A Guide To The Endless, Confusing Star Wars Battlefront 2 Controversy

When 2017's Star Wars Battlefront II was first previewed at E3 this year, people were cautiously optimistic. Its predecessor was slammed for being thin on content, but initial showings of the game looked promising and it seemed like EA had added the things fans wanted out of the game's sequel, like a single-player campaign.

Now, everything has turned to shit.

Here's a breakdown of what happened.

June 10th, 2017: EA previews Star Wars Battlefront II at E3, and they seem to have committed to fixing things that were unpopular in the first game. For instance, Battlefront II will have a single player campaign, something players clamored for in the previous game.

Though Star Wars fans had been burned once, they seem willing to give it another go.

August 4th: Developer Monolith Productions announces that Middle-earth: Shadow of War will have loot boxes that can be either be earned through gameplay or purchased with real money.

The boxes aren't just cosmetic; they can contain experience point boosts and better gear. Fans aren't pleased.

September: In the fall leading up to Battlefront's release, the ire against loot boxes and microtransactions intensifies. NBA 2K18 is riddled with microtransactions, and Destiny 2 gets a bit of attention for its Bright Engrams, which are loot boxes containing cosmetic items that you can buy with real money.

The idea is that not only does this encourage consumers to "pay to win," and pressure them to spend additional cash, but that the random nature of loot boxes basically makes it gambling. Angry fans are actively mad about loot boxes as a concept and swear off buying games that contain them.

October 10th: Battlefront II goes into public beta and alarm bells begin to sound. While our own Heather Alexandra enjoys playing the beta, she also notes the return of star cards.

They give players passive bonuses or new abilities and are specifically for use in multiplayer mode. The intent is to allow players to customise their units during multiplayer, but they come in -- you guessed it -- loot boxes. Star cards were in the last game, but the loot boxes are new.

They also have four different rarities, and the most rare, "epic" cards are available in loot boxes. Theoretically, a player could gain an advantage during multiplayer just by buying a shit ton of loot boxes.

"The spectre of microtransactions hovers over Battlefront II," Alexandra writes. At this point it is unclear whether or not people will be able to buy loot crates with real money.

However, the game's beta indicates that Battlefront II will have multiple currencies, and usually that means one of them will be purchasable with cash.

On this same day, Shadow of War is released. Fans sure are mad about the loot boxes, although Patricia Hernandez says they weren't that bothersome in her review.

October 12th: EA writes a blog post saying that epic tier star cards will not be in Star Wars Battlefront II's loot boxes in response to players expressing their displeasure.

This is the first of what will be many instances of EA having to change features in Battlefront II in response to angry feedback.

October 31st: EA makes further clarifications and changes to the game's loot box system, removing "epic" loot from crates.

November, 9th: Battlefront II becomes playable in a pre-release trial period for subscribers to EA Access. Now that the game's currency system has been revealed, fans have some problems with it.

Battlefront II allows you to purchase loot boxes with real money, as fans suspected. The game has two main currencies: credits and crystals. You can earn credits through play, but you can only buy crystals with real cash.

If you get duplicate star cards, you can exchange them for credits, which you can use to buy heroes in the game. You can also get credits and scrap (which is used to craft new star cards) in the loot boxes you can buy.

Heather compared how much you can earn without spending money and how much you'll get by buying loot boxes, and concluded, "You can quite literally pay money for statistical advantages in Star Wars Battlefront II."

November 12th: Players find some more issues with the game. In Battlefront II you can unlock iconic characters like Luke Skywalker using credits. The most famous characters are the most expensive, with Luke himself costing 60,000 credits.

How long does it take to get that many credits? Players on Reddit estimate that it would take about two full days of grinding to unlock.

Given that credits are available in loot boxes, it seems to fans like the developers of Battlefront II have made all of the characters expensive in order to convince players to fork over more cash.

Players are understandably angry. A representative from EA responds on Reddit, saying, "The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes. 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."

In less than 24 hours, this becomes the most downvoted comment in Reddit history.

November 13th: EA lowers the cost of unlocking certain heroes. Luke goes from 60,000 credits to 15,000. At the same time, the number of credits awarded at the end of the single-player campaign is reduced from 20,000 to 5,000.

