Electronic Arts slammed by customers on Reddit

The video game developer was hoping to engage fans of its new Star Wars product in the popular online forum. Their efforts became the most disliked post in Reddit history.

Brands benefit from communicating directly with customers, but it’s a two-way street.

Electronic Arts reps may have thought they were doing the right thing by responding to the massive backlash around one of its latest games, “Star Wars Battlefront II.” The product, which retails for around $60 for most major gaming platforms, relies on microtransactions to unlock certain characters and features in the game.

The microtransaction is nothing new for gamers, but is a common target for animus in the community. Critics argue “loot boxes” or in-game purchases can disrupt the community dynamic within the game.

The Verge wrote:

However all this shakes out once the game is actually available, Battlefront II‘s loot box system is a perfect storm of controversy. Rightly or wrongly, the perception is as follows: the game requires dozens of hours of tedious drudgery to access the iconic Star Wars characters and their powerful abilities, while EA is encouraging players to pay money to essentially skip this process. Is the company just being nakedly hostile and money-grabbing?

Reddit user MBMMaverick took to the StarWarsBattlefront subreddit to voice his (and many fellow gamers’) frustration. The user writes:

“This is a joke. I’ll be contacting EA support for a refund… I can’t even playing f***ing Darth Vader?!?!? Disgusting. This age of ‘micro-transactions’ has gone WAY too far. Leave it to EA though to stretch the boundaries.”

Users can spend a reported 40 hours of gameplay to unlock premium characters or pay more to have them immediately available. Kotaku reported that it would take around $732 to unlock all of the characters and their individual customizations.

Early response to gamers criticism was dismissed as the usual community sniping. In a now deleted tweet, one developer claimed the griping was coming from the “armchair developers of the internet.”

However, the chorus of dissent grew in volume, with some fans allegedly threatening the game’s developers with violence.

Fortune wrote:

Fans were so upset that they began contacting the game’s developers, allegedly making death threats against the people who worked on the game. […] EA’s statement did not respond specifically to the threats, and Fortune has reached out to the company for comment.

The Reddit post’s popularity quickly spiked over the weekend, and EA took note.

User “EACommunityTeam,” the company’s official developer account, weighed in Sunday with this response:

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.

Since it went up, EA’s post has seen more than 450,000 downvotes—the opposite of the Facebook’s “Like” button—eclipsing the previously most downvoted comment, which was hovering around the 24,000 mark.

Reddit users have a long history of EA hate. The company, which has twice been named Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America,” has built a reputation over the years for failing to address gamers’ suggestions.

To EA’s credit, it’s trying to reverse the trend. The company announced Monday in a blog post that it would slash the amount of credits needed to unlock the top characters by up to 75 percent.

DICE, the EA subsidiary that produces the Battlefront franchise, published a note from its executive producer John Wasilczyk which said the company will continue to make changes.

“We’ve also been listening to how much you’re loving features in the game (Starfighter Assault, 40 player MP battles, Darth Maul lightsaber throws, etc.) as well as what you haven’t liked. We know some of our most passionate fans, including those in our subreddit, have voiced their opinions, and we hear you. We’re making the changes to the credit levels for unlocking heroes and we’re going to keep making changes to improve the game experience over time. We welcome the conversation.”

The downvote fiasco didn’t seem to deter the brand from Reddit, either. “In fact, this Wednesday we’d like you to join us for a Reddit AMA with some of the key leads on our team,” Wasilczyk wrote.

How do you use Reddit, PR Daily readers? Do you have a different approach on the platform compared to other social media?

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