So EA turned the launch of Star Wars Battlefront 2 - one of the most highly anticipated games of 2017 - into a controversial storm of loot crate hell. We have one thing to thank them for, as they have officially found what is considered “too far” for microtransaction-based unlockables.
If you’ve been living under a video gaming rock for the past week, allow me to paint you a word picture of the events leading to what has been an outburst of anger.
General consumer optimism persisted throughout the past few months, as EA promised there will be no season pass in Battlefront 2. But, as found out during the beta, it became abundantly clear the game had a strong pay-to-win element through the use of loot crates.
Many players noticed that a player who had paid for advantages would most likely prevail in a one-on-one battle against a gamer who had put in the hours, to play to the same level - due to the better tools available for those willing to dip into their wallets.
Following growing player outrage, EA was forced to respond by saying their most powerful weapons will only be unlock able through in-game achievement - not loot crates. Alongside this, they listed many other changes to the game’s progression system, instilling a sense of confidence in players…but not for long.
Moving ahead to Battlefront 2’s Play First Trial, which kicked off earlier this month, players got to sink their teeth into the game - with one player calculating just how long it would take to unlock in-game items through gameplay over micro transactions. Turns out, terrifyingly, EA expected you to play the game for three hours to unlock a crate, and a whopping 40 hours to unlock Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader as a playable hero.
This is greed, plain and simple. Following many firsts for EA - including the most down voted Reddit comment in history and a legendarily bad AMA of strictly PR’d answers, they eventually relented. The price of in-game heroes was reduced by 75% to begin with, eventually leading to the developers completely turning the game’s micro transactions off for launch.
They will return. But DICE & EA are taking the paid-for elements back to the drawing board. It’s always been baffling, since the introduction of DLC, to see elements of a game locked behind a paywall. As a late twenty-something, I remember a time when games were purchased as whole games - without a worry of needing to pay more to unlock more content.
And as the price of video games continues to creep up with every passing generation, it’s truly annoying a lot of gamers - me being one of them.
Stifling a genuine feeling of progression with a far-too-expensive loot crate system is damaging to all involved parties - the game, the players and the money hungry company. But that shouldn’t limit a developer’s desire to add more content post-launch.
Going back to my younger days and taking the rose-coloured spectacles off, while the games were incredible - they did have a strict time limit of enjoyment. And from the perspective of a developer+publisher, the sales window for a game is rather short after launch. So to be able to keep a title relevant with extra playability - pushing it through the PR tubes a few more times - reaps a lot more value from a single game.
What can you do in the meantime?
In this rather crazy world of business, money speaks louder than any angry customer. The act of simply refusing to buy a game makes a bigger impact than you may think. Do not accept the current status quo of in-game purchases, and the industry will be forced to react.
So what is the fix?
I understand your overwhelming frustration at paying for a game, to only have elements locked behind a pay wall or an unnecessary amount of gameplay hours - making the payment look so much more enticing.
However, it would be very closed-minded of me to say there should be no micro transactions whatsoever. Developers deserve the opportunity to creatively expand upon the universes they have imagined, and they are well within their right to make money off their expansions. But that is what it should be - an expansion.
To pay for what already exists in the game is EA’s fatal flaw here, and one that they and many other developers commit all too often. Lose the loot crates. Move the micro transactions as far away from the main game as possible.
The more you charge for what should just be part of the game, the more consumer anger you deservedly get - leading to a decline in share prices and reduced confidence.
Play nice, EA.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.