Last night, after an extended period of outrage, alleged death threats and a disastrous AMA session, EA finally buckled to pressure and suspended microtransactions in Star Wars Battlefront 2.
In an official update on Twitter, the message reads:
“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.”
So with that, we can now rest and put this entire nasty situation behind us, right?
As news of this broke, some inevitably declared that this was a victory and that EA fixed the game so it should be left alone. However, those who say such things appear to not understand exactly what sparked the dilemma to begin with.
The removal of microtransactions in Battlefront 2 is a stop gap at best — it is by no means a victory.
Demonetizing progression is definitely a step in the right direction. In a previous piece where I argued that the only way for EA to get the message about microtransactions was for Battlefront 2 to fail, I openly acknowledged that EA (for whatever motives it had) is capable of adjusting when needed and had shown evidence of that already. Once again, we saw that in action last night as this was the second time EA made a major adjustment to Battlefront 2 before launch.
And while that’s great, the fact still remains that though crystals have been removed, loot boxes ares still very much in play.
As mentioned in my previous discussion, players would need to spend on average 4,528 hours in order to unlock and max out every Star Card or spend $2,100 to achieve the same end. As of now, all that’s changed is that players no longer have a shortcut to be able to unlock everything. Players still need to spend an outrageous amount of time to unlock everything and your success in the “short term” remains heavily influenced by RNG. Star Cards which offer enhancements to features and stats such as movement speed, damage and aim assist (really?) still exist and take time to unlock — you just can’t buy your way to them anymore.
In short, the shortcut has been removed, but loot boxes and progression remain tied arm-in-arm.
It’s unfortunate that this system remains as is, because it’s among the worse ways both loot boxes and progression could be implemented. I’m not suggesting there is a fix that could be accomplished without a significant amount of work, but there are still potential options out there. For example, you could removal all stat-boosting Star Cards or just kill the progression system in its present state entirely and make it like Battlefield where you unlock items and gear based on the class you play. That’s it.
Unfortunately, there is still one other issue: microtransactions have merely been suspended — it’s not gone for good.
The announcement clearly states: “The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game,” but it’s hard to understand the implications of this due to us not knowing what EA’s intentions are. You could be cynical and assume that EA is waiting for people to pick up the game now that its in their good graces again, and later microtransactions in their original form. On the other hand, EA could include microtransactions that deal solely with cosmetic items like in Overwatch. DICE has already said it’s working on a cosmetic customization system, just that it wasn’t ready in time for launch, so there is some potential there.
Obviously, neither solution is perfect, and while some hate microtransactions in any form (regardless of whatever benefit it may have for the developer or publisher), it’s safe to say that microtransactions dealing with cosmetics are far more tolerable than those tied with progression.
With those points in mind, it’s hard to truly consider this a victory. Yes, gamers sent a clear message to both EA and other members of the industry that this level of nonsense won’t be tolerated, but the present loot box system is still intact and microtransactions will return in some form or another. For now, this is simply a step in the right direction.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 has the potential to be great, but it will need a lot of work to get there.