes and Royalty Booster Packs purchased for DTE are not valid in DTE2.

              *Due to increased costs – and to help prevent piracy – the standard toilet paper provided by DTE2 has been downgraded to ‘sandpaper’ quality.
              **Standard price: $12.99.
              ***Rough estimate. If the DTE2 servers are busy, it may take longer.

  2. David Smith says:

    In the past I’ve often drawn comparisons between EA and Ubisoft. Both seem a bit out-of-touch with what their consumers want, both are incredibly interested in monetising their existing playerbase beyond the initial sales price of their games, and both hold on to some very lucrative IPs. They’re both pretty poor companies from my (consumer) perspective.

    That being said, it’s worth noting the difference in their reactions when one of their core business practices is threatened; EA double down, Ubisoft retreat and reconsider. Assassin’s Creed is a good example. Ubisoft used to have a pretty viable strategy of vomiting out one AC game per year, usually with only minor changes from the previous game. Throw in a lot of fetch quests, implement a load of day-one DLC, guarantee sales in time for Christmas. A couple of years ago the backlash against this really kicked off after the Unity debacle, resulting in Syndicate underperforming.

    If Ubisoft was EA, I’m sure they would have just carried on with their yearly release schedule, grinding through lots of poor reception from their customer base, and increasingly having to justify lower and lower sales. Instead, they took a couple years out, polished up their product, and put out the generally well-received Origins. It’s important to note that Origins is still full of secondary sales mechanics, but because Ubisoft understands their audience just a little bit more than EA they’ve actually managed to keep it out of the way a little. There’s not articles all over the place screaming about it. And they’re still making a shitload of money.

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      I’m not sure that AC Origins is a great example. It shows that Ubisoft really didn’t learn anything at all. They made a few tweaks, but it’s still pretty much the same generic Ubigame under the hood. It’s just set in a real awesome time period, and that seems to count for a lot with people.

      1. Redrock says:

        I don’t think that’s entirely fair to Origins. The whole stat-based RPG system is new, the focus on travel-based horizontal exploration is new. The gear system is new. The fact that the absolute majority of your activities are actual quests with dialogue and a semblance of a story is new. The combat is new, and even the use of the eagle is a cool twist on eagle vision. Sure, some of those things were in other Ubi titles, but that’s still a major reworking of the AC formula.

        What’s more, Ubi really seems to listen and tweak things accordingly, at least in some respects. Notice how they keep experimenting with the modern-day segments, trying to acknowledge both fans and detractors of that aspect of AC. Yeah, at the end of the day AC is still AC, but what would you have it become, a corridor FPS?

        1. Anitogame says:

          Make it arena FPS like Serious Sam where I assassinate people with dual-wielded miniguns and I might actually pick up an AC game for the first time ever.

        2. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Personally I find the addition of “tourism mode” (or whatever it’s called) interesting, I remember as far back as AC2 reading about people using the game to sort of “sightsee” Venice.

      2. adam says:

        Gotta disagree. Ubisoft understands their audience better than EA does, evidenced by the fact that they converted AC to a loot- and stat-based RPG, a genre which is really popular, and set it in an amazing, lush, detailed world. They understood that mix would be appealing, if safe, and it has been. They also understood that pushing MTX into their single-player game wouldn’t be well received, so they shunted it off where you wouldn’t be bothered by it unless you were actually interested.

        Ubisoft often seems greedy and out of touch, and they certainly can be, but they are WAY out in front of EA in terms of proactively understanding their audience and adjusting strategy accordingly. EA’s only strategy is clumsily attempting to clone success by whatever means seem easiest and closing studios once they’ve milked their IP for every cent.

        As an aside, it still blows my mind that Disney, probably the most brand-conscious company in the world, would give their newly-won and most lucrative property to EA, a company who everyone knows would gleefully exchange their very name for a pile of shit if they thought it would make them a few pennies. How does Disney not see this coming??

    2. BlueHorus says:

      It's important to note that Origins is still full of secondary sales mechanics, but because Ubisoft understands their audience just a little bit more than EA they've actually managed to keep it out of the way a little. There's not articles all over the place screaming about it.

      Yep. It’s not just what you do; it’s also how you do it.

      Yes, AC: Origins apparently isn’t the big departure from the faults of the rest of the series that people hoped. But it did at least appear like Ubisoft were listening to the complaints, and might be just different enough. EA, on the other hand, respond to complaints with a bullshit, insulting PR statement or an apology with no actual regret or admittance of fault in it (‘I’m sorry you feel like you need an apology’).
      Then they go straight back to what they were doing, or move onto the next unpopular idea.

