Star Wars: Battlefront 2's loot box controversy has spawned a much broader conversation than one purely about the game. The discussion about microtransactions and loot boxes had been heating up all year, and EA's implementation in the game really brought it to boiling point — especially when the company suspended all in-game purchases just prior to the game's full release. The discussion isn't just about the claims that these constitute gambling, but also, the general price of games.
Everyone seemingly has an opinion on the model, and one such person is KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Evan Wingren. In a note to clients (picked up by CNBC), he laid out that even though the reaction has been poor, this shouldn't deter publishers.
In an headline-grabbing statement, he said:
"Gamers aren't overcharged, they're undercharged (and we're gamers)."
The reason for all this?
"This saga has been a perfect storm for overreaction as it involves EA, Star Wars, reddit, and certain purist gaming journalists/outlets who dislike MTX."
Wingren went on to explain the reasoning behind the claims, saying that simply put, games just cost far less than any other entertainment. Putting them against TV and film for cost per hour, he worked out that games cost much less on the whole. He went on to say:
"If you take a step back and look at the data, an hour of video game content is still one of the cheapest forms of entertainment. Quantitative analysis shows that video game publishers are actually charging gamers at a relatively inexpensive rate, and should probably raise prices."
While I think there is a grain of truth here, and as an audience, we should at least discuss the cost of video games in an inflating market, I don't think a quasi-mathematic breakdown of enjoyment time to cost is all that useful. I also think that this ignores larger discussions about the way to monetise games and keep a player base, and claiming people don't pay enough is not going to win many hearts. Granted, this is a peek at analysts speaking in terms of business, so it is at least interesting to see it from that perspective, so plainly.