Over the last week, the launch of the highly-anticipated Star Wars Battlefront 2 has largely been shrouded by a great deal of controversy.
EA’s recent decision to temporarily remove the loot box system from Battlefront 2 has had many contemplating the question of whether or not consumer outcry against microtransaction systems has finally resulted in a win for the consumer in the gaming community’s seemingly endless war against microtransactions.
So, did the gaming community really just beat EA?
In order to answer this question, the nature of Battlefront 2’s loot box system needs to be analysed as well as the potential avenues EA may take when they eventually decide to re-activate the microtransaction system in the game.
So, What’s The Deal With Battlefront 2?
If one pays any attention to gaming media, one would already know what this controversy is about as it has been heavily-reported on by several different major gaming news sources, but in short, the cause of the controversy was EA’s decision to include a microtransaction system within the game that basically destroyed the game’s balancing system.
With the loot box system in question, players had the opportunity to buy loot boxes with crystals (an in-game currency bought with real-world money) or credits (an in-game currency separate to the crystals earnt by playing matches) that were filled with Star Cards that improved weapon abilities to a game-changing degree, which is a huge issue with any multiplayer game, as well as other rather enticing in-game rewards.
Arguably, however, the unbalanced weapon system within the game did not play as large a role in creating the controversy surrounding the game as the system surrounding the hero playable characters (for example, characters such as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker.)
While the hero characters were available to all players in the first Battlefront reboot title in the form of a pick-up during matches, Battlefront 2 changed this system to one where players needed to pay for characters using in-game credits.
While this system in itself is not evil as it should simply mean that players that play the game more often are going to unlock the characters a lot quicker, the rate at which players were earning credits and the price at which hero characters were available.
Players who had access to the game early estimated that it would take about 40 hours of play just to unlock some characters – if one were to do it in the elbow grease method.
The loot box system also provided the opportunity to earn the hero playable characters and players by buying loot boxes – basically gambling to see if they would be lucky enough to unlock one (probably not, but maybe, right?)
It’s important to note that the hero characters are only purchasable through the use of in-game credits and not crystals thus players were not even able to directly purchase the hero characters and would have to rely on the chance base mechanics of the loot box system. (The whole system was basically designed to push players to spend real-world money on loot boxes.)
Perhaps, again, the controversy surrounding the game would not have reached the levels that it has if heroes were not rare finds in the loot box system, but a Gamespot report saw a journalist spend $100 on crystals without any hero to show for it.
When players who had early access to the game started making all of this information known, many people were determined to find out whether or not this information was indeed true by directing questions at EA on social media forums.
The statement that has basically came to represent EA’s initial stance on the whole controversy in its early stages was a post on the Star Wars Battlefront subreddit thread in which the explanation provided for the long unlock times was that it would provide players with “a sense of pride and accomplishment.”
For the entire week leading up to Battlefront 2’s launch, people around the world angered by the microtransaction system within the game protested against it by cancelling pre-orders and making social media posts criticising the company, among other actions.
EA responded by drastically reducing the amount required to buy hero characters and then also holding an AMA on Reddit where gamers could ask questions regarding the content of the game, but this did very little to appease fan outrage.
All of the noise surrounding the launch of Battlefront 2, also then led to authorities in four countries in charge of the regulation of gaming content in those territories investigating the loot box system to determine whether or not it is truly similar to gambling. If it is found to be similar, companies employing such systems could face penalties.
Ultimately, last week ended off with the release of Star Wars Battlefront 2 with its microtransaction system being turned off. The decision to temporarily delay the inclusion of a microtransaction system within the game comes after EA reportedly faced some pressure from Disney (owner of the Star Wars brand) to remove them due to the alarming amount of negative media coverage of the situation.
So, Did The Gaming Community Beat EA?
This is a very difficult question to answer because the story is still unfolding at this point.
At this moment in time, it definitely does seem like gamer outcry did ultimately lead to EA removing the microtransaction system from Battlefront 2, even if only temporarily. Despite the fact that the biggest external influencing party with regards to decision-making and Battlefront 2 is definitely Disney, there is no denying that the company would not have taken issue with the system if it hadn’t been for gamer outcry.
However, it is for this reason also that some have viewed the victory with some scepticism. Would EA have deigned to remove the microtransaction system from Battlefront and rework it if they hadn’t been pressured to by Disney?
This is a question that we will never know the answer to.
It’s important to remember that the next entry into the Star Wars film series (The Last Jedi) is due to be released next month and it’s highly likely that Disney does not want anything tarnishing the Star Wars brand at this very moment and thus probably did put immense pressure on EA to end the outcry.
Other games that also recently experienced backlash from the gaming community for including loot box systems, such as Middle Earth: Shadow of War and Forza Motorsport 7, did not see those systems removed despite significant outcry from the community, which seems to suggest that Disney was the principal motivator in the temporary removal of the system in Battlefront 2.
Regardless of whether this is the case or not, it is very unlikely that EA will go back to using the same microtransaction system in Battlefront 2 after the controversy largely blows over (as that would be an even worse PR nightmare.)
This does not necessarily mean that they will completely abandon the loot box system overall though. There is a chance that they’ll turn rewards found in loot boxes to cosmetic items or simply make crystals a currency that can buy any and everything.
If they choose to follow through on any of these options, would most still consider this temporary removal of the loot box system a win for the gaming community?
The answer to this question really depends on how one feels about cosmetic items. Some gamers do believe that they too are the bane of the gaming community, whereas others simply don’t care if some players choose to spend money on a new skin or outfit.
It’s very gratifying that gamer outcry has seemingly finally led to a concrete change within a high-profile game from a major publisher. Only time will really tell whether this supposed victory will have actually changed publisher perception of loot box systems and their plans to implement them in future games.
What do you think? Did the gaming community beat EA? How do you think EA will change the microtransaction system? Did you even buy Star Wars Battlefront 2? Please share in the comments down below.