      Other companies have lootboxes or other bad microtransaction mechanics, but EA is special mostly due to how they do what they do, and the image it creates of them.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I am still somewhat on bad terms with Ubi because of their awful “not-DRM” online features implementation and maintenance. Conflux for HoMM VI was often down for extended periods of time (and for a while had issues with win10) and this year online verification for M&MX was down for a number of weeks with support repeatedly running us through ineffective routines and throwing out thinly veiled accussations of piracy without ever acknowledging the problem was on Ubisoft’s side.

        1. RCN says:

          Bump for another M&M fan.

          And to be fair to Ubi, they’ve backed down a little from the DRM and UPlay now mostly stays out of the way. Also, the HoM&M VII expansion had some of its main features available for the vanilla version even if you didn’t buy the expansion.

          Ubi seems to be improving. Slightly, at a snail’s pace, and still trying to work out their worst ideas. But at least they are not actively trying to be worse. At any pace, I give much more stock for them than I do EA or Activision. Of the trinity of evil, Ubi is the only ones actively encouraging and publishing low and middle-budget titles along its AAA blockbusters.

  3. Infinitron says:

    I feel like that video probably overstates its case. Yes, EA came up with something similar to lootboxes for FIFA, but would it have broken out to other genres if it hadn’t been legitimized by mobile games, etc, first? Without those, I could see it remaining a sports-games-only thing. EA isn’t known for being an ambitious company and they might not have had the guts to make the leap to other genres otherwise. The logical leap from “collectible sports card game” to general purpose “lootbox” isn’t necessarily that obvious either.

    1. wswordsmen says:

      Except the CEO got the job probably entirely on the strength of Wilson Box’s performance in FIFA. He was a producer on the game and made the decision to put them in, so when the cash started flowing he could go to the board and say that every dollar they earned was a result of his work. Since that his how he got the job it is quite logical to assume his job would be to get as many steams of sweet Wilson Box revenue flowing as he could, which is exactly what he did.

    2. Anitogame says:

      Also, Overwatch might not have been the game that invented them, but it sure as hell brought them into the mainstream.

  4. Pythor says:

    The $197M/$976M and 45% split are two different things. One is Lootboxes vs other revenue, and the other is FIFA vs other games.

    1. Noah Gibbs says:

      They also refer both to revenue and to profit in the video, and those are very different proportions.

      1. Trix2000 says:

        Indeed, I think that is the distinction that is often lost on people.

        Revenue is something that companies like to trump up with big numbers, but ultimately all it means is this is how much money is going into our accounts. It doesn’t factor in costs or any other factors – just the money in.

        Whereas profit is a measure of how much revenue is left once all the costs to earn that revenue have been subtracted from it. It’s usually much, much smaller for what I hope are obvious reasons (and in fact, may be negative if they’re not actually making money… but look at these big revenue numbers instead!).

        So the $800m/976m looks like an impressive chunk of their money until you realize that the $976m is profit, not overall revenue. That’s not to say the lootboxes aren’t making them huge bank, but it also doesn’t mean their other games only make about 10-15% of their money.

  5. GargamelLeNoir says:

    Man I didn’t realize how much they potentially screwed themselves! It makes me so happy!

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      Yeah… I wouldn’t hold my breath.

      I think Shamus is way exaggerating his points. I don’t really expect Disney to stop all commercial activities over one scandal (at this scale, momentum counts, and changing direction is expensive); I don’t expect major legislation liable to stop EA making profit to happen (worst/best case scenario, they’ll just tweak their lootbox system until to be less gambling-y while still using the same basic mechanisms).

      I’m not saying EA executives aren’t making mistakes, and mistakes on EA’s scales cost millions of dollars, but I don’t think they’ve ruined themselves forever either. At least, not for the foreseeable future.

      1. Mephane says:

        I expect if any country enacts any legislation regarding lootboxes, it will merely be along the lines that the game must be rated R/18/your-local-equivalent-here regardless of actual game content.

        1. Anitogame says:

          There’ll be a lot of nervous execs until that point though. Because it’s also possible these games could be hit with an adult only rating, and no game company wants that.

        2. Richard says:

          R, 18 (insert local equivalent) games don’t sell very well compared to an equivalent* ‘child friendly’ title. I don’t have figures as it’s rather hard to find out.

