What was meant to be a major release for EA Games is now turning into a financial nightmare for the 35-year-old video game company: EA's stock has taken a deep hit according to reports Wednesday, with industry watchers pegging the compay's poor performance to complaints over the pay-to-play controversy plaguing the long-awaited Star Wars Battlefront II.
"EA's stock is down 8.5 percent month to date through Tuesday compared with the S&P 500's 2 percent gain, wiping out $3.1 billion of shareholder value," wrote CNBC, adding that the company's key rivals, Take-Two and Activision Blizzard, have seen their shares jump 5 percent and 0.7 percent respectively during the same time frame.
EA's responses to the constant bashing on Twitter and Reddit were apparently not enough to save game sales when Battlefront II was released on Nov. 17. For instance, physical sales in the U.K. fell 61 percent, while the title hasn't even earned a place on Amazon's best-selling games list. When you take into account the fact that Black Friday was only six days after the launch, it's not a good sign. What should have been a lucrative weekend of pre-Christmas game sales was entirely underwhelming.
In addition, the company's business model of forcing players to pay actual money in order to level up (known as "micro-transactions") is under close scrutiny. Many gripes about Battlefront compared the practice to gambling among children. As a result, politicians promised to take a stand against it, which could cast a long shadow on EA's profits.
YouTube gamers, critics, and journalists are also voicing their opinions on the issue, offering up ways companies can avoid controversies like this in the future.
"I don't think they will ever completely remove their loot-box systems," the Angry Joe Show's Joe Vargas told CNBC. "The best course of action would be to keep it to cosmetic and bonus pieces for only the games where it makes sense instead of this recently insulting shotgun cash-grab approach of stuffing all their major titles with it. The market will only handle so much."
The entire EA fiasco could not have come at a worse time for the company, which was no doubt hoping to capitalize on the release of The Last Jedi in December. Instead, it's now staring down a PR and financial debacle that's dampened the fervor for its most anticipated release of the season.