The controversy is growing in strength.
Update: They did something.
The debate swirling around the implementation of microtransactions in games is nothing new. As budgets for AAA games continue to inflate into the $50-200 million range, it makes sense for publishers to explore strategies that allow them to recoup that cost. It’s not necessarily the idea of microtransactions that rub gamers the wrong way, but rather the nefarious and sometimes predatory strategies that companies attempt to utilize. EA is now learning that when it comes to microtransactions, there are certain lines you can’t cross with fans. With less than a week to go until launch, the team at DICE has a real PR catastrophe on their hands as a result of decisions they have made concerning microtransactions in Battlefront II.
Star Wars Battlefront as a franchise has long prided itself on recreating some of the most iconic moments across the Star Wars film, and Battlefront II is set to put players in the middle of the action from the original, prequel, and latest trilogy. But the $60 you spend on the base game will not be enough to give you that full experience; not unless you’re willing to do some serious grinding.
The revelation came after Reddit users punched the numbers and discovered that players will need a lot more than just the upfront charge to get the experience they are expecting. Instead, players will either have to grind dozens upon dozens of hours or be willing to part with even more cash to play as some of the most iconic characters in the series, including Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Princess Leia.
The backlash was swift and fierce as EA took to Reddit to defend their decision in what has become the most downvoted comment in Reddit history. Under the Reddit username EACommunityTeam, the company said, “the intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.” Needless to say, Reddit users have not bought into that response. The fact that the same currency that is tied to unlocking characters can be found in purchasable loot crates tosses any “sense of pride and accomplishment” right out of the door.
This is just the latest in a long list of moves EA has made to lose the goodwill of their fans, and its unfortunate given how close the company was to rectifying the mistakes that led them to get voted Worst Company in America in 2012 and 2013. Battlefield 1 was widely well received despite having both paid DLC expansions and microtransactions and fans found the company’s approach to post-launch support of Titanfall 2 as close to ideal as you can get. But 2017 has been a different story for the publisher as a variety of decisions and mistakes have resulted set the company on the PR defensive, from the botched launch and subsequent end of Mass Effect Andromeda, to the half-measured effort of FIFA 18 on the Nintendo Switch.
This bungle with Star Wars Battlefront II — arguably the company’s biggest launch of the year — could spell disaster for the company, as fans are encouraging one another to cancel their pre-order. Reddit posts about how to cancel Star Wars Battlefront II pre-orders have received tens of thousands of upvotes. It’s abundantly clear, EA and DICE need to do something here before things get out of control.
But what can be done? EA has clearly heard the community’s concerns about this system, and the company has shown they are willing to tweak their game when backlash comes. Controversy about a pay-to-win system arose following the Beta last month as players raised concern about Epic Star Cards — cards that provide special power-ups to players — being included in purchasable loot boxes. Upon hearing the complaints, EA removed the cards from loot crates and instead made them craftable items.
EA and DICE must come up with a more consumer-centric way to recoup the development costs and profit from Battlefront II. Locking these iconic characters behind a time/paywall attacks the very heart of what the franchise is supposed to be. Ideally, these characters shouldn’t be tied to any kind of microtransaction system at all. Instead, DICE and EA should take the approach that has been taken by so many companies before them, including studios that fall under EA’s umbrella. Players should only be able to unlock purely cosmetic upgrades using real money, whether that be through blind loot crates like in Overwatch or straight up purchases like in Titanfall 2.
The problem is that the Star Wars IP draws in fans that may not keep up with the game on a granular level. To most of the people looking forward to this title, this thunderous backlash from die-hard fans will likely never hear their ears. It’s very likely that EA can just ride the wave and come out on the other side largely unaffected. But at the end of the day, it’s your wallet that has the loudest voice. Not a downvote or a tweet.
When the time comes, if Battlefront 2’s approach to microtransactions doesn’t bother you, then great! If you do stand diametrically opposed to what EA is attempting to do though, choosing to not spend your money even on the base game speaks the loudest. At some point something has to give. If companies will not set the precedent for how far they are willing to go to make a dollar, then fans will need to speak up with their cash, and draw the line for them.
There’s still four days before Battlefront 2’s launch. So you still have a few days to see how this plays out, and then make up your own mind.