          The “You must be over 18 to play this” not only limits potential purchasers, but it also means you can’t advertise the game before the watershed, on billboards, most of YouTube or a lot of the other places where eyeballs can be found.

          * Yeah, I know, finding an ‘equivalent’ in an artform is a hiding to nothing.

          1. Henson says:

            Especially since FIFA is an ‘E for Everyone’ game. Just imagine FIFA with an R rating!

            1. Erik says:

              And an R/MA-18/whatever rating would be death on a stick to Disney – they would yank their IP so fast it would make your head spin. If it’s not rated E, it’s not Disney.

              1. ehlijen says:

                I could have sworn Disney has done PG/PG13/etc. stuff, too? Your point stands, this is just an aside.

                1. Anitogame says:

                  They have, yes. Pirates of the Caribbean for a start. And many many others.


                2. Joe Informatico says:

                  Not even Disney wants their animated features rated “G” anymore. Every major animated film of the last 5 years or so–be it Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Sony, etc.–has been rated PG by the MPAA because they sneak in a couple jokes for the parents that go over the kids’ heads. That’s not even counting all the Star Wars and Marvel films that usually end up PG-13.

          2. Lanthanide says:

            Some shops also won’t sell R-rated products.

            I’m pretty sure Walmart don’t sell R18 rated DVDs for example. For mass-market games that you want grandparents / parents to buy children for Christmas, being on the big box store shelves is an important consideration.

            1. Veylon says:

              Friendly Wal-Mart Employee here: the Big W very definitely sells both M-rated games and R-rated movies. The line gets drawn between them and the next level up: AO-rated games and X-rated movies.

              1. Kylroy says:

                Translating that from American to British: they sell “18” ratings, but not “R18”.

                (Yes, different ratings boards might rate things differently, but pretty clearly R=18, X/NC17=R18.)

                1. Soylent Dave says:

                  Broadly speaking, ‘R’ translates to ’15’ and ‘NC17′ to ’18’

                  (although we don’t have the same negative connotations attached to 18-rated films than the US does to NC17)

                  The only real difference is nudity – that’s more likely to get an NC17 in the US while it would pass a 15 in the UK, and R18 is a peculiarly British “this is actual pornography” rating.

                  (conversely, lower down the scale the BBFC is more likely to rate threats and violence at ’15’, whereas it might pass ‘PG-13’ in the US, if it’s not too gory)

                  Game ratings translate almost exactly – ESRB ‘T’ translates to PEGI either ’12’ or ’16’; ‘M’ to ’16’, ‘AO’ to ’18’ (again, with the UK being a bit more accepting of sex & nudity)

                  The TL;DR here is that an AO / NC17 rating is cancer for sales *in North America*, but not really in the rest of the world (except in terms of limits marketing, as mentioned above)

      2. Sannom says:

        I don't really expect Disney to stop all commercial activities over one scandal (at this scale, momentum counts, and changing direction is expensive)

        Hey. As far as I can see, Disney doesn’t really care about video games. They “gave” the Star Wars licence to one of the biggest publishers around for convenience’s sake and probably didn’t expect to do anything on that front. But if EA starts damaging their brand? They will cut them loose and just not do video games for a while.

        1. Blake says:

          Agreed, I imagine keeping a good name for Star Wars is worth far more to Disney than whatever the licensing deal with EA is worth.

          Disney can easily afford to just walk away from EA, and if they feel EA are threatening Disney’s kid-friendly public perception then they absolutely will.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            It’s also important to remember that, especially at this level, not everything is a messy divorce with airing the dirty laundry and all that. In fact Disney pulling the IP from EA while making big statements along the lines of “different visions for the franchise” and “regrettably have to part ways” would be the very last resort and just because we might never see Disney making any big moves does not mean that they are not exercising pressure.

  6. Canthros says:

    I’d be curious to know how much of EA’s product in 2009 was either iterative sequels (i. e. Madden 2k10) or mobile games, vs. 2017. If they’re making more mobile games and iterating AAA, multiplayer-only titles rather than building new IPs, single-player games, etc, that seems like it would shrink their production costs. If that’s so, it’s less that the production cost has shrunk and more that the types of games being produced has changed to ones with a more modest cost structure.

    That would be good business, of course, but it may undercut that a bit.

    I’m not going to cry any tears if EA loses the Star Wars license, though. I can’t remember being impressed with anything they’ve done with it.

    1. mechaninja says:

      Skillup talks about EA’s IP situation in the video, but I would have to watch the whole thing again to find it.

