EA's Andrew Wilson said something about the publisher following the recent layoffs of around 350 employees that stood out. It came from an internal email that accompanied that news, as reported by Kotaku. "We have a vision to be the World’s Greatest Games Company," he said, according to the report. "If we’re honest with ourselves, we're not there right now. We have work to do with our games, our player relationships, and our business." The idea of "closing the gap between us and our player communities" was also discussed—it was oddly honest, during an otherwise bleak moment for EA.
I was reminded of that during this past weekend. On Saturday, as EA revealed Jedi: Fallen Order—only the third bblockbuster game it's formerly announced based on Star Wars in the six years since it acquired the license—its official Star Wars account made this statement on Twitter:
No microtransactions. No loot boxes. And no, we won't be adding them. A single-player Star Wars story for those of you who are ready to become a Jedi. https://t.co/kTheWVBjJcApril 13, 2019
It drew attention back to Battlefront 2's loot box fiasco, where the game's monetisation and progression system was reworked after a significant backlash (a decision made before the game even launched). When I saw that tweet, I realised what EA was trying to achieve: a bit of sincerity to get people excited about this singleplayer, story-driven game, and rebuilding the bridge back to fans who felt burned by Battlefront 2. Inevitably, though, it drew criticism, summed up notably by commentator Jim Sterling.
The tweet probably had good intentions, but the negative reaction was justified. Who is going to feel grateful about those things not being in a Star Wars game? Trying to get people excited about what used to be our bare minimum expectations from games was not a good idea. It didn't really sour the reveal of Jedi: Fallen Order, but reminding people of the troubled Battlefront 2 launch as a selling point was just an obvious misfire.
The thing is, people probably didn't need more reasons to be excited about Jedi: Fallen Order. Respawn is making a game with lightsaber combat, which is enormously promising. The game counts Chris Avellone among its narrative designers, and there's a strong focus on story, which EA's Star Wars games have not had up to this point.
The Titanfall developer has only made great games—we had no real reason to be apprehensive. And while the trailer didn't make me massively excited about the game, everything the developers said about it on-stage made me believe it will be the sort of Star Wars game I'll love. I say that as someone who spent many hours Force Pushing enemies to their deaths in Jedi Academy.
Going back to Andrew Wilson's email about EA following those layoffs, then: "We have work to do with our games, our player relationships, and our business." One tweet was never going to make a difference to those player relationships—but despite the own goal, here, perhaps it's a sign that some introspection is going on at the publisher. I'm reminded of this story about EA creating a kind of 'moral compass' about being 'fair and fun' after Battlefront 2.
What EA tweets doesn't really matter. After six years, during which Star Wars has had its most active period in decades, EA has so far failed to deliver games that make the most out of that universe. Visceral's Project Ragtag was cancelled, despite having Amy Hennig at the helm, and a lot of promise. Jedi: Fallen Order offers the chance to start turning that around.
Trying to be cute about loot boxes is pointless. Just make some great Star Wars games.