Gaming industry roundup: SWBG2’s poor sales, Gambling Commission, slot machines, and parody games

Don’t agree that lockboxes, lootboxes, and gambleboxes were the biggest story of the year? We’ve collected so many news tidbits just on that over the last few days that we’re resorting to rounding them up rather than spamming. To wit:

First, Merrill Lynch analysts have now lowered their expectations and profit estimates for EA thanks to the performance of Star Wars Battlefront 2, which the analysts believe will fall short of the 14M sales estimate by 2.5M. At least in big box stores, the game also performed relatively poorly on Black Friday.

On point: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gambling is under $1 on Steam. “Do you love opening loot crates, but hate the tedious gameplay sessions in between? Our marketing department has the game for you! Unbox random items! Get stuff, but not what you really want! Skate legal and ethical lines! Remember kids, it’s only a video game, so grab your parents’ credit card!”

If that one does nothing for you, try Loot Box Quest. It’s basically the same concept as Succubox.

Vice’s Waypoint blog has a detailed analysis of how Need for Speed: Payback’s game design is subtly and not-so-subtly centered on driving the player right back to the slot machines, literally, to the detriment of the other brilliant stuff in the game (via @JamieMadigan). “It illustrates how the goals of a development team and the goals of a publisher can collide in a way that makes the game way less than what it could’ve been,” Austin Walker writes. “It’s a reminder that whatever thing we’re complaining about now, what comes tomorrow will be – is actively being – refined. Years ago it was horse armor, then it was character skins, then it was game ‘boosts.’ […] Payback’s slot machine exists in this overall continuum of additional monetization, and could point forward to a new model. It makes me wonder what new tactics we might see deployed by big publishers in the coming years, and how those tactics will prey on those who struggle with addiction and how they will undermine the visions of development teams.”

SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen has a piece on Medium arguing that video game companies have heretofore escaped mainstream attention, but that time is coming to an end as the industry has ballooned to over $100B yearly revenue and “scrutiny” on business practices and communication will increase. “Striking the right balance between customer satisfaction and aggressive monetization is proving a stumbling block for legacy publishers like Electronic Arts,” he argues, punctuating that by pointing out EA’s stock price drop and increasing government awareness.

The UK Gambling Commission has issued its annual report, which in part examines skin-betting and how it affects underage gamers. According to the report, 11% of UK kids under 16 had admitted they’d placed bets using in-game items in an online game, nearly half knew it was possible, and 370,000 spent money on gambling in general. “The commission says cracking down on the industry is now a top priority,” writes the BBC.

Eurogamer has an interview out with the Gambling Commission’s executive director, who explains when and how the group gets involved. Critically, he notes, the commission doesn’t set the legal definition of gambling in the UK – that’s down to parliament.

“We’re a gambling regulator – we’re the Gambling Commission. The power parliament has given us is to regulate gambling. So if it doesn’t cross the line to become gambling it’s not something we can use our powers for, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a need to take action. If there’s a risk presented to children or young people then clearly it has to be dealt with. So if it’s not gambling, while it may not be us who directly addresses that risk with our powers, it doesn’t mean we can’t raise awareness of those concerns, which is what we did back with both the paper back in 2016 and what we have been doing since.”

Cheers, Ashfyn and BalsBigBrother!

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19 Comments on "Gaming industry roundup: SWBG2’s poor sales, Gambling Commission, slot machines, and parody games"

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arandomusertoo
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arandomusertoo

“SWBG2’S POOR SALES”

Typo? SWBF2?

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Sally Bowls

I would question the “poor sales” EA screwed up and these are clearly disappointing sales and the stock and perhaps some managers are paying the price.

OTOH, they still are going to sell 14-2.5 = 11.5M copies. I am old-fashioned enough to be a tad uncomfortable as describing a half-billion dollars for a game as “poor sales.”

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rafael12104

EA. Ironically a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy future for this hobby of ours.

Why a bright spot? Heh. Because they have been downgraded. And that is likely to get more attention than the reality that they made a shitload of money for their stockholders this year.

I’ve been around a while. Played a bit in the stock market. Have some savings tied up in mutual funds etc. etc. Like many of you I’m sure. And the one thing I’ve learned about Wall Street is that perception is the reality.

The markets move on perception. Hell, that explains the .Com years and bubble. Remember that? People were investing outside of the fundamentals until the music stopped.

Welp, I’m betting that if EA doesn’t do something to nip the perception that they are sliding because of the Wilson Lootbox they will continue to slide.

And the best part is that IF they do scale back on the boxes, the profits will go down and projections for the coming year will miss.

It won’t be the end of EA, but it could force a market correction and more importantly a correction by Activision, Ubi, Square etc. etc. to minimize the use of predatory practices for profit.

As for the rest? Let it all happen. I’d love for Mike Lee’s proposal for legislation regulating loot boxes to move forward. I would love for the EU to continue to argue and wring their hands about those boxes. Bring on the studies about how young adults are gambling. Let it all Hurricane into shit. LOL.

As I have said before, I’ve lost faith. And I am now more convinced than ever that it is going to take a monumental crash for all of this to finally come to a head. We will feel the pain, my fellow gamers. But we must, in order to cut out the cancer.

Cadaver
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Cadaver

+1 for the sentiment, but I don’t share your optimism.

