Star Wars Battlefront II is scheduled for release at the end of the week and, since the release of the open beta a few weeks ago, it has become one of the most talked-about games on the market, and not in a good way. The first game in this reboot was an initial success, selling about 13 million copies, but it also received a lot of criticism over things like lack of any kind of campaign (or even any kind of game mode that did not require you to play online for that matter), its extremely repetitive and quickly tiresome nature, and its unconventional and impractical means of collecting and using items in game. Though it was a decent game, it left a lot to be desired and lost a large portion of its player base in a fairly short amount of time.
With the announcement of Star Wars Battlefront II, it left many with hopes that EA had heard their pleas and was working to bring us the game that we had initially hoped for, a game that was more similar to the original games they were based on. As time went on and we received more trailers, gameplay, and official content announcements, things started to seem more and more promising. But, of course, as is unfortunately common among games these days, it was all a bit too much to be true.
A little more than a month ago EA opened an open beta for the game hoping to showcase some of the game’s features and build up hype for the game. It was successful in this to a certain degree, but, of course, it didn’t take long for the despicable microtransactions to rear their ugly heads and gamers started to notice some very shady game mechanics and business practices that had wormed their way into the game. Now, this is certainly not the first time that shifty business practices and microtransactions have tarnished a potentially great game, and I am sure it won’t be the last, but that is a discussion for another time and I will most likely have an article devoted more to the topic in the near future.
For now, I mean to discuss the current debates that have been flooding Reddit forums. Those who pre-ordered the game and are members of EA Access have been given access to play the game a few days before launch this Friday, and so far it has proven to be an absolute disaster. The game itself appears to be visually appealing and quite fun, but even more apparent is the fact that a huge amount of content is locked behind in-game currency and crafting materials that can only be obtained through (surprise, surprise) loot boxes.
The whole idea of the loot box system in games like this makes my blood boil and, apparently, I am not the only one that feels this way. Once it was discovered that everything from weapons to in-game buffs to iconic Star Wars characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader were hidden behind potential hundreds of hours worth of grinding or hundreds of real dollars worth of in-game currency to open loot boxes, the gaming community went ballistic. Sure, you can earn all the in-game currency you will need while playing the game, but it was estimated that just to unlock a single character such as Luke Skywalker, for example, you would need to play for near 40 real-time hours to earn enough to unlock the single character.
EA tried to recover from the backlash by stating “The intent is to provide players with a sense of accomplishment for unlocking different heroes. As for cost, we selected initial values based upon data from the Open Beta… and we’ll be making constant adjustments to ensure that players have challenges that are compelling, rewarding, and of course attainable via gameplay” as a comment on Reddit. Now, I am just paraphrasing but you get the idea. Within 24 hours this comment became the single most downvoted comment Reddit had ever seen, currently sitting with a score of somewhere around -500k.
In what may very well be one of the greatest backlashings in modern video game history, EA was all but forced to again respond. Taking a more direct approach this time, they immediately reduced the cost of each of these characters by 75% and agreed to an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) session on Reddit scheduled for Wednesday, November 15. Even though it seems like a commendable move on their part I am not sure it is enough to mend the damage that has been done. In fact, along with the decrease in cost there are already plans to decrease the number of credits obtainable through gameplay.
Like a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar, EA will do and is doing everything they can to justify their greedy actions. Their concern is not so much about how we, as the consumer, feel but rather about being caught in the act. Before we go commending them for their “honorable decision,” patting them on the back and sending them on their way we need to make sure the message is clear.
Allow me to put it to you another way. Let’s say you get home to find someone in the process of robbing your house. Likely upset, you would probably demand them to return everything and get out of your house. Now, imagine that instead of complying the thief simply admits that they were in the wrong and offers to give you back some of your things, but only some and they will keep the rest. Do you now praise the thief for admitting their wrong and let them go on their way? Most likely not and even if you did, chances are as soon as your back was turned and your guard was down again they would be right back to finish where they left off.
The analogy may seem a bit unorthodox, but it is precisely what is happening here. Despite the fact that EA is making steps towards improvement, they are very small steps compared to the massive steps they have taken in the opposite direction already. Regardless of what they may want you to think, you are still getting robbed and EA is still getting the high ground.
It is good that conversations like this are finally making their way to the foreground, but, as I before mentioned, this is not the first fight and it certainly won’t be the last. Though a small victory may have been achieved here, we are far from winning the war; a war that many are not even aware is taking place. The only true language that many triple-A developers like EA truly understand is that of money, and the only way to really make a difference is in keeping it from them. If every downvote this comment received was equivalent to someone who preordered the game and decided to cancel their preorder, it would cost EA upwards of $21 million. Just keep that in mind. Rest assured that we will continue to cover this and other similar events as they take place and stay tuned to the Geekwave for all things geek.