We write and think a lot about how music companies and artists could be interacting with their keenest ‘superfans’, including the fine line between offering them more ways to support an artist without seeming to be ‘milking’ them of their money.
Other industries are thinking about this too, of course, and not always getting it right. Games publisher Electronic Arts has been at the centre of a gathering storm around its new Star Wars Battlefront 2 game, which comes out today.
At issue was its ‘loot boxes’ feature where players could pay real money for boxes of randomised items to be used in the game, which in turn helped them speed up the process of unlocking more powerful characters to play as – Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader etc in this case.
There have been loud and angry protests about the system over the last week, partly because people felt like a £50 game was structured in a way that aggressively nudged them to keep spending more money, and partly because of fears that the big spenders would have an unfair advantage in the game’s online multiplayer mode.
Cue an announcement in the early hours of this morning as the game was released: “We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases,” said the boss of EA’s studio behind the game. “We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning.”
It’s an unprecedented u-turn for such a high-profile game, and one that shows the risks of being perceived to see superfans purely as a cash cow.