      The short version is they are kinda burning IP, and not developing new IP.

      1. evilmrhenry says:

        I vaguely remember that the spending split is:
        70% spent on existing IP
        20% spent on new IP
        10% spent on base technology (VR and engine improvements)

        Of course, most of the 70% is going to be on sports, and it’s not really broken down further.

      2. Canthros says:

        It’s really the comparison to how their business broke down in 2009 vs how it breaks down in 2017 that, I think, is more interesting to the question of the cost of games development. It says very different things if, in 2009, they were investing in a lot of the same types (i. e. similar scale and scope) of projects as in 2017, vs pivoting to mobile games, loot boxes, iterative sequels, etc.

        I know BioWare has Anthem under development, right now, but in 2009 they were working on Star Wars: The Old Republic. And, on the other hand, I don’t know what else EA had/has cooking then or now, but I’d bet they were doing fewer mobile games in 2009.

        My gut says that they’re working on less costly projects (e. g. more mobile games), rather they’ve come up with some way to deliver the same types of things for less money. Maybe I’m being dumb, though, and this is obvious to everybody.

  7. Hal says:

    At this point is seems like EA doesn't want to make games except as a vehicle for loot boxes.

    Well, that makes sense from a financial perspective. If 80% (or 45%, depending on what the numbers are) of their revenue comes from loot boxes, then video games literally are nothing more than a vehicle for the boxes.

    The higher ups probably see the games the way someone sees the UI for a slot machine. Ultimately, whatever design aesthetics are employed or peculiar arrangements of the game are irrelevant, because it’s just a vehicle for getting someone to stick money in the slot, and regardless of design, people are going to stick a lot of money in the slots. Maybe it’s a fantasy themed machine, or maybe it’s a game show themed machine; the gambler is still going to choose one of those, and that’s the thing you’re trying to maximize.

    1. Asdasd says:

      A quick look at the mobile gaming market shows us what happens to games when monetisation leads design. One of the best articles I ever read on the subject was a long essay by Tim Rogers while he was working for a mobile game developer, way back in 2011. It stands as a grim portent for the then future (now present) of the medium at large.

      Edit: it seems there might be something up with Insert Credit’s website. I’m removing the link for now. I’ll try to find a copy of the text elsewhere.

        1. MelTorefas says:

          That was a great read. Thank you for posting the link!

  8. ElementalAlchemist says:

    The author doesn't say where this information comes from. I assume the EA earnings reports?

    It has been a week since I watched it, but I’m pretty sure he does say it comes from their quarterly earnings reports.

    One thing I don’t recall him clarifying was if he adjusted the values for inflation. If he didn’t then presumably that could only make the decline in development costs even greater.

    1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      Pretty sure he mentions something being adjusted for inflation.

  9. Alex says:

    I think I'm missing some context because at one point the author says FIFA makes about 45% of EA's revenue, but then they also present that $197/$800 split and that doesn't jive with 45%.

    I’m going from memory here but I think $197 is what Fifa makes as a retail product, the $800 comes from it’s card packs.
    The combined $997 is 45% of EA’s total revenue.

    EDIT: Blast, I’ve been ninja’d twice!

  10. Mike Russo says:

    I looked at EA’s latest annual report to make sense of the numbers, and in case it’s helpful:

    -their fiscal year 2017 net income — which is all revenues minus operating expenses, taxes, etc. — was $967 M, which I think is the “$976 M” you mention above (somewhere along the line looks like the two numbers got transposed).

    -their net revenue, by way of contrast, was $4.8 billion — this is how much money came in the doors in 2017 before you account for all the money they spent.

    -this means that the $800 M in revenue they got from FIFA Ultimate Team (which I’m assuming is correct, though I can’t find it listed in the annual report) is about 17% of the money they made last year, which is substantial but obviously far lower than the 80% the video seems to be implying — that’s an incorrect way to present the info.

    -they break the $4.8 B revenues down into revenue from products — which I think is just sale of their games — and revenue from services and other — which is the microtransactions, season pass, etc. revenue. $2.6 B is product, $2.2 B is services, so that’s the 55/45 percent split (actually more like 54/46).

    -they also break down the revenue number into digital vs. packaged (packaged is still about 40% of their revenues), and then breaks the digital numbers down further: full game downloads are 14%, extra content is 25%, subscriptions and advertising are 8%, and mobile is 13%. NB this means “extra content” is about $1.2 B, so if FIFA Ultimate Team alone is really $800 M, that’s a huge chunk (they also mention FIFA Online 3 and Battlefield 1 as major components for this item).

