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After Battlefront II mess, EA admits it has an image problem

"It's clear to us that players see the company differently than we do," an Electronic Arts executive says long after the Death Star-sized disaster.

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For some fans, EA had become more villainous than Stormtroopers.

EA

Electronic Arts knows it has an image problem, and the company's new chief design officer, Patrick Söderlund, is trying to fix it. That's why the company has been so dedicated to revamping Star Wars Battlefront II.

The game wound up being one of the most infamous releases of 2017. What was supposed to be an unmitigated success for EA turned into a critical and financial disappointment. Not only was Star Wars Battlefront II set up to ride off the impending release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it offered everything fans could want from a Battlefront sequel: tweaked space combat, more game modes and, most importantly, a real single-player campaign.

Instead, it was a disaster. Harsh reviews and fan blowback about microtransactions, loot boxes, character progression and perceived pay-to-win mechanics tainted the game's reputation before it even launched. EA disabled in-game purchases, lowered the unlock requirements for iconic characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and eventually changed the game's entire progression system to be less reliant on Star Cards and loot box luck.

Söderlund says the incident is sparking change in how the company operates. 

"We can shy away from it and pretend like it didn't happen," he told The Verge in an interview this week, "or we can act responsibly and realize that we made some mistakes, and try to rectify those mistakes and learn from them."

EA says it's trying to learn. The original goal of Star Wars Battlefront II was to create a system that encouraged gamers to play the game over an extended period of time while simultaneously creating stream of revenue, but Söderlund says EA "got it wrong," and had to start redesigning the game as it was hitting store shelves.

"It's clear to us that players see the company differently than we do," Söderlund said. "I have to take that seriously. And we have to continue to listen and understand what's triggering that."

"We can't afford to make similar mistakes," he said. "And we won't."

So far, response to EA's Battlefront changes have been lukewarm. Threads on prominent subreddits that once were the focal point of the backlash have been warm to the game post-microtransaction and loot box changes, but unenthusiastic about how the latest update is poised to put cosmetic items such as skins behind a microtransaction paywall. 

With E3 just around the corner, and rumors of EA's Battlefield series returning to its World War I roots, there's ample opportunity for them to show they've changed... or spark fan outrage yet again.

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