EA has set a new record, nabbing the award for the most downvoted comment on Reddit. The rather interesting record came during a discussion on the Star Wars Battlefront subreddit about the upcoming game’s microtransactions and progression system. The comment currently sits at a score of -261,000. For those who may not want to go to Reddit, you can read the comment below.
The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.
As for cost, we selected initial values based upon data from the Open Beta and other adjustments made to milestone rewards before launch. Among other things, we’re looking at average per-player credit earn rates on a daily basis, and we’ll be making constant adjustments to ensure that players have challenges that are compelling, rewarding, and of course attainable via gameplay.
We appreciate the candid feedback, and the passion the community has put forth around the current topics here on Reddit, our forums and across numerous social media outlets.
Our team will continue to make changes and monitor community feedback and update everyone as soon and as often as we can.
Now, on the face of it, it is not the most egregious comment in the world. No name calling, no dismissing of the issue at hand. This is not a moment where a Community Manager or PR person went off the rails and insulted a playerbase in any obvious way. About the worst thing that I can spot in the comment is a disconnect between the first line and how a gaming community might search for their own sense of pride and accomplishment.
For many people, the reported forty hours it will take to unlock a single Hero in the game might equate to two, or even three, months of playtime. The average gamer has large blocks of their day that are filled with real world demands. Work, school, college, that second job, taking care of family, all the things that need to be done about the house and during day to day lives. I personally feel like the worst aspect of the comment is that it is a little tone deaf with regards to the people who make up gaming communities.
Many people seem to be simply interpreting the comment as deflection, however. With EA recently promising changes to the loot and progression systems, only to jack up the in game currency required to unlock things, many see it as an attempt to force people into engaging with the game in a way that requires them to spend more money. The first reply to the comment says almost exactly this, and sits at close to nine thousand upvotes.
Whether the comment deserves all these downvotes is now a moot point, and to be frank, at this point it is largely meaningless. The conversation has grown outside of the community it started in, so the motivations of downvoters are no longer clear. Many folk will be downvoting just to feel involved in an event that has, roughly, a 48 hour shelf life. We saw a similar thing last year when a trailer for Call Of Duty gathered downvotes, downvoting it simply became the thing to do.
What is clear is that the comment seems to have become a rallying point for people who had concerns about Battlefront 2. I myself was quite concerned with the fact that a sixty dollar game had the microtransaction system that was present in the Beta, and those concerns were not assuaged by EA after I saw the price increase of items in game while playing the ten hour Trial via Origin Access.
A big clue as to why all this may be happening stems from a quarterly fiscal report, and the stock market’s reaction to it, from a few weeks back. As reported by CNBC, investors are expecting the same level of engagement, or better, with Star Wars microtransactions as the FIFA games have shown. Investors operate as far from the interests of gamers as you can get, wishing only to see a positive return on their investment and being largely uncaring and unattached to the entities and industries that they invest in. The stock price must go up for these people to be happy, dividends must increase for investment to be maintained.
What we appear to be seeing is the meeting of two icebergs that have been on a collision course for some time now. On one side, the expectations of gamers for a quality and engaging product at what they deem to be a fair price, on the other the desire for investors to see microtransactions pushed in order to maximize profits. In a very tiny way, the most downvoted comment in Reddit history is merely a symptom of this bigger problem, rather than a problem for EA in and of itself. The evidence is there that a concerted push to have people engage with microtransactions is something that EA simply has to do, which lends credence to the argument that the system itself is designed to do just that, even at the risk of being unfair to the consumer.
The hubbub about the most downvoted comment will blow over, and outside of the memes, it will be largely forgotten. What remains is a very complex time for the games industry, as it tries to do the same dance that EA now finds itself trying to do. It needs to keep the customers it has, to a degree, while engaging news ones, and all the time use microtransaction systems to generate what would be considered “whales”. A whale is a customer who engages with your business to a monetary value far above the standard, and in modern gaming they are becoming more and more important due to the vast amounts of money that they can generate for publishers.
This leads to a cultural shift in gaming, where disgruntled players who do not engage with micotransactions can be allowed to slip out of a games ecosystem, because whales will more than replace the lost income. The thing is, for those gamers who are slipping out of the system, it may come as a sudden shock that they are simply not as valuable, and as valued, by the publishers they have engaged with as they thought they were. This leads to flashpoint events like this one on Reddit, where large groups of people are given a simple means by which to express their unhappiness.
I predict the coming years will lead to more and more of these incidents, as publishers feel pressured by shareholders and investors to try and generate as much income as possible via what are relatively new means that not all gamers will be comfortable with. Meanwhile, customers will need to decide exactly what business practices they wish to reward and engage with, because handing out the most downvoted comment in Reddit history may not have the impact they are hoping for.