Over the past week, in the lead up to the release of “Star Wars: Battlefront II,” tensions soared as news of the game’s abusive currency and progression system fed into the worries of fans that the game would be a “pay-to-win” experience: direct upgrades to character classes were available in digital crates that were easier to simply purchase than grind out time unlocking, and players would have to spend upwards of 40 hours in game to unlock classic characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, even despite the game’s $60 price tag.
Resentment of the microtransaction age in gaming has reached an all-time high, and publisher Entertainment Arts (EA) and developer Digital Illusion CE’s (DICE) butchering of the classic sci-fi franchise was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Matters were only made worse when an EA Community representative responded to the controversy on a Star Wars Battlefront fan community with the following:
“The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes. As for cost, we selected initial values based upon data from the Open Beta and other adjustments made to milestone rewards before launch. Among other things, we are looking at average per-player credit earn rates on a daily basis, and we will be making constant adjustments to ensure that players have challenges that are compelling, rewarding and of course attainable via gameplay… Our team will continue to make changes and monitor community feedback and update everyone as soon and as often as we can.”
Much emphasis was placed upon the “pride and accomplishment” bit, with many bitterly lamenting the idea that they should feel content with grinding hours upon hours for a character that would more easily be bought, but the comment was also criticized for its blatant PR speech and empty promises. It now sits as the most downvoted comment in social media site Reddit’s history by a significant margin, at around 675,000 downvotes as of the publishing of this article.
The comment sparked a wave of outrage that mounted with each day: the prices of heroes were slashed by 75% but players were reporting that credit earn rates were also dropped to accommodate, EA set out in a panic to encourage its investors and the game’s reviews tanked.
When it was clear their damage control was failing, EA and DICE announced the day before release that they would be disabling all in-game purchases in “Star Wars: Battlefront II,” while also in the same announcement stating the ability to purchase currency would become available at a later date. While some fans saw this as a victory to take home, others have argued that, with many fans settling, EA could easily re-implement the same system months later after it had secured launch day and Christmas sales, and the controversy still rages.
It was time for the new age of microtransactions to be rebuked, and if it means sacrificing what could have been a landmark installment in a successful franchise, so be it. As governments worldwide now debate the ethicality of digital microtransactions, as well as their effects on the formation of gambling addiction in youth, the impacts of the controversy cannot be overstated. Should nothing change after this massive shakeup, perhaps it is too late to save the gaming industry from the Dark Side.
Photo courtesy of the Star Wars franchise