Don’t buy Battlefront 2
Over the weekend, there was a bit of a controversy involving the upcoming release Star Wars Battlefront 2.
EA, the game’s publisher, set character unlocks using the game’s in-game currency exorbitantly high. The price was set at 40,000, which some outlets suggested could take up to 40 hours of playtime. I assume this is worst-case scenario stuff, so I’m going to be generous to EA and say it was probably something like 20 hours of playtime per hero. This was seen as an attempt to not so subtly prod the player into purchasing in-game currency in order to expedite the process.
Monday, EA backpedaled and decided to heavily discount the unlocks. They declared in a tweet that they were listening to fans! And some took this as some sort of victory. This is no victory. This is what EA wanted to happen. Here’s my theory.
Before the big character unlock kerfuffle, there was a bit of a fuss over in-game lootboxes and micro transactions. People were frustrated that apparently the game has pay-to-win features. You can pay real money to have a real advantage over folks in multiplayer. In a $60 AAA release, this is absurd. In a free-to-play mobile game this is expected. This sort of thing is also EA’s main way of making money post release, so having people outright furious about them out of the gate seems bad for business.
So in order to distract from the outrage over this, I think EA set character unlock fees absurdly high in order to manufacture a separate outrage. Yes, they take a short term hit - including having a reddit comment become the most downvoted in the website’s history - but they also stand to earn some long term good will.
For starters, if you cruise the tweet where EA says that they are slashing the cost of these standalone characters, you will see person after person defend the company whenever somebody says they still aren’t purchasing the game. “EA listened! Why are you still mad! I just wanna play a fun Star Wars game!” By backing down from their crazy demands, they seem like they care about customers. So now some people are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt regarding lootboxes. You see the casual “if you don’t like it, don’t play it!” or “you don’t have to buy them!” which are certainly not helpful.
You also have what inevitably comes when a large group of people swarm on one target: death threats. No matter what side of the political spectrum someone is on or what the target is, if enough people get mad about an issue there will always be a couple of angry folks who take things too far. So, when the most downvoted comment in reddit history bring the Internet’s focus onto EA’s monetary scheme, a few crazy people will come with it.
Straight up, death threats are awful, should be taken seriously and are made by some of society’s worst people. Do not make threats at developers. Do not send hateful messages laden with personal insults at developers. Having said that, a company can use these inevitable occurrences to gain sympathy. Waypoint had an article right away on the death threats sent to game developers over this issue. Then the article’s writer, Patrick Klepek, immediately referenced the threats again when EA announced prices were reduced. You would then see people in the comments for the article saying that this sends a message to those sending threats that they work.
The .0001% of humanity that would send these kind of threats aren’t learning anything. If EA doubled down, they’d still make threats. They just do it because it’s in their nature. But because threats were made and EA made sure people knew about them - which is their right because I sure would let people know if a threat was made on my life - there will be people out there who are like “Well shit, if this game doesn’t take off those assholes win! I better buy a lootbox!” It can get in some folks minds that all EA detractors are vile people who hate developers.
A tactic similar to this was used when Mass Effect 3 was receiving hatred over the ending DLC. EA was under fire, so a lot of the shit getting flung at them from a crazy group of people was being brought to the light. It takes the heat off of the company and instead places it elsewhere
It’s all part of advertising. Paint the cynics in a negative light, make it seem like you care about customers or some virtue, and rake in money. EA wants you to remember the shitbags. They want you to remember that they listened to “the most downvoted comment in reddit history”. They want you to forget about the lootbox thing.
Don’t forget. Don’t buy the game if you disagree with this current AAA trend of monetization. They can always find another way. Don’t feel compelled to line some CEO’s wallet. Sadly the game is going to make like 80 billion dollars because it’s STAR WARS, but you don’t have to contribute to that sum.
They turned off micro-transactions. I personally think this is because of Belgium looking into Battlefront 2 and lootboxes as a form of gambling. BIG BRAND Star Wars + gambling = controversy the Disney overlords probably don’t want.