    -one final thing of note on this is that they break down the cost of revenue (i.e., how much it costs to make and deliver a particular product or service, not including companywide overhead like management). For products, the cost of revenue $893 M, which is about a third of the revenues coming in from the products. For services and other, the cost of revenue was only $405 M, or 18% of the revenues they bring in. This makes intuitive sense — that stuff’s cheaper for them to produce than the main products — though of course they need both to be profitable, since products are the point-of-entry.

    Hope this is helpful context!

    1. Phill says:

      Thanks for digging through the reports to get all that info. I think you’re right that looking at the lootbox revenue compared to their total revenue is better than comparing it to profit (although I’d imagine that the marginal cost of adding in lootboxes to a game is relatively small compared to total game costs, so the return on investment for lootboxes is higher than the fraction of revenue would suggest)

    2. djw says:

      Good Post.

  11. default_ex says:

    It’s very sad that the large companies seem to be forgetting what it is we pay them for. What we want is simple enough: games that are fun and enjoyable to play. While creating such a thing isn’t simple, the idea of it is so simple that even small children understand it. It’s very simple. If I watch a movie but instead have to put up with all kinds of non-movie BS, I’m not going to try to watch what little semblance of a movie is left. In that case I’ll just find somewhere else to watch a movie. Doesn’t matter how much I wanted to see that movie.

    I just wish EA would stop killing off the long running game companies in the process of trying to alter what a video game is to fill their coffers.

  12. wswordsmen says:

    SW:BFII EA might do more damage to the company than it appears at first glance due to highlighting loot boxes.

    Business stuff:

    One of the ways to evaluate a companies stock price is assume it will earn what it earned last year forever and then evaluate its growth opportunities and discount it back to present value (future money is worth less than money now). By highlighting loot boxes and creating the potential for removing loot box revenue from FIFA BFII has dramatically shrunk the ability of EA to grow because if FIFA loot boxes accounts for half the revenue and there is a 10% chance it goes away then we are looking at a -5% future growth from this one issue. Plus Wilson clearly thought that these could go in other games and indirectly Wall St. probably agreed, but by creating this ****storm that also lowers that chance which is a further hit to any growth EA has in the future.

  13. Tizzy says:

    Given FIFA (the organization, not the game) and its reputation as a wretched hive of merry corruption, they must LOVE having EA's balls in a vise like that over how much of their earnings they account for. It must make licensing negotiations interesting. Certainly financially interesting for some.

  14. Paul Spooner says:

    So I was talking to some of my financial buddies, and it seems like there may be an opportunity to sell EA short. If there’s a strong enough legal back-lash, and weak enough sales, it could cause a precipitous plunge, a mirror of what we saw on May 10. The time to do it would be just before the earnings report for the affected period, though the stock price has been steadily declining for months, which may steal the power out of the punch. It really comes down to speculation. Ironic that EA’s failure at gambling is inviting gambling.

    1. Decius says:

      It’s too late to sell short, unless you think you are better than everyone who isn’t betting at the current odds.

      That’s what caused EA stock price to go down when the first grumbles came out- people who bet on stocks track all the new information and are very good at ignoring the spin.

  15. Joey245 says:

    Good Lord, to think I almost bought one of those damn Mass Effect 3 crates. This explains so much of EA’s behavior over the last few years, it’s almost sickening.

    “FIFA’s Ultimate Team makes a billion dollars a year. Where’s your version of that?”

    Huh, I didn’t know Ebeneezer Scrooge worked at EA. Makes sense, actually.

    Call me ever the naive optimist, but I really hope that this debacle is enough to shake things up at EA. They’ve had a hand in my gaming life since day one (their Harry Potter games were actually really good) and it makes me sad to see that this is what’s driving the industry these days.

  16. “I think I'm missing some context because at one point the author says FIFA makes about 45% of EA's revenue, but then they also present that $197/$800 split and that doesn't jive with 45%.”

    When people talk about how much money a company “made”, they’re often referring to PROFITS, not REVENUE. Since the lootboxes require little development resources, they are probably immensely profitable. So it may indeed be 45% of REVENUE but more like 4/5 of PROFIT.

  17. Daemian Lucifer says:

    See, making $800 million on FIFA is really good from a business perspective.

