'EA moral compass' gives dev teams guidance on loot boxes post-Battlefront 2

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At the end of last year, we wrote about how the loot box controversy shaped gaming in 2017 (opens in new tab). Star Wars Battlefront 2's slant on the paid-for virtual items was at the centre of the backlash—and the debate has expectedly (opens in new tab) rolled (opens in new tab) into 2018 (opens in new tab). BF2 publisher EA has since redesigned its development framework and testing process, says the company's executive VP of strategic growth Matt Bilbey, in a bid to make its games "fair and fun." 

In conversation with gamesindustry.biz (opens in new tab), Bilbey explains that he and his colleagues are in discussion with organisations such as the Belgian Gaming Commission. This follows the BGC's recent opposition of loot boxes (opens in new tab).      

"I believe what we're working through with those specific groups at the moment is an education," Bilbey tells GI.biz (opens in new tab). "Not meant in a patronizing way, but just helping them understand how we design the games and the notion of choice and our commitment to making the games fair and fun. We learned a lot from Star Wars: Battlefront."

At launch, Tyler explained how Battlefront 2's loot boxes worked (opens in new tab)—saying that while players weren't forced to buy premium currency, the system's presence was always felt. In April of this year, EA's then-new chief designer Patrick Söderlund promised to avoid a repeat of Battlefront 2's loot box controversy (opens in new tab). On an earnings call the following month, EA chief executive Andrew Wilson said the publisher would "push on (opens in new tab)" with loot boxes, and explained it was working with regulators to ensure its games do not break any laws. 

Bilbey then turns his attention to the checks and balances EA now has in place to avoid another Battlefront 2-style situation.

He says: "I ran a team internally with Patrick post-Battlefront to actually redesign our game development framework and testing platforms to ensure we're giving our game teams the right guidance—we'll call it an EA moral compass—at the beginning of development so that we're designing our live service early, we're testing it early, testing it with gamers who are giving us feedback so we ensure those pillars of fairness, value, and fun are true."

Read gamesindustry.biz's interview with Matt Bilbey in full this way (opens in new tab)