The US console industry rose by 9 per cent this year, on the back of strong sales across the board. Call of Duty WWII led the charge with 4.4 million units sold at retail according to NPD, obliterating the competition. This needn't have been the case, though.
Star Wars Battlefront II should have been a sure-fire win, launching with what is arguably the world's most popular sci-fi franchise, in tandem with a mainline movie in the form of The Last Jedi. The core gameplay is stunning, and the visuals are simply unbeatable. But in typical EA fashion, the company's greed derailed the game.
EA's loot crate "pay to win" fiasco scuppered any chances of Battlefront II taking on Call of Duty, and apparently, even prevented it from taking on its predecessor.
Battlefront II sold just 882,000 units in November, and while Call of Duty had a two week head start, that doesn't really account for the sales gap. Additionally, the previous Battlefront game, despite how lacklustre it was, managed to sell 2.1 million units in its first month. Digital sales have grown since 2015, but again, that doesn't really account for the drop off. The negative reaction to Battlefront II's pay-to-win mechanics undoubtedly hurt the game.
Star Wars Battlefront II also removed its in-game monetization too while EA "rebalances" the progression system. Call of Duty WW2 has loot crates too, but they don't impact competitive play anywhere near as dramatically as Battlefront II's, and thus, avoided backlash. In Battlefront II, paying players could gain an advantage over non-paying players, creating a perverse competitive gap between richer and poorer players. The backlash was palpable, with even mainstream national news outlets reporting on the fallout.
EA has since boosted the amount of credits you get for winning matches, but that doesn't fix the chaotic progression system, which does little to reward players for their time investment. Battlefront II is just, sadly, broken, and it doesn't look like things are going to get better any time soon.
Will EA learn its lesson? Do they even care? I doubt it, but until EA changes its business model, I suspect it will remain the most hated publisher for the foreseeable future.
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