Players assume this means all credits rewards throughout the game have been reduced. This isn't true, but thanks to social media, misinformation spreads.

Outlets like CNBC and Waypoint pick up on the controversy, saying that EA developers were receiving death threats, citing a twitter user named BiggSean66.

BiggSean66 has "Game dev @EA" in his Twitter handle, so when he tweets out that he's received seven death threats and upwards of 1,600 personal attacks, developers and journalists send their sympathies and signal-boost the tweet.

November 15th: Turns out, BiggSean66 might not actually work at EA.

After Jason Schreier sends him several messages asking if he can confirm that he works for EA, BiggSean66 locks his account and removes the reference to being a game dev at EA from his bio. In this entire saga, this is the most surreal thing to happen.

The Belgian Gaming Commission is reportedly investigating Battlefront II's lootboxes. The general director of the commission says they may constitute gambling. This is especially concerning because the game is rated PEGI 12, and thus available to and marketed towards minors.

November 17th: EA "temporarily" removes microtransactions from Battlefront II wholesale, just hours before the game was set to launch. This doesn't remove loot boxes.

It just removes the ability to buy crystals, which you could then use to buy loot boxes. It's a bold move, but it feels like a band-aid on a much larger problem, namely, a progression system that relies heavily on the randomness of loot boxes. EA does say that microtransactions will be back "at a later date."

The Wall Street Journal reports that this decision was made after Disney head of interactive media and consumer products Jimmy Pitaro sent a message to EA, upset about the controversy.

November 18th: A representative from Lucasfilm tells The Washington Post, "Star Wars has always been about the fans -- and whether it's 'Battlefront' or any other Star Wars experience, they come first. That's why we support EA's decision to temporarily remove in-game payments to address fan concerns."

This story is still continuing, and it's likely we haven't heard the end of the Star Wars Battlefront II controversy. It might be up there with the SimCity debacle as far as EA PR disasters go.

As always, Kotaku will be there to keep you updated on whatever else happens.


Comments

    Eurogamer had an article saying that physical sales were 60% down compared to the Battlefront 1 launch. It would be interesting to know how much of that is just people switching to digital vs how much is people just not buying the game at all.

    We can only hope that if it crashes and burns then it might prompt a rethink of these kinds of practices not just at EA but across the whole industry.

      True enough. It's just a shame that it had to happen to a Star Wars game and not some crappy IP EA picked up.

      Because good Star Wars games are far and few between.

        I feel like it would be much worse if it were to happen to a smaller IP. Bad sales like this could kill a smaller franchise where as with Star Wars you know there is 100% chance of a sequel no matter what happens.

        On the other hand, if it happens to Star Wars it sends a strong message that even a well established and like IP made into a solid game can be destroyed by including practices like this.

        I'd rather have 1 destroyed Star Wars game than the thousands of games that follow it to do the same thing.

    That Belgian commission has found they deem loot boxes to be gambling, but any changes will have to be ratified by the EU as a whole.

      Would you look at that.. The commenters doing better journalism.

      It's sad that EA chose to go down this road with a beloved franchise. I'd say hopefully they've learned their lesson but EA never learns.

      The problem with trying to get them banned is the obvious counter argument that they've already been using for years - you *do* know (and get) exactly what you're paying for, in-game currency. What you spend that fictional currency on is much more difficult to regulate.

      Obviously they could just completely ban the notion of spending any currency (fictional or otherwise) on gambling in video games but that has other consequences - no more Pokeslots or GTA casinos for example.

      Note: sorry for repost, thought the edit bug was fixed finally but it seems it just comes and goes :/

        You don't know what you are getting when you buy a loot box. Its a 'random' selection from XYZ possible results. They aren't talking about in-game currency purchases in general. Read the article.

          My point was that in 99% of games (including Battlefront II to my knowledge, I don't have it) where you buy lootboxes, you don't actually spend real money on the boxes. You spend money on some in-game currency - credits, coins, gold, crystals, whatever. You then spend that fictional in-game currency on the gambling lootboxes.

          Yes we all know it's real money going directly towards the boxes but by splitting the purchase into two parts like that, it's much more difficult to legislate against.

