“Star Wars Battlefront II”: A glimpse into the expensive future of gaming

EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) logo


Disclaimer: There is use of strong language in some of the links within this article

Electronic Arts’ “Star Wars Battlefront II,” perhaps one of the most anticipated video games of the year, has been the hottest topic on the internet this past week. After the fairly lukewarm reception to “Star Wars Battlefront (2015),” the sequel has been watched with a close eye by the gaming community over its development cycle. Things actually seemed to be looking up for the sequel, with more than three times the content than its predecessor being added, and the promise of free maps and hero characters being added over the course of the next year. But as the saying goes, there ain’t such a thing as a free lunch.

Initial concerns for “Battlefront II” began during its open beta, in which all unlocks for the player came from gambling by purchasing loot boxes with in game currency. Traditionally, class unlocks come from playing as that specific class, and rewarding players for the time spent as that class. This left all player upgrades to the luck of the draw, many of which were objectively better than others, causing an unbalance among players that is generally not acceptable in multiplayer games. In the final release, a currency will be available to purchase with real money, so you can purchase more loot boxes in-game, incentivizing players to gamble for better items through microtransactions. This also creates a pay to win environment, similar to that in a mobile game like Clash of Clans, where the players willing to spend the most amount of money will perform better in matches.

Following the beta, EA made changes to the game, allowing some unlocks through gameplay, but many still locked behind the roll of the dice with loot boxes. While many gamers were still not entirely satisfied with the inclusion of microtransactions in an already $60 game, this was a step in the right direction, and deemed at least to be acceptable for the final release. News around the game died down a bit, until the game was opened up for a ten hour trial for gamers with EA Access, a subscription service available to gamers on Xbox One.

Reddit user /u/MBMMaverick made a post on the Star Wars Battlefront Subreddit, which quickly became its most up-voted post of all time. Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, arguably the most popular characters from the Star Wars franchise, were locked to players, only available to be purchased for 60,000 credits. At the rate which credits are awarded to players in the game, it would take approximately 30-40 hours to unlock just one of them, but also at the cost of also being unable to purchase any loot boxes with those credits in the mean time. Players were justifiably outraged, prompting EA’s Star Wars Battlefront community team to respond, claiming that this would “provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.” The post is now the most down-voted post in Reddit’s history, current sitting at negative 678,000 points.

This massive outrage spread sitewide, with many Subreddits and users joining in on a boycott, many cancelling pre-orders through EA’s website, and calling for others to do so. After an influx of refunds on pre-orders, EA removed the easily accessible button on their website, forcing users to call in to customer service to refund the game. In response to this, EA announced that they would be lowering the cost on the locked heroes by 75%, but still did not address any of the pay to win concerns associated with the loot box unlock system.

In an article written on SWTORStrategies.com“…it will take 4,528 hours of gameplay (or $2100) to unlock all base-game content in ‘Star Wars: Battlefront 2,’” both of which are completely unattainable by any average gamer, especially considering the $60 (or $80 on the deluxe edition) price tag.

Considering Electronic Arts is one of the largest and most influencial game developers in the industry, this could be a strong indicator of the future of gaming. More and more gaming companies are starting to catch on to the massive goldmine that microtransactions can be, but this is all at the expense of a playable game. Developers like EA have decided that $60 on a new game is no longer enough money for their product, and are now focusing on enticing players to spend even more money through these microtransactions, or be forced to spend hours grinding away for little reward. As adults and college students, money and time are the two resources in the shortest supply, making a $60 purchase on any game a difficult decision.

Many Reddit users have also taken to social media, tagging Disney and Star Wars, using hashtags such as “#Gambling” and “#StarWarsGambling” in the attempt to gain not only their attention, but also the attention of less “hardcore” gamers, in hopes that they join the boycott. Despite creating a lot of noise over this fiasco, Reddit users and “hardcore” gamers represent only a small fraction of the “Star Wars Battlefront II” audience, the majority of purchases will come from casual gamers, and parents.

In a Reddit AMA  on Wednesday, “Battlefront II” developers answered many of gamers’ questions, and promised to continue altering the progression system, but offered no real answers as to how they would do so. It’s certainly a shame that the corporate side of EA has interfered with Star Wars Battlefront II, because past all the issues with unlocks, loot boxes, and microtransactions, DICE has developed a solid game with spectacular graphics. The future of the game following its release is unclear, gamers can only hope and pray for a change for the better, not only for the game, but the gaming industry itself.