When Star Wars Battlefront II became available for a pre-release trial period, players noticed a few striking features. The first was an entertaining and robust single-player mode, which is unusual in a multiplayer-shooter game. The second, and less appreciated, component was the ridiculous amount of time it took to unlock iconic Star Wars characters like Luke Skywalker. Unsurprisingly, this discovery resulted in a massive backlash from fans and those who pre-ordered the title.
EA Wants Your Time and Money
Gamers with early access discovered that it would have taken nearly 40 hours to accumulate enough credits — one of the game’s virtual currencies — to unlock fan favorites like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Battlefront II’s credits are time-based, not merit-based, which means it doesn’t matter how well a player does in a match. The player’s performance or skill level doesn’t matter. Players who spend a ton of time in multiplayer earn more credits than time-strapped, skilled ones. Those without the time needed to acquire these credits have one alternative option: loot boxes. Loot boxes are obtained by leveling up, completing challenges, spending credits, or buying them with real money in the form of “crystals.”
The credit payout from loot boxes are small, and the likelihood of getting an item is not publicly known. As a result, buying loot boxes feels more like gambling in Battlefront II than in any other game — especially when you consider how often players are reminded they are available for purchase. The uproar that this potential cash grab caused forced EA to respond.
EA’s Response Contradicts Battlefront II‘s Economy
The statement, which is currently the most downvoted post in the history of Reddit, claims, “The intent [of the credit system] is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.” Obviously, this statement was met with anger, as it simply does not align with the mechanics of the game.
Buying loot boxes require little-to-no effort. Purchasing loot boxes can drastically reduce the amount of time spent grinding for heroes — along with any sense of pride and accomplishment. Stat- and damage-boosting items present in loot boxes give players a competitive edge in matches. Players who use them earn slightly more credits per game than their peers. They certainly can grind for hours to unlock characters, but why would they? EA heavily incentivizes them to do otherwise, encouraging players to spend cash to speed up the process.
EA Drops the Number of Credits Needed
Following the overwhelmingly negative reaction to their statement, EA changed the number of credits needed to unlock each hero. Luke and Vader have dropped to 15,000 credits a piece from their previous 60,000; Palpatine, Chewbacca, and Leia all cost 10,000 credits each now, and Iden Versio — the game’s protagonist — now costs 5,000 credits. It’s important to note, though, that the number of credits rewarded for completing the game’s campaign is now 5,000 credits instead of the former 20,000. Those who want to directly purchase an item or hero in-game have no way to do so. Everything needs to go through a loot box.
Pay-To-Win Is a Losing Model
Battlefront II’s loot box system, originally billed as a DLC alternative, is the worst implementation of the feature to date. Individuals who pre-ordered the title are returning it and demanding refunds at a staggering rate. Players cited the time needed to unlock heroes and the unfair advantages of loot boxes as primary reasons for return. Of course, EA, in turn, removed the refund button from their site, forcing angry customers to call them instead and wait on hold for a refund. This is the latest in a string of moves by EA that seem intent on upsetting and alienating its fanbase.
Video games are more costly to make today than ever before. Yet, Battlefront II prioritizes making money over giving their players a meaningful experience. Multiplayer shooters require a large player base for faster matchmaking and more competitive matches. A massive boycott of this game by fans could negatively impact its quality, forcing EA to listen once and for all.
EA’s actions have re-energized advocates against the pay-to-win model. The impact of their feedback on the industry remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, though, EA could have avoided this entire debacle if they had instead made a single-player Star Wars experience that did not embrace these detested practices.