          What I mean by that is how do you stop it? Ban the use of purchasing in-game currency? That'd hurt games like WoW and Eve Online though where currency is a much deeper part of the game.
          Ban/regulate the use of in-game gambling (regardless of the currency used)? That'd hurt games where gambling is simply included for fun like single-player GTA or even old-school Pokemon as I said above. And where do you draw the line on it? Do games like Diablo count as gambling too? Afterall you spend time/currency to kill a boss and get XYZ possible results... What about digital TCGs or 90% of the f2p marketplace?

          I'm not saying this isn't a problem that needs to be fixed, it clearly does. I'm just saying it's not really as simple as 'banning lootboxes.' As much as I wanted SWBF2, I avoided it because of this whole microtransaction rubbish but while I'd love to see that fixed, I'd still hate to see heavy-handed legislation ruin completely unrelated games.

    Man, I'm actually really enjoying the game. On the weekend I jumped into an x-wing and was able to zero in on the soldiers on the ground and kill them for half the round while fending off air attackers. Got a 26 killstreak that round. Different match I climbed onto a tauntaun I saw unattended. Using the officer handgun that I love, I was able ride freely about the map demolishing players. Maybe a 10 killstreak while mounted. I never ever got that far on a horse on Battlefield 1.

    I'm no fan of lootboxes as a business practice, but it doesn't actually make any difference to me. I'm used to coming late into Battlefield games and figuring out how to still be competitive. Also kind of indifferent to internet bandwagons.

      Cool. Sounds like another BF game ruined by jerks in aircraft.

        Haha. Usually I'd echo your sentiments. I'm not that good in planes usually and have been annihilated in BF1 by bombing runs. This time I was the one dishing it out and it was great. Though I did regularly come first in Starfighter Assault in the first one.

        My other Battlefront hate is godammned snipers, which thankfully I've never experienced in either Battlefront to he point of ever making me rage.

          If you can't beat em'.. join em'! :D

    What is confusing about it? EA tried to make the game pay to win like a free mobile game. The public found out, outrage ensued.

      Pretty much.

      They need to decide if they're making a full price retail product or a free to play game. Right now they're trying to have both.

    Lootbox's, Where's Overwatch? Why does Overwatch get a free pass? Cosmetic or not, The urge to gamble is still there, Overwatch started this trend but because it's everbodie's darling, Let all pretend it's fine.

      "The mixing of money & addiction is gambling ".

      Being impartial here but I am guessing the difference between Overwatch and Battlefront may be the fact that Battlefront loot boxes give you a somewhat advantage over other players? Having played only Overwatch I don't really feel the ened to purchase loot boxes but on level ups i get excited about opening one up lol.

      Yeah the urge to gamble is still there. I think the Star Wars BG 2 is much worse though, which is why everyone is outraged, though I think the Belgium thing and other similar investigations predate STBG2.

      A good solution in my opinion would be to make any games with loot boxes MA or even R rated. That way it would be a good deterrent for big companies trying this shit. It isn't a perfect solution but I think it would be a step in the right direction.

        Good solution make it 18 and over like any gambling outlet that can’t target children

          Also adding something extra

          It should also affect their advertising and how their games are marketed depending on local laws

            Like how cigarette packs have those nasty pictures, Games could have a smug bastard EA exec on the case laughing at you lol

      The Belgium commission was going to be investigating Overwatch as well, this triggered it but they're looking at all implementations.

      Further up there's a link about their findings, I'm just about to read that.

      But generally OW gets a pass because there's no progression tied up in those crates and they are regularly given by the game as a reward.

      Because cosmetic loot boxes are fine.

        Your focusing on the pay to win vs cosmetics, Look at how the Lootbox functions, It's still functionally gambling which is very bad for those who may not even realize they' have a gambling problem before playing Overwatch.

          I thought everyone figured this out with CS GO's lootboxes in the first place?

      while missing all of the player hate since they're cosmetic only they're still going to be targeted by lawmakers, lootboxes will be banned in various areas off of the back of this

    what I don't see mentioned much is the fact that future DLC for this game is free. Gamers complained about paid DLC splitting the player base and how they were pay to win because they offered new weapons etc. in Battlefront 1 and previous Battlefield games. I for one am happy to let people to buy loot boxes if it pays for upcoming expansions.

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