    Taken just as a $# yes.But its based on a volatile thing that we are seeing crumbling down these days.As someone who has lived through many similar bubbles,you should know that such a thing is good as a get rich quick* scheme,but not as a sustainable long term business thing.They milked it until it reached its peak,got a lot of money out of it,but the smart thing is to get out now and focus on something more long term stable.

    Their sportsball games are rather stable,and the only really smart thing ea has ever done was constantly release plethora of them annually.

    *Relatively speaking.Here,the quick thing involves half a decade.

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You know,disney is a great counterexample to ea.Disney is also using a lot of tactics that are exploitative and they often can run a successful thing into the ground(remember all of the disney sequels).However,there is one key difference between the two.No,its not that disney doesnt like gambling(though thats a part of it).Its the marketing.Disney cares about its brand.Its the difference between “The magical place” and “Your mom will hate this!”.Disney knows how to market itself consistently as the good guy,ea does not.

    1. Supah Ewok says:

      Disney sequels are actually not an example of running down a franchise. A lot of them have origins as pilots for tv shows that never aired. Rather than waste that investment, they use one of their B-team satellite studios to make a movie out of it for like a quarter of the budget of their regular features, and shove it out straight to home release. Even the ones that weren’t originally meant for TV programming are made for a lot cheaper than the originals. It’s actually a very smart and thrifty strategy: they’re able to take failed investments and at least get their money back, and usually more.

      1. And low-budget films are often pleasing for younger children who just want something new with their favorite character in it, but haven’t yet really learned to discern quality.

        There are some big-budget sequels (Like Cars 2) that I did not care for, but good grief, look at Dreamworks. HOW many Shrek movies were there?!

      2. Echo Tango says:

        I don’t think DL was talking about “running down” a franchise as you meant it, which would be ruining a property. Rather, he was saying that Disney churns out many versions or sequels of a property, so that people who want the quality of the original become sick of the property as a whole.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    This whole thing reminds me of cmot dibbler in moving pictures.In the book,someone finds out that inserting a single frame into a movie can subconsciously make people focus on that one thing.So what does dibbler do?Makes a huge 5 minute chunk in the middle of the movie,because if a single frame can influence people,imagine what dozens of frames can do!Thus dibbler invented commercials in movies,the most annoying thing in the world that often makes people resent you rather than like you.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      For a variety of reasons I'd like to applaud this analogy 👏

    2. Redrock says:

      Ah, I see you’re a man of culture as well.

      But, to be honest, Dibbler also had vision. He wanted to get a thousand elephants, create something glorious. He truly was infected with the magic of Holy Wood. So, weirdly enough, even ol’ CMOT wasn’t as cynical as your average gaming executive, which is saying something.

  20. Alex Broadhead says:

    I wonder if Magic the Gathering (the CCG phenomenon introduced in 1993) is the ancestor of loot box tech? I think it’s the first place that trading cards and (card) games were really mated together successfully. I would be surprised if it’s success wasn’t noted by, say, certain EA developers…

    1. wswordsmen says:

      A couple of big differences between CCG design and Wilson box design is CCGs are designed to not break when someone get the super rare card (good ones at least). Wilson boxes explicitly make stronger cards rarer because you need to spend more. Plus with trading selling you aren’t only going to packs to get more cards.

      1. Oliver Edleston says:

        Sadly CCG design (or at least that of MtG) very much makes the more powerful cards rarer. They even added an additional rarity level “mythic”, comprised solely of very powerful cards, that appear in only 1 in 8 packs. Full kudos to MtG that the effective drop/open rates are all tranparently available though.

  21. Potsticker says:

    I don’t play the Battlefront games, so I’m a bit of a luddite here of how the mechanics work.

    I’m assuming the game has some kind of tiered ranking system, so when you buy the game for the sticker price (no DLC, no MTX) and put it in, load up a multiplayer game, you aren’t placed as a basic Rebel Trooper in a battle with the world’s best player, who happens to have Boba Fett and all his guns.

    So is the concern that you will be paired with someone who bought the game at the same time as you (and thus on the same tier), but who paid to have Darth Vader and so you get slaughtered like the Rebel Troopers at the beginning of New Hope?

    1. John says:

      Here’s my understanding of how the game works.

      As you play a PVP match, you accumulate match-specific Magic Space Points. When you have accumulated enough Magic Space Points, you can spontaneously transform into some alternate form. When you die and respawn, you will revert to your original, basic form until you have once more accumulated enough Magic Space Points. To unlock alternate forms, you use Different Magic Space Points to buy, um, cards of some sort, and then use the cards to buy loot boxes, which may contain alternate forms. I think. Something like that. I can’t remember the details. The important thing is that it’s tedious and pointlessly complicated. You get Different Magic Space Points by playing PVP matches or spending actual money.

