Writer: Jarrett Crepeau
Electronic Arts (EA) if you don’t know is a game publisher, responsible for every year’s FIFA, NHL, and Battlefield title. They also produce the Star Wars Battlefront series. While I’m sure many don’t necessarily care about the games themselves, and it’s not what I and many other people have issues with. Its EA’s consistent anti-consumer business practices that has created much controversy over the week leading up to the launch of Star Wars Battlefront II on November 17th.
The issue started last month during the public beta for the game, where players were introduced to how the Loot Box system works. It’s relatively self-explanatory, people can earn or pay for a box that will reward them randomly with in-game items (basically a fancy slot machine), almost every multiplayer game in the past decade has had some form of loot boxes or microtransactions which have been a controversy since their inception. Most game’s use them to create extra revenue to keep the game alive for a year while also to make up for the massive budgets these games have as retail sales alone no longer give a chance for the companies to make a profit. Now I’m fine with games like Overwatch where the loot boxes are completely optional to the player and only contain cosmetic items that do not give any one player an advantage. But gamers quickly realized that it simply wasn’t the case in Battlefront II, loot boxes in Battlefront II are how players obtain new abilities and crafting materials to make and improve weapons, although it takes hours of playing to get a single loot box and the items inside are completely random. Of course, if you want to speed up the process to get better stuff, you can always spend real money on loot boxes. This upset many players, many like popular Youtuber, AngryJoe did the math to see how much time it would take to unlock everything without paying more money. The total amounted to 3,600 hours, sparking outrage across the internet towards EA, a company not only known for its greed but that had already been voted “Worst Company of The Year” two years in a row.
Flash forward to this week, where those with EA Access could play the game early starting on the 13th. Players began to notice that in order to unlock famous Star Wars heroes like Luke and Vader without loot boxes, you needed 60,000 credits of in-game currency, which roughly translated to 40 hours of gameplay. Another Youtuber purchased 90 dollars worth of loot boxes and still wasn’t close to unlocking the heroes, essentially proving that the game was pay to win. This sparked, even more, criticism, and fans wanted answers. Wanting to end this issue, before launch EA made a statement on Reddit, seen below.
“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 basis, 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.” -EA Community Team
This response was viewed so negatively, due to the corporate tone and dancing around the real issues people had with the game that subsequently became the most down-voted comment on Reddit, now sitting at around 680,000 downvotes. This led to even more outrage and of course memes. Many canceled their pre-orders, and according to some Origin users (EA’s PC game marketplace) The clearly marked refund button was removed, forcing people to resort to calling in and being met with large wait times. EA, in full damage control, posted another statement, saying they had lowered the number of credits it cost to unlock heroes, but what they didn’t mention was that they also scaled back the number of credits you received as a reward, essentially making it just as long to unlock things. After a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) with developers of the game, questions were still left unanswered and fans bitter and unhappy. Many got behind the #BoycottEA hashtag on Twitter and as a result, got the gaming community up in arms against EA. Many mainstream news outlets have since covered this ongoing debacle and looking like this negative press is impacting the company in more than just sales as their stock price has dropped 7% as of yesterday.
The overall point of the story is that it’s become more apparent now than ever that EA is in it for the money, and yes they are a business so they have to be, but it’s one thing to want profit and another to clearly rip-off fans to their face. And many like me are afraid that if we are complacent with EA that other developers will follow in their path and focus more on microtransactions than creating good games. Moving forward I think it’s clear that this is not what fans want, however, I like many others will be voting with my wallet, not just my voice.