Critics on YouTube have been loudly criticizing video game publishers for predatory monetization tactics like loot boxes and microtransactions for years. Stoking anger among consumers can be good business for some YouTubers, and it appears to be having an effect on developers themselves.
A new report from Kotaku, citing EA as a prominent example, says that employees of the publisher have been demoralized by criticism from prominent YouTubers.
“Two people who have worked on Anthem both expressed anxiety to me about the ways some big YouTubers have spread misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric about EA, saying that it has a demoralizing effect on those people on the ground level,” Kotaku’s story explained.
This sort of fear isn’t limited to EA, however. “People close to BioWare, along with many other developers I’ve talked to in recent months, worry that commentary from some of YouTube’s loudest voices has eliminated nuance and made companies like EA seem like Disney villains,” the story continues.
We’ve reached out to EA for comment and will update the story if and when the company responds, but the company is dealing with an ongoing public relations disaster that it created itself. There was a corporate decision to focus on loot boxes in Battlefront 2 — or at least that’s the perception — and the ongoing response to the ensuing backlash did nothing to help the company in the eyes of its critics, myself included. The situation looked like a stumble based on greed that didn’t offer an easy escape once the angry voices became impossible to ignore.
Other EA games are stoking this anger from YouTubers and players on sites like Reddit by focusing on economies that seem designed to maximize player investment. This is bad news for the employees at the ground level who are just trying to create fun games, but it’s hard to argue with the general sentiment that EA is focused on profit above fun when there are so many pieces of evidence pointing in that direction. The criticism isn’t going to stop until more games launch with economies that feel more fair.
The gaming community at large, with YouTube included, does not like EA ... but that isn’t a thing that just happened. EA provided enough reasons for the fans to be angry, and there hasn’t been enough done to regain the lost trust.
Morale can be improved, and the angry mobs may go away, but it’s going to take some doing on the part of EA, and it will require the sort of decisions that come from the top. Until we see more games released without the sort of predatory practices that led to this anger, it’s bound to continue, no matter how grumpy it makes the employees of the gaming giant.
Update: EA has declined to comment on this story.