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Denice J. Cook

SW:BF2 probably didn’t do too well on Black Friday, but to be fair, it was selling for full price at $59.99 while being totally surrounded by games on sale for $14.99, $19.99, $29.99, $34.99 and $39.99, etc.

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Schmidt.Capela

It isn’t just that it sold badly during Black Friday; it’s selling a lot less than SW:BF1 did in the same point of its life. And given that microtransactions in SW:BF2 are still unavailable, the only revenue EA is getting from SW:BF2, up to now, are the retail copies.

EA also expressed to investors that there is a chance SW:BF2 might never get microtransactions back. By itself this would drastically cut down the revenue from the game, even if it sold as well as the first one.

It seems to me that Need for Speed: Payback — another EA game that uses the same exploitive lockbox design — is also performing badly. It was released at the start of November, and during Black Friday it was already sold at a 33%-40% discount in nearly every store it can be purchased from. This is a very unusual move for a game from a major franchise that wasn’t even a month old (though it did get a 61 metacritic score, in large part because progression in the game feels awful, and an user score between 3.1 and 4.1 depending on the platform).

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A Dad Supreme

I think they’ll make more after the movie’s out a few weeks.

It doesn’t release officially until tomorrow. Everyone knows the kind of blood-pumping that goes on after a Star Wars movie (except The Phantom Menace)

Then a bunch of sales for at least $10-$15 off in January will mean a few more million in sales. It’s always kind of short-sided to look at a few months of sales and assume that’s the whole story, especially with an IP this large.

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A Dad Supreme

Justin Post, Wall Street Analyst at Merrill Lynch – in a note to clients reported by CNBC – predicted that Battlefront 2 would undershoot its expected 14 million sales by around 2.5 million and lowered his 2018 fiscal earnings-per-share estimates from $4.28 to $4.22.

This is only expected to be a short-term issue for EA however, with analysts also forecasting a stronger 2018.

“As controversy subsides post-holidays, we expect investor interest to pick up ahead of a stronger FY19 title slate, renewed digital optimism, and operating leverage potential,” Post added.

So the shares lost 6 cents in the short term, got some bad/free press, a whole lot of cheering/ill-wishes and nothing resolved with a rosy outlook predicted.

Next up… gamers/vloggers tackle net neutrality!

55b6ef0a02c2a8b3c54be622ede636352ffdb639e8aec165bde46a14412f85ac.jpg
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Zora

Next up… gamers/vloggers tackle net neutrality!

Sshhhhh don’t jin–oh damn, too late…

You had one job, gamers. ONE JOB!

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bobfish

When you consider that even with the drop in shares from this controversy and reduced revenue forecast, EA’s shares are still higher than they were this time last year, they are definitely going to be fine.

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Zora

With due respect, I struggle to pin EA’s title’s lowered sales to whatever controversy about lockboxes/gambling.

The greater public doesn’t know nor care about any such thing and by now younger (and not so young) generations have been adequately “acclimated” to the concepts of being micro-fleeced by a solid decade of mobile gaming.

I can see them giving up on the game because of bad press/word of mouth regarding the game quality itself, but if the game is enjoyable enough I’d be surprised about anyone locking himself outside of the most recent SW-themed craze out of principles he probably does not share/care about.

Because indeed “Remember kids, it’s only a video game, so grab your parents’ credit card!” :D

borghive
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borghive

I disagree, I think the negative press influenced sales quite a bit. Gamers are way more informed now, this idea that the masses don’t know what is going on is so 2004. Gamers are way more savvy now when it comes to buying games.

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Zora

In this age, the “masses” are made up of people who got introduced to videogames on their mobiles, as I pointed out above. If anything, people in 2004 would be less prone to tolerate what is by and large perceived as normal monetisation now.

It’s nice to see how this is playing out really, but let’s not pat ourselves on the back too much yet. If gamers were more savvy now as you say, by consequence then none of these predatory business models could exist and prosper to begin with.

We are the enablers. They sell, but we are the ones buying.

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IronSalamander8 .

I have to concur with borghive here. The game’s grind or pay to win concepts most certainly were the largest issues that killed its sales. Over 1/2 million dislikes on Reddit alone, plus the coverage it was given by people like Jim Sterling, Yongyea, and Worthabuy really sank this thing.

When a SW game sells this badly its a serious issue. SW is so popular that even a mediocre game with the label should do fairly well. The loot box issue has been overlooked for awhile but people are getting legitimately angry over them and this overreach by EA was the proverbial straw on the camel’s back.

Many of these companies (not just EA) have been trying to grab more and more money for the same things that used to be free or to complete a half-complete game they charge full price for. I don’t begrudge them wanting to make money, that is why are they are in business after all, but there’s a large difference between charging a fair price and enticing us to want to spend money and a blatant cash grab/ripoff. I fully support the former but not the latter.

Veldan
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Veldan

“Critically, he notes, the commission doesn’t set the legal definition of parliament in the UK – that’s down to parliament.”

Parliament sets the definition of parliament? My guess is this is a typo and you meant the definition of gambling.

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Fisty

What does SWGB2 stand for? Is that just a typo?

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BalsBigBrother

heh that is Bree’s wishful thinking in action probably, Star Wars Galaxies Battles 2 or something ;-)

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Fisty

I was hoping for Galactic Battlegrounds 2, but I knew better lol