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EA Sets a Record, a Really Awful Record

The story of how one angry player’s Reddit post became the voice of people and quickly snowballed into a PR nightmare for EA and ultimately a positive change for Battlefront II.

 Star Wars Battlefront II is due at the end of the week and although there are a lot of things EA gets right, one pretty serious thing is infuriating fans. The in-game economy of Battlefront II is so severely broken it has caused a major outcry from fans. Many of the franchises most popular characters like Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, even the game’s protagonist are locked. Players have to earn thousands of in-game credit or pay EA if they want that to change which lead to a simple Reddit post from user MBMMaverick posted simply ‘”Seriously? I paid 80$ to have Vader locked?’

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EA Strikes Back

Fair question MBMMavericK, and EA Community Support was quick to write what we can assume their lawyers thought was a reasonable justification for the company ransoming beloved characters:

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.

Little could those community reps know they had just typed out (OK let’s be real, they probably copy/pasted from the RP cheat sheet) what would become the most downvoted post in Reddit history. Currently, over 527,000 people have downvoted the response and although you can no longer add to the almost 3000 comments the downvotes keep coming.

The Loot Box Menace

How unfair could Battlefront II’s credit system possibly be you ask? Well EA Access players have already had access to the game for about two days and have been trying to calculate how long it could take a player to unlock various characters without paying for loot boxes. Some estimates suggested it could take up to 40 hours of play to earn enough credits to unlock just one of the more costly characters.

That is the “sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes” EA is talking about in that post. Only players see it a different way. EA argues that the values they have set on characters like Luke or Darth costing 60,000 credits were based on Open Beta data, but it is hard not to suspect that perhaps they got a little greedy. Greedy because the alternative is to just purchase the loot crates and expedite the process. Essentially locking popular characters behind a serious grind or paywall.

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Crystals, the game’s native currency can be purchased in batches ranging from $4.49 ($5 if you are not an EA Access member) for 900 to $89.99  for 12,000. Then you can turn around and exchange your Crystals for Hero, Trooper, and Starfighter crates for 110, 200, and 120 Crystals each respectively. Those crates then randomly drop items you need to improve your game including Star Cards and crafting parts.

That right there is what is so frustrating for many fans. It’s not just that our favorite Star Wars character skins are locked behind a grind, it is that unlike other titles that utilize loot boxes to increase revenue Battlefront II’s crates can actually give paying players an edge over those grinding it out. The dreaded “pay to win” scenario as it were.

Reason Awakens

It took EA less than a day to realize how negatively the Battlefront II economy was not only going to hurt Battlefront II sales but their reputation as a publisher as well. They quickly pivoting and dramatically slashed the cost of characters, many up to 75% off.  John Wasilczyk, Executive Producer at DICE wrote:

Making games great comes from regular tuning. As one example, today we’re making a substantial change based on what we’ve seen during the Play First trial. There’s been a lot of discussion around the amount of in-game credits (and time) it takes to unlock some of our heroes, especially Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Unlocking a hero is a great accomplishment in the game, something we want players to have fun earning. We used data from the beta to help set those levels, but it’s clear that more changes were needed.

The announcement also revealed effective immediately Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader will now only cost 15,000 credits; Emperor Palpatine, Chewbacca, and Leia Organa will cost 10,000 credits; and the game’s protagonist Iden will cost 5,000 credits. Wasilczyk followed up by reminding everyone about how great every other part of Battlefront II is before thanking the community for being so involved. It seems like a rare win against the microtransaction climate of games today and a great example of the player community changing a game for the better.

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Attack of the Fans

Sadly this story has one more dimension that does not reflect well on the gaming community. EA certainly got caught pushing their luck here and fans had a right to be angry, but some have also taken things to far. EA developers have reported receiving death threats and personal numbering in the hundreds, one user who has since made their account private estimated the number of personal attacks at over 1600.

While it is important for players to stand up for their rights remember the best way to do so is to vote with your dollars and never by threatening or harassing members of any creative team.

Star Wars Battlefront II will be available for PC, PS4, and Xbox November 17th. Will you still be buying it or has EA lost your business?