Examples of Damage Control in Gaming: The Battlefront Outside Star Wars Battlefront II

EA and DICE have provided a serious amount damage control for the decisions  made with Star Wars Battlefront II in the last few weeks. It’s a dizzying turn of events for a product that had much promise when it was first detailed, but a predictable one given the publisher involved.

EA proudly announced how the game wouldn’t be subjected to loads of paid DLC down the line by confirming it wouldn’t have a Season Pass shortly after its announcement. They also confirmed it would receive free DLC packs representing different themes, with the first pack being based on upcoming movie The Last Jedi. A single-player campaign was also announced, with an original story that occurred after Return of the Jedi. They were intent on addressing the biggest problems owners had with the previous title, which seemed great on the surface.

Let’s be honest, though: We’re talking about a company that’s won several “Worst Company in America” awards for several good reasons, so there was bound to be a catch. The exchange for the free DLC and lack of Season Pass was discovered in the beta, where many materials necessary for character upgrades had to be acquired through loot boxes. Worse, while equipment for these upgrades appeared randomly, you could pay for more boxes using real money. The feature was clearly exploitative, and EA responded to the criticism by adjusting how the feature works in the final game. The most significant upgrades are no longer bound to loot boxes, and can be acquired through merely obtaining materials to craft them in a variety of ways.

Guess what? There’s actually another catch. Note the words “the most significant upgrades,” which doesn’t mean all upgrades. Several comparatively minor ones are still obtained through loot boxes. Worse, though some tests, critics and those who obtained copies early through EA Access confirmed that it’s possible to upgrade your character faster through paying for more loot boxes. Gamespot did a good job of highlighting this though their twelve-minute video, to show the game’s complicated and crooked microtransaction schemes.

This means those who want to play and upgrade their characters through bonuses obtained in the game for hours on end will compete with others who upgraded them by paying, say, $100 to get those same bonuses in minutes. While EA gave the usual canned PR response by saying they’re merely giving players more options, this is meant to goad them into spending money so they’re more competitive in online circles. It’s how many free-to-play games work, except this is attached to a title that demands $60 up front.

Battlefront 2 also has plenty of unlockable content. That’s normal for this type of game, but the time commitment required for unlocking the best content is justifiably upsetting some. It’s no surprise that a lot of players will want to play Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in matches with bots and other humans, but they were too time-consuming to get. The characters required 60,000 credits each to unlock, and given the minimal amount of credits players receive for completing certain tasks in the single-player and multiplayer modes,  it would require playing for around 40 hours to unlock each of them.

Upon seeing the complaints, EA responded on Reddit by saying they wanted players to feel a sense of accomplishment by unlocking them all. The response was so bad that it became the most downvoted Reddit comment in history within a day (though I’m sure members are downvoting it just for the sake of it now). To address the complaints, EA is lowering the requirement for the unlocks to 15,000 credits each, and also lowering requirements for other characters like Chewbacca, Leia, and Emperor Palpatine.

On the other hand, they also reduced some credits rewards. For example, completing the single-player campaign previously gave 20,000 credits, but it now only provides 5,000. The characters are easier to unlock now, but doing so will still take a while.

You can merely look at the title to the most recent post on the Battlefront II website, where DICE executive producer John Wasilczyk says “Change will be a constant in Star Wars Battlefront II,” to see how much of a pain in the ass this game will be to review. Thanks to the changes mentioned above, reviews posted less than a week ago are already out of date. It’s the kind of game where reviews will need to be updated constantly, something most reviewers won’t have time to do thanks to the constant need to review other games.

More changes will undoubtedly be made in Battlefront II — perhaps by the end of this week, in case reviewers were praying they don’t alter it any further. But it’s clear the scummier money-making schemes won’t be go away until purchasers stop spending money on them. Feel free to keep raising your voice about them online, though do so in a way that doesn’t involve sending death threats to developers and marketing teams. It’s a shame these issues need to infect games that are otherwise well-made, but that’s corporate culture for you.

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