The loot crate controversy that gathered momentum from games like Shadow of War and Forza 7 recently came to a head with Star Wars Battlefront 2. The backlash led EA to remove microtransactions from the game temporarily, but one financial analyst says the whole situation is an “overreaction” from players who are “undercharged” for their games.
EA was quick to assure investors that the pause on SWB 2’s microtransactions wouldn’t have a huge effect on the company’s fiscal year earnings, but this hasn’t stopped a fall in share price. However, according to analyst Evan Wingren of KeyBanc Capital Markets, now is a good time to invest as he believes the loot box issue is just an overreaction by the press and gamers, who should really be paying more for the privilege of playing these titles.
"We view the negative reaction to Star Wars Battlefront 2 (and industry trading sympathy) as an opportunity to add to Electronic Arts, Take-Two, and Activision Blizzard positions. The handling of the SWBF2 launch by EA has been poor; despite this, we view the suspension of MTX [micro-transactions] in the near term as a transitory risk," Wingren wrote in a note to clients.
"Gamers aren't overcharged, they're undercharged (and we're gamers) ... 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 argues that compared to something like movies, video games offer great value. In fact, we’re getting such a good deal that those poor publishers should really be charging us more.
"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.
"Despite its inconvenience to the popular press narrative, if you like Star Wars and play video games at an average rate, you’re far better off skipping the movie and playing the game to get the most bang for your buck."
Wingren said if a gamer spent $60 to buy the game, paid an additional $20 per month for loot boxes and played around 2.5 hours a day for one year, it works out at roughly 40 cents per hour of gaming time. This compares to an estimated 60 cents to 65 cents per hour for pay television, 80 cents per hour for a movie rental and more than $3 per hour for a movie watched in a theater.
There are a few flaws in his logic, of course. The main one being that few people pour almost 1000 hours into a game, especially if it's single-player only (with some exceptions). And while SWB 2 is multiplayer focused, it isn’t exactly game of the year material. There’s also the fact that as PC owners, we're constantly spending money to upgrade our hardware so we can play these titles. And let’s not forget that Wingren is comparing what are essentially several very different forms of entertainment. Ultimately, most people don’t favor games, movies, or TV shows based on their cent-per-hour value.
Wingren did say at least one thing that makes sense: he believes there’s a “slightly higher probability” that all the controversy over Star Wars Battlefront 2 means it won’t hit its sales forecast of 13 million units.