For a while there, EA seemed to have players fooled into thinking that it would right the wrongs of its previous efforts. They were incorporating a single player campaign into Star Wars: Battlefront II because players hated its exclusion from the first game. They also adjusted the way maps work so that the player base would no longer be separated based on who has paid for what maps.
In the last few days, whatever good will they have generated has been flushed down the toilet as the realities of its loot box system.
Coming out of the beta, it came to light that the game had a heavy element of pay-to-win through its loot box system. By paying with in-game credits or real money, players would receive perks that would give them the upper hand in multiplayer. While this type of game balancing is considered fine in the free-to-play world of gaming, it’s inclusion in a premium-priced game is really pushing the limits of what players will accept. After some backlash, EA apologized, and took out some of the most powerful perks from the loot boxes. However, many of the lesser perks remain, which still gives players who spend extra money on top of the $60 purchase price an advantage.
It only got worse as we reached closer to launch. Doing the math, it came out that it would take about 40 hours of play to unlock Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader. Shadier still, prices for reviewers were lowered, presumably to hide the truth until after the reviews were completed. EA’s response to this concern quickly became the most disliked Reddit post of all-time. In response, they lowered their in-game cost by 75%, but then also lowered the credits you would earn from beating the single-player campaign by the same amount. This largely nullifies the point of reducing their costs in the first place.
Even within the context of $60 games, I’m not morally against the existence of building in mechanisms that facilitate additional purchases after the fact. I take it on a case-by-case basis, but if the additional purchase is something that is priced within reason and feels like a worthwhile addition to the game while not making me feel like this should have been in the game in the first place, sure.
But this just reeks of corporate greed. Battlefront II appears to funnel users down a clear path of recurring spending in order for players to perform at a level relative to their peers. While I wasn’t in the market for this game anyway, having seen what it does to Battlefront II makes it clear to me that I wouldn’t want to support or partake in a game with a similar system. If such a system were to appear in a game franchise I love, such as Street Fighter, I would be rioting in the streets.
Post-purchase monetization schemes have been getting slimier over the last few years, with the loot boxes in Overwatch sparking this latest publisher push towards the breaking point. Really hoping that this serves as a watershed moment for what gamers will tolerate in a $60 game, but the name recognition of the Star Wars IP and the success of the first game may make all of this hullabaloo a moot point. What if EA continues to rake it in in spite of the consumer backlash? Does that make their future of microtransactions in-game even bleaker?