A lesson from EA on how not to treat your customers

"The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed." - Henry Ford

“The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed.” – Henry Ford

Even if you have no interest in video games you have probably come across by what could be one of the biggest fails in recent gaming history. This is a game that in its name it contains one of the biggest and most profitable franchises created by any of the biggest video game producers. Sounds like a marriage destined for success, but it wasn’t.  Not because it is a bad game, but because of an in-game purchases strategy (a.k.a. microtransactions). You have probably figured out that I am talking about the new Star Wars game Battlefront 2 by Electronic Arts (EA).

What does an in-game purchase mean? This means that when you buy the video game, the money (real money) spending does not stop there. The gamer’s progress will depend on how much more money they will be willing to spend on upgrades. To purchase the game is costly as it is. In Ireland, the price is over €60, which is expensive especially for students who are a major chunk of the video games market. This is just one of the reasons where this strategy might have been seen as a wrong one.

More importantly, if you are a true gamer, you will want to play the game and be good at it in order to progress, not spend money on success. Rich people already have an advantage in real life, the virtual reality is sacred and special because everyone there has an equal start and skills are what makes you great, not the cash in your pocket as it is in reality. Bringing virtual reality close to reality, kind of defeats its purpose.

I first started noticing that people were not happy while I was browsing 9gag, a popular website for awesome people to kill some time. Not happy is actually underestimating of what was happening. Gamers were raging against EA’s greedy tactic and start boycotting the game. Gamers around the globe organised themselves against the gaming conglomerate and refused to buy the game. Not even black Friday helped to what could’ve been the best-selling game of the year. The following pictures are just a small example of the propaganda against it.

EA downfall
What people on Reddit want vs what EA stands for
What EA's brand will be associated with
What EA’s brand will be associated with

EA fail
Gamers praising their victory over EA after Black Friday
EA Fail
No caption needed
EA Failing
That’s just plain funny

If you want to see more of that, just follow this link.

This whole marketing strategy has obviously hurt the sales of the product, but more importantly, it damaged the brand. Their fall in the stock market could be only the beginning of a major downfall. Read more about their market crash here from Forbes.

The problems with the game took another direction when people raised their concerns over possible gambling prompting to children with a loot crate digital rewards system. The gamers are buying crates with, let’s say a random character, an upgrade for a character and other units that will give the gamer an advantage, but they don’t know what exactly are they going to get for their money, therefore it is a gamble, not really what parents would like for their kids to connect Star Wars with.

EA has turned in to the dark side. The force is strong, vast and easy, but the resistance is there and it is stronger even than it might look otherwise. The online community of gamers is strong, and they will not be held hostages to anyone, even the EA empire.

There is a light though and all is not lost and dark. There is another side of the gaming industry where the Jedi masters lay. They have the power of creating amazing games but without the greedy evilness. One of the best examples I can give is the Polish gaming company CD Project Red. The company behind The Witcher franchise. Probably one of the best video games of all times. Ask any gamer about The Witcher and you will see what their opinion about the game and the company behind the game is.

Their marketing strategy is what I believe is second to none and the big guys from the likes of EA should learn from them. What the developers at CD Project did was fallow their fans and users on forums and platforms like Reddit and listen to what they have to say. Everyone talks about how technologies have changed marketing from a monologue to a dialogue, but it seems nobody told the big guys that, and the only ones that listen are the SME’s.

Because CD Project listened to their customers they created a downloadable content (DLC) that reshaped the game to suit the needs of their users. Not only that, but they did it FOR FREE. DLCs are something normal that developers do, but rarely it is for free. This is usually a strategy to make some more money out of an already developed product that has been in the market for some time. CD Project did not do it for the money, but for their customers.

Did EA listen to their customers? They say they did, but only because they had to so they can move their game out of the stores. EA came out with an unclear statement saying that “the option to purchase crystals in the game is now offline, and all progression will be earned through gameplay. The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game. We’ll share more details as we work through this.” Follow this link for the full official statement

It seems like they are saying “we apologies for what we did, we won’t do it for the time being, but we will try again later”. I doubt that this will work, but I might be wrong, I’m only a Padawan after all, there are Siths and Jedi out there making these decisions better than I do. But here is why I don’t think it will work. Their market is consisted of an extremely savvy and smart people. The gamers and the geeks cannot be fooled easily. These are the Elon Musks and the Bill Gates of the world that you are trying to play, and you can’t play a player.

The two examples from EA and CD Project Red are showing the contrast of what marketing strategy can do to your brand. It shows how important the voice of your customers is. How important it is to listen to them. It showed us that no matter how big you are if you do not show you care about your audience, you will lose. It is why I got into marketing in the first place, it is not all bad, yes a lot of it is, but there is also the side of the light, which I am sure will prevail and lead us to a market where all is fair for both producers and customers.

Bill Gates ones said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”, seems like EA has a lot to learn these days. We all have a choice on which side of the force we will be. Choose wisely and may the force be with you!

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Privacy Preferences
When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in form of cookies. Here you can change your privacy preferences. Please note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we offer.