Star Wars Battlefront 2 – or Gamblefront 2, as Jim Sterling puts it – has been shrouded by controversy. Having bashed on it for the better part of a month I decided to at least experience this debacle of a video game for myself. As they say, don’t knock it till you try it.
If you haven’t heard or have been under a rock for the embarrassing mess that is 2017 gaming, well, let me fill you in.
Big game publishers adopted the free mobile game trend of free-to-pay pay-to-win mechanics in their games. Now you might be wondering what the issue is here. Well there are several.
For starters, games are still being retailed at a $60 minimum (R844 in my currency). That $60 minimum comes with silver and gold packages, sometimes deluxe platinum packages taking up the cost of $60 to a couple hundred dollars. On top of that are the micro-transactions shoved into the game, which are linked to progression and come in the shape of loot boxes. Loot boxes are found in free-to-play mobile games that should you wish to spend a little dosh on advancing you may very well do so. The playing field is “fair” but you never physically bought the initial game so you don’t think too much of it.
Herein comes EA. They adopted this mobile game trend so tightly you could slice it with a knife. With pay-to-win mechanics and a nifty little player window after you die showing who killed you and with what perks they did it with and if these perks happened to be bought with real world money, it would spark in you the aggravation to just fork over the money instead of doing the grind to get on the even playing field.
On top of that they barred most of the game’s progression behind said loot boxes, which always drew random useless items when you payed for them. Dice even responded to this, saying “we want to give players a chance to explore other classes and vary their gameplay”. Okay sure, good theory, but when players draw from a loot box and they get useless perks and garbage duplicates you have created an RNG system generating BS.
EA took things so far that Belgium and Hawaii investigated into this predatory loot box system to establish whether or not it is in fact gambling. Would you believe it, their results came back stating it is. Adding a randomly generated system where the inside contents are unknown, making you go back and spend more money, just to do the same thing all over again sounds a lot like gambling. And this is a game predominately aimed at the younger generation of fans, meaning your kids are now being introduced to the world of gambling. Great job EA.
On Shaky Ground
After EA released their open beta for Battlefront 2 and EA Origins users were able to play the game early, fans started to see all the BS that EA had shoved into it.
Here Reddit went ablaze with Battlefront 2 hate and questions directed at EA & Dice as to why it would take 40+ hours to unlock Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, two of the most iconic characters of the franchise. Not only this, but they would have to spend an extra $2100 to unlock everything.
This was followed by a poor response, and subsequent PR disaster:
“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’re looking at average per player credit earn rates on a daily bases, and we’ll be making constant adjustments to ensure that players have challenges that are compelling, rewarding, and of course attainable via gameplay. We appreciate the candid feedback, and the passion the community has put forth around the current topics here on Reddit, our forums and across numerous social media outlets. Our team will continue to make changes and monitor community feedback and update everyone as soon and as often as we can.”
As you’d imagine, this response was not a fan favourite and was the most down-voted post in Reddit history. At time of writing it is sitting at 674k down-votes (enough points to play as Darth Vader). You must do something really stupid to get that much hate. EA was caught red handed incentivising player spending to get ahead of the competition.
Now let’s look back at that $2100 point. If I were to spend that amount on this game in my currency it would equate to R29,592. On top of the R915 I would’ve payed in store. $60 game my ass.
Right From Underneath Them
After the Reddit incident EA announced they had cut down the grind time and cost of all characters, clearly a move to save face. But the damage had been done. They released their shell of a game to the tune of a 0.8 user score on Metacritic, another record low for the big publisher.
And this is where we find ourselves today. EA has (temporarily) cancelled all micro-transactions in their video game and have noted the error of their ways. Or have they?
In a short answer, no they haven’t. What did happen is that Disney caught wind of this shit-storm and had to put an end to it. Their blockbuster is releasing this December and they cannot afford to have a greedy video game publisher run that name in the mud.
There’s a cherry on top, and boy is it tasty. The gaming industry has finally been caught out with its greedy slimy practices. Big developers now have to reassess how to take more of your hard earned money, and EA may lose their rights to the Star Wars franchise, one the biggest franchises in the world.
If EA were to lose Star Wars where would it go? Activision? Pah, they would do the same thing. Look at Destiny 2. Their patent pending algorithm matched players with higher ranking players to make them want to pay more money to acquire better equipment to beat the next player.
What this was is a small win. The big developers are licking their wounds and will stay in the corner till something gets figured out. Warner Brothers teased us with their pay-to-win stuff-up of Shadow of War and EA one upped them and released a freemium mobile casino with the garb of a “AAA” game.
As players it is our duty to ensure the industry knows we are mad, and knows we are fed up with these predatory practices they’re shoving in their games. We are better than that, and so expect more from them.
At time of writing more news has arisen from EA regarding their decision to lock progression behind lootboxes. EA CFO Blake Jorgensen explained in interview is that to protect the Star Wars canon it made more sense to lock away progression, stating:
“The one thing we’re very focused on and they’re extremely focused on is not violating the canon of Star Wars. It’s an amazing brand that’s been built over many, many years. So if you did a bunch of cosmetic things, you might start to violate the canon. Darth Vader in white probably doesn’t make sense, versus in black. Not to mention you probably don’t want Darth Vader in pink. No offense to pink, but I don’t think that’s right in the canon.”
Hmm, keeping with the canon? Yes I am very sure it keeps with the canon to have Kylo Ren and Yoda on the same battlefield. I am sure it is canon to have Rey and Darth Vader going head-to-head. If you think back to Battlefront 2015 they had done that very thing, Cosmetic changes were locked behind credits that were unlocked after enough points gained after combat. It was a working system and there was a better “sense of pride” than the lame excuse of having to grind in Battlefront 2.
Also a petition has been created to release EA from the rights of Star Wars. If you’re interested in signing the page can be found on change.org.
My Time with Star Wars Battlefront 2
Now that you’re up to speed with where we are with this game and the gaming industry as a whole you would understand why I only wanted to play the live beta.
I didn’t pour hours of gameplay into my time with the beta seeing as I wanted to merely get a sample taste of what was to be expected within the full package knowing full well what I was in for. And well, the internet in my studio sucks so I only managed to download the beta a few days before it closed.
I mean, the game itself – minus the poor business practices – is a good game. The mechanics have been beefed up, the learning curve is far beyond that of Battlefront 2015 (yes I know that is not saying much, but FPS games are not my strong suit). I could feel a real challenge with this one.
The inclusion of the class system shows that EA & Dice are competent enough to listen to their fans (still waiting for ground to space galactic battles though.)
Visually it is a masterpiece, and the sound design is superb. When firing a blaster you feel real power behind some of the big weapons. The sense of love for the franchise can be clearly felt in this release. But their love for money and greed was felt even more.
I do believe there is a glimmer of hope for this game, perhaps “A New Hope” that could somehow save and resurrect its disappointing release. As one of the most anticipated titles of 2017 only to be the greatest flop of 2017, time will tell if EA’s desperate need of a miracle will arrive to save them.
If you are considering purchasing this game, wait until a cheaper deal comes out or rent the game.
Do what I did and get Battlefield 1 on a Black Friday special with all the DLC content and add-ons already installed for cheaper than the shell of a Star Wars game retailing at “AAA” industry price of $60. Sneaky.
For more loot box discussion, where we try to break down the fors and againsts, click here.