Examples of Damage Control in Gaming: The Battlefront Outside Battlefront II — A New Hope!?

(Gee, maybe I should put Star Wars on this banner instead.)

Star Wars Battlefront II is the damage control saga that never ends.

Star Wars fans who’ve been looking forward to playing this, or a new Star Wars game at all, have had several justifiable complaints with how EA has handled it thus far. They were encouraged by the offer of free DLC, particularly content based on the upcoming The Last Jedi, but subsequently discouraged upon discovering the amount of microtransaction schemes shoved into the experience. Even those who were usually capable of ignoring microtransactions in AAA games couldn’t dodge these, as they were tied to basic progression in its multiplayer modes.

Given the level of criticism being spewed at the game, EA had no choice but to address some problems before the official launch yesterday, but their initial efforts still weren’t good enough. The best materials for character progression were removed from loot boxes, but minor materials for the same purpose remained.

Bonus characters were also steeply priced, especially beloved faces like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. But simply reducing the amount of in-game credits they required didn’t help given the time commitment still needed to unlock them, especially when they lowered the amount of credits rewarded for fulfilling certain conditions with them. While some sites covered the complaints through articles written by their reviewers, others had to cover the story given how high-profile this release was.

I also couldn’t help but continually cover it. This is a blog called “Damage Control” after all, though who could have guessed EA would do precisely this much.

The criticism became bad enough that EA temporarily pulled the plug on microtransactions due to “challenges in the design.” While features like loot boxes will still exist, players will no longer have the option to obtain them using crystals purchased with real money. It’s nice that this will feel like a normal online multiplayer game for the time being, as they acknowledged how it was a significant problem when players could use microtransactions to boost their characters. Now, everyone will have to venture through the game legitimately.

But was the unfairness of it all really what led to EA stopping this? That’s only part of the reason why. These issues are rarely the fault of the developers, who are usually forced to insert these pain-in-the-ass features to increase profits that go directly to the higher-ups. It’s mainly due to how widespread the complaints became, and how many websites this debacle was covered on.

I’m talking about beyond the likes of Kotaku and IGN, by the way; thanks to the franchise this is attached to, it was also covered by big news organizations like CNN and BBC. This led to Disney seeing it, and Walt Disney consumer products and interactive media chairman Jimmy Pitaro giving EA CEO Andrew Wilson a call. The decision to pull the microtransactions for now was made mere hours after that call concluded, and you don’t need me to tell you this was no coincidence.

Those playing it and others who wanted to purchase the game are celebrating this as a “win,” but keep in mind they’ll be back after a readjustment process. Perhaps they’ll want to rebalance them so they’re fairer, and aren’t quite as obtrusive for those who want to play while not spending more real money, but the option will remain here and in other titles until people stop buying them. They realize they went a little too far, so this is still somewhat of a victory.

Additionally, Disney wants to have as little negative press as possible in the weeks leading up to The Last Jedi’s theatrical release. It’s also why they were quick to reverse the ban on the LA Times receiving press screenings for their movies, made after they provided a report critical of Disney’s questionable business practices in Anaheim. It led to other sites like the New York Times and The AV Club boycotting them in protest, and fierce criticism from other Hollywood directors.

As I said in the last post about EA’s Battlefront II damage control a mere three days ago: Features like microtransactions and loot boxes will remain until people stop buying them. Microtransactions have been a problem in non-free-to-play games for nearly half a decade, and that they’ve remained for this long isn’t encouraging. It shows that most who purchase them don’t read editorials or message boards that have fiercely criticized the practice the entire time.

It’s a shame this fiasco had to happen to this particular game due to a cash-hungry EA, because reviews have mentioned how well-made it is otherwise. But they also mentioned how it was impossible to dodge the microtransaction schemes, and the pressure it puts on players to spend more. There’s no telling how long they’ll will be gone, but don’t be surprised if they’re back after The Last Jedi arrives on December 15th. That should give the team enough time to adjust how they work, so there isn’t as much of an uproar. Following this, cross your fingers and have faith they don’t sell too well so the feature can evaporate for good, or I’ll find your lack of faith disturbing.

Despite all these posts, I’m not tired of talking about Battlefront II, and I hope you don’t feel too overwhelmed. The constant damage control from EA here is hilarious, and I’m not just making all these Star Wars posts to increase traffic to capitalize on The Last Jedi hype — though that would be a nice effect. Stay tuned, because I’ll be watching this game’s developments with great interest.

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