Well, folks, it has been an interesting week for both gamers and EA. After gamers push back, and controversy spread deep around the internet, EA finally bends and kills all of Battlefront II’s microtransactions.
Gamers were initially happy back when EA announced that they would be removing the ever annoying and absurdly expensive Season Pass for Battlefront II. Season passes have been a frustrating implementation in modern games, where the publishing company charges consumers an additional fee to unlock items that would be unlocked by progressing in the game normally. Some of these season passes have been overlooked because for most games, you can just work on the progression of the game and unlock everything eventually.
However, frustrations have been bubbling in the last few years as we have seen more and more situations where season passes created unbalances in games. For some games, gamers who had purchased the season pass were overpowered making it rather frustrating for the gamers who did not buy the pass, progress. I remember dropping the Battlefield 4 multiplayer after the first day or two because I couldn’t get a decent kill in since many of the players were clearly overpowered.
So the fact that EA was removing the Season was initially taken a positive move by EA. For a moment, gamers felt that the publishing companies were actually beginning to listen to their concerns. Little did they know, that EA had a more repulsive and offensive idea in mind. And I use those strong words because what EA did was just an awful, anti-gamer, pro-(evil)corporation move.
EA thought it was a brilliant idea to implement microtransactions and loot crates. However, that wasn’t the awful part. The worst part was that EA felt it was okay to alienate the gamers and make it near impossible to unlock items through game progression. When EA released the beta back in October, that is when people really started noticing some strange progression mechanics, which slowly snow-balled into frustrating questions for EA. People were having a hard time progressing and unlocking items, where gamers, some of them part of Youtube and the media, quickly realized that EA had created a pay-to-win structure. Something you would see in a free game like Sim City for mobile devices.
The kicker here is that folks were going to dish out $60 for the core game, but the progression was skewed to give gamers the exact same amount of currency no matter how well or bad you did. On top of that, it was estimated that you would need to play 40+ hours to unlock Darth Vader. It quickly becomes obvious that EA was attempting to entice gamers to fork up more cash in the hopes of unlocking more content.
Without getting too deep into this, as it has been covered by many other sites, I have provided a video by Gamespot; where they explain the situation more in depth, and another by Youtuber, Angry Joe which highlights the progression and frustrations of the game.
Gamers and bloggers around the world expressed their anger and frustration via social media and various news sites. The backlash was so huge, that larger media sites like Forbes covered the controversy. The bubble had popped and EA has gone too far with Battlefront II.
To add to the fire, Youtuber Angry Joe was able to lock down an interview with Paul Keslin of EA DICE for a whole 30 minutes, which got nearly 1 million views on Youtube. Paul Keslin had no real answers and gave Joe a plethora of excuses and predefined answers, which to be honest, pissed off gamers even more.
On November 13, 2017 via Reddit, an anonymous poster, Feminymphist, who works in “electronic media PR” posted a lengthy explanation of how things work at a place like EA behind the scenes. A couple of inserts:
“EA spends tens of thousands of man-hours focus testing and doing market research on the optimum way to wring money out of your wallet. This means that one or two days (or weeks or months) of complaining will not get them to change their mind regarding the nature of the progression system. They will not truly “fix” it because they believe that it’s working as intended and their accountants and marketing guys will tell them that it is. A certain amount of players are supposed to get sick of it and stop playing. That’s built-in to the calculations, like when Wal-Mart assumes that there will be a certain amount of shoplifting.
That said, they understand that they have a cluster[#&*#] on their hands, so since they are not interested in fixing it, they are going to use a technique referred to as “making the outrage outdated.” This was very clearly what they did with the beta. The beta had a great deal of backlash and instead of fixing anything, they “made changes.” The effect of these changes were negligible but it didn’t matter because all the articles written about the flaws of the beta and the complaints by users became outdated and replaced by articles and comments about how they were making “changes.” This allows them to control the narrative of their product without actually losing any money or making significant changes. The fact that the changes didn’t help and potentially made the game worse didn’t matter.”
Not long after, EA had announced a 75% cut to Hero costs. If before it took 40 hours to unlock a Hero, now the time had been cut down to about 10 hours. However, that didn’t change the fact that there was still had a pay-to-win system tied to the progression of the game, and the consumer was just not having any of it.
EA Pulls Back:
On November 16, hours before the full launch of Battlefront II, Electronic Arts had announced that they are removing all in-game microtransactions entirely from the title for the time being as they look to rethink their pricing strategy.
It is pretty clear that backlash that swelled through the gaming community on social media and forums, was the cause of EA’s stepping back.
Oskar Gabrielson from EA game developer DICE noted the drastic shift in strategy in a blog post published announcing the change:
Our goal has always been to create the best possible game for all of you – devoted Star Wars fans and game players alike. We’ve also had an ongoing commitment to constantly listen, tune and evolve the experience as it grows. You’ve seen this with both the major adjustments, and polish, we have made over the past several weeks.
But as we approach the worldwide launch, it’s clear that many of you feel there are still challenges in the design. We’ve heard the concerns about potentially giving players unfair advantages. And we’ve heard that this is overshadowing an otherwise great game. This was never our intention. Sorry we didn’t get this right.
We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases. We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning. This means that the option to purchase crystals in the game is now offline, and all progression will be earned through gameplay. The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game. We’ll share more details as we work through this.
Even though this is clearly a win on the gamers end, it is more than just that. It shows big corporate companies, that when the little guy pushes back, they sometimes push harder and can create real change. The gamers were able to take back control of what they consume, instead of having it being shoved down their throats like EA intended.
That, folks, is a win for all, not just gamers.