      In other words, the jerk who has already unlocked Darth Vader and yet bought the game at the same time as you didn’t just buy the right to turn into Darth Vader, he spent who knows how much buying who knows how many loot boxes until he finally got one with Darth Vader in it. If you want to play on an even footing, then you too will have to fork over who knows how much, or else grind, grind, grind, grind, grind until the RNG gods favor you because EA designed the game to encourage people to spend money.

      1. Decius says:

        Why is that worse than knowing how much he paid to be Darth Vader, and knowing how much you have to pay to have that advantage?

        Because if you’re objecting to the /amount/, and not the uncertainty, being too high, that’s a different thing entirely.

        1. John says:

          If I played Battlefront, I would object to both the amount and the uncertainty. Paying-to-win is bad. Not knowing how much you would have to pay to win–or even just to unlock your favorite character–is worse.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      The heroes unlocking has been focused on,but thats not the only thing you get from loot boxes in this game.You also get skills like damage reduction,which significantly influence the match.And yes,you definitely get matched with people who have more and better cards than you.

  22. rabs says:

    Wow, I didn’t realize they screwed up that badly…

    I forgot to mention FIFA is also big at eSport events here.
    There is even a world championship organized by the real FIFA, where winners can meet legendary players and everything:
    I though they used legacy modes and it was another reason why the well cannot be poisoned, but the FIFA seems to take a cut on the sweet loot boxes :)

    1. rabs says:

      I’ve checked a bit more info, and as I thought there are still many tournaments in legacy modes.

      For the official FIFA World Cup, rules changed quite often but there are qualification seats available in FUT and legacy modes.

      I didn’t expect that many FUT cups and tournaments. It must explain why EA got so much money from this mode.
      I guess for many people it’s more satisfying to grind and spend money in FUT mode, and keep improving, than trying to become exceptionally good at the base game, and hit a wall.

  23. Redrock says:

    I don’t think Disney sees loot boxes as gambling. Marvel Heroes ran for ages and had loot boxes, just off the top of my head. Disney may be pissed about the fallout, sure, but presuming they share the opinion of loot boxes haters is a tad optimistic.

    1. Corsair says:

      Of course Disney doesn’t care about loot boxes. They care about perceptions and branding, and this lootbox controversy is not good for those. If EA had implemented lootboxes in a way that didn’t create a massive shitstorm we wouldn’t be having any of this discussion.

      1. Redrock says:

        Agreed. That was mostly me replying to Shamus quoting Richard on Disney’s “no gambling” policy. While I absolutely believe that’s the case, the policy doesn’t seem to cover loot boxes.

        1. Matt Downie says:


          If enough people/countries declare that loot boxes are gambling, Disney will probably go along with it and ban loot boxes from their games.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      Sure, but…

      a) they might not think of it as gambling because they never took into consideration, but with all the controversy and with the law starting to consider it that way, they could very easily change their mind and
      b) Marvel Heroes was a F2P game, and people forgive any kind of microtransactions in those games, so probably no one ever complained

    3. Richard says:

      The Disney execs probably never even knew Wilson Boxes existed until the recent public outcry.

      However, EA must have known that several countries were looking into whether or not these boxes are gambling, and that Disney is very protective of The Disney Brand.

      If they didn’t know that, then the shareholders will be firing the EA execs for gross incompetence – ignoring legal challenges to >50% of their profit is not a sane option.

      Heck, it might even be illegal in the US not to inform shareholders which countries had referred them to their Gambling Commissions – the laws around misleading shareholders seem rather arcane.

  24. Zaxares says:

    What I’m particularly interested to know is the precise statistics behind that $800 million from lootboxes. Like, who exactly is spending that kind of money? I ask because I’m reminded of a quote from an interview with Zynga (the company that made Farmville). They readily admitted that out of the millions of people that played Farmville, only 5% actually spent any money in the cash shop. But that 5% made Zynga millions of dollars.

    So if that is indicative of a common trend, that likely means that the people giving EA all that money for Ultimate Mode is actually only a very small percentage of their player base. Which then raises the question: Are these players doing it because they can generally afford it and like spending money to compete at that level? Or are lootboxes preying on those who have addictive personalities, the same way that a lot of high-rollers in casinos likewise suffer from a gambling compulsion and often spend more than they can afford to lose?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Both TotalBiscuit and Jim Sterling have stated that they have spent thousands of dollars on freemium mobile games due to their addictive personalities.So at least part of the whales for these games are people who simply cant control themselves and have money to burn.

      Also,I remember that a ceo of one of the game companies has also stated that they are a whale.So another portion of these customers are likely to be the exact people who are trying to push loot boxes onto the market.

    2. Decius says:

      How hard is it to get gamecards into brick-and-mortar stores? I see a way to launder a LOT of money for a relatively small overhead.

  25. Dreadjaws says:

    I don’t play sports videogames, but here in latin america they’re super popular, yet most people who like those games (FIFA in particular) are generally looked down upon by other gamers because they tend to play those games and those games alone, even if they have to purchase a console for it and funnily they themselves will look down on other gamers for daring to like other genres, apparently under the belief that everything that’s not soccer is childish.

    Now, I’m not the kind of person who will judge other people’s intelligence for their choice of entertainment but holy hell, these statistics aren’t helping. The fact that most of EA’s money comes from people who’re willing to give money for the chance at something (and, I’m really sorry, I absolutely fail to see how that’s not gambling), and all of them from this game… well, clearly these people have different priorities.

  26. kdansky says:

    Extra juicy: FIFA is very big in Europe, and the EU has been very decisive in protecting consumer rights in recent years. Roaming fees got banned. Tolls got slashed. Airline bullshit got hit with the hammer, forcing airlines to give compensation for delays, and put a stop to a bunch of practises about cancelling or changing flights.

    If there are countries where anti-gambling laws concerning loot boxes have a good chance, then it’s in the EU, where football is certainly way bigger than in the US, and by extension FIFA is more relevant.

  27. Chris Serson says:

    What really kills me is a feature in the NHL series. I haven’t played the others, so I don’t know if it is in any of them. Maybe someone will know.
    In the NHL Hockey Ultimate Team mode, player cards have a limited number of games you can play them (I believe the current starting number is 5 games). Once a card runs out of games, you can’t play that player until you spend a contract consumable on it. Guess where you get those contracts? That’s right, the loot box. So now you spend money on loot boxes to get rewards that you can only use for a few games, then you have to go back and buy more loot boxes to get the contracts to keep using those original rewards. This sounds less like gambling and more like a drug to me.

    1. Xapi says:

      Meh. For every lootbox you acquire (and you WILL acquire lootboxes through the regular use of the Ultimate Team, even when not paying) you are quite likely to get some contracts.

  28. Preciousgollum says:

    I have a feeling the following article was not entirely immune from corporate bias:

    Essentially, is reads as: ‘You’re lucky to even have Star Wars games AT ALL, ungrateful consumer’.

    I had a landlord that once said the same thing about indoor plumbing.

    The article then does the kitchen sink approach about justifying its position, making a number of historic retcons, and suggesting that EA are now right about every financial decision, without really going into explanation as to why it is defending Star Wars Battlefront 2 of all things.

    In summary, I believe that EA bid for the Star Wars game license in order to block competition from the likes of Activision & Ubisoft. I do not belive that EA ever intended to make that many Star Wars games; it immediately prioritised turning Star Wars over to the Call Of Battlefield model, which is the POLAR OPPOSITE of original game production.

    Clone Wars, indeed.

  29. PowerGrout says:

    “EA doesn't just need a new CEO, they need a new company culture.”

    Maybe we could look forward to someone buying them out and doing a better job of things by closing them down.

    1. PPX14 says:

      An EA of EAs ?!

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:


  30. Preciousgollum says:

    We force EA to open OUR lootboxes for a change!

  31. I signed the petition to have Lucasfilm (Disney) revoke the license they gave EA. No clue if it will do any good.
    It’s past 160 thousand signatures now.

    Let us assume that half of these are genuine (no dupes with different emails etc). Then let us assume that half of those are presumed buyers (rather than potential).
    That’s 40 thousand people, and with a game costing at least 60 dollars. That’s 2.4 million dollars.
    And considering that only a small percentage ever bother with petitions, the actual dollar value will be way higher.
    Disney (though Lucasfilm) stand to loose millions in licensing profits from EA going forward.

    And they have lost some already. BF2 (EA) retail sales compared to BF1 (EA) is way down, even if retail sales dropped 50% due to digital sales the income for BF2 retail is still 2-3 times lower than BF1 (If I recall correctly).

    If I was a investor/stock holder with EA I’d be very pissed right now.

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Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

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