After The Loot Box Fury, The People Behind The Next Battlefield Are Being Very Cautious

The people who make Battlefield, just like many other developers across the video game industry, have heard the loot box furore loudly and clearly. The next Battlefield's microtransaction plans remain in flux, as they are in many games until close to release, but it's unlikely they will inspire as much anger as Star Wars: Battlefront II's did. That will be a theme: Based on conversations I've had with developers at a range of major studios lately, nobody wants their game to be remembered for its loot boxes.

Screenshot: Battlefield 1

"No one's gonna do any pay-to-win stuff anymore," one person close to the next Battlefield told me recently. "We didn't take any of the loot box controversy lightly."

A series of reports this week, starting with VentureBeat, have pegged the next Battlefield as a World War II game. In most years, the venue of a new big game would be its most newsworthy attribute. That's not quite the case with a new game from EA, a company whose handling of micropayments has become major news.

What may be of more interest to players is that the website US Gamer reported yesterday that the upcoming Battlefield will include cosmetic-only loot boxes, as 2016's Battlefield 1 did.

That report is accurate, if a bit premature, say people I've spoken to. Two people close to DICE told me that, while microtransaction plans for the next Battlefield have changed before and will no doubt change again before the game is out this fall, the company is indeed hoping to stick to cosmetics. One person added the caveat that US Gamer is "making a conclusion about something that is still inconclusive."

It'd be a major departure from DICE's last game, the now-infamous Star Wars Battlefront II.

Battlefront II, which came out last November, will be remembered forever as the tipping point of a year full of controversy over companies charging extra dollars for features in $US60 ($77) games. Players grew so angry at the game's pay-to-win microtransaction system that EA made the desperate decision, just a day before release, to temporarily pull all extra payments from the game.

EA and DICE have not yet said when those microtransactions will return, but the widespread anger has led to endless punditry, statements from politicians, and a tepid reaction by the Entertainment Ratings Software Board.

What may be most important, though, is how the loot box controversy has affected the people who make games. I've talked to a lot of developers about this subject over the past few months, from big companies like BioWare and Ubisoft as well as smaller independent studios, and the consensus appears to be simple: Tread carefully.

Nobody wants to be the next Battlefront II. That might mean sticking to cosmetics only, as I've heard is the plan for Anthem. (Although, as with any microtransaction plan, that might change.) Or it might mean avoiding randomised loot boxes entirely, which would no doubt be a boon to many gamers.

Over the past few months I've also talked to a few people who were involved with Battlefront II in some way, and they have expressed many similar emotions: frustration, depression, optimism that they can avoid making the same mistake again. Some are worried about the ramifications about politicians getting involved here. As pointed out in this great Extra Credits video, any sort of legislation that treats loot boxes like gambling might be bad news for everyone, because, among other reasons, legislators don't often know much about the nuances of video games.

Some close to EA and DICE have questioned whether Battlefront II's microtransactions were really that heinous, but even those people, when prodded, have been willing to admit that the balance was skewed.

What's clear is that Star Wars Battlefront II has changed the calculus, inspiring hesitation across the video game industry. Many gamers will argue that hesitation isn't enough, fondly recalling a time when full-priced video games came with no loot boxes or extra charges. But that cat has already clawed its way out of the bag.

And compared to previous years, developers at DICE and other studios, tasked with finding ways to generate extra revenue for their games, are now erring more toward the side of caution. As one person working on the next Battlefield told me: "In the end we're gamers as well... We understand their hate."


    I'll believe that when I see it, I am pretty much not looking at anything EA until after reviews for Anthem start rolling out. Their bs push for microtransactions in just about everyone of their games is insane, especially when you realise that the games are designed with them in mind.

    Also is there anything that can be done about Kotaku displaying me as being signed in when I am apparently not? Typing out a comment only to lose it because this site needs me to sign in again is annoying.

      That bugs been going for quite a while. Android?

        Its a site wide bug. It happens to me both on my computer and my phone. It seems to be a couple of weeks after being logged in it will treat you as being logged out but showing you as logged in. Its been around for years.

      And why is it always after writing a brilliantly thought provoking, spell checked and eloquent piece of gold?!
      Your usually so spent that trying to recreate it is like trying to rub one out with your off hand after a marathon sex orgy.

    Used to buy 10+ AAA games a year easily but last year i purchased Mass Effect Andromeda and didn't touch another AAA game since then.

    The large publishers have clearly said I'm not the demographic they make games for anymore and don't want my money

      I only buy AAA games when they get so abysmally cheap that I can't be disappointed. Doom, excellent game for $10, Wolfenstein New Order also good for $10, Witcher 3 is amazing at $15. I'm probably also not the demographic they target either :P

        Very much this. I have almost 400 games in my steam library (as well as a heap in Origin/U-Play, GOG Galaxy, etc. - the vast majority of them are AAA or very high quality indy games. Paying full price for any game just makes zero sense these days.

        Not to mention that I have a full time career, 2 part time jobs and am doing a uni degree - and when I'm not doing all that I'm watching Youtube, Twitch or Netflix. Gaming has become a 4th tier past-time. I still love it, but buying something just out or, god-forbid, pre-ordering, is not likely to be a thing for me for the foreseeable future.

    I have to wonder if battlefront 2 was really the worst. Cod advanced warfare and then black ops 3 were the worst for me, locking not only unobtainable rolls on weapons to entire weapons completely behind a randomised paywall with an ever reducing "earn" rate on in-game currency and an ever increasing useless garbage of tags, gestures and player cards. Is it simply because these were not as iconic or because a larger population of the community was believed to be younger kids instead of the expected star wars generation that didnt appreciate the change in gaming culture

      Good point, things are bad in COD land.

      I think the tipping point was linking progression and hiding characters behind the randomised paywall, which I think is accurate - I haven’t played Battlefront 2017’s multiplayer.

      COD, while very annoying, still allows you to earn most of the the characters and guns with levels.

        I can understand if progression itself was behind a paywall and i know that eventually in cod you can earn the weapons but in advanced warfare one of the strongest weapons was a lootbox modified submachine gun and in black ops 3 it became nearly impossible without a ridiculous amount of time invested to gamble for a new weapon. Im an above average player with at least a positive kd and after 3 hours of straight play barely earning enough cryptokeys to crack a rare box to get nothing leaves a foul taste in your mouth. Currently with ww1 im beginning to feel the same thing, at the start it feels like you can earn them fairly quickly, i just left them rack up for a while then opened them all and now it seems really difficult to get them back up to the number i had. I suspect some behind the scenes number management akin to level progression in mobile games, though it is only speculation

    Huge LOTR and SW fan... Didn't buy either "Triple A" title when they released in 2017.

    I've been making a conscious effort to buy games from developers who don't nickel and dime.

    Developers need to understand that they can get away with this crap in some games (likely anything which attracts the casual crowd, like sports titles), but jamming lootboxes into every title will backfire in the long run.

    There are always other options out there.

      Yeah, I’m trying to do the same but it’s really hard when they’re in pretty much every game. :’(

    Heres an idea.


    Problem solved, You wont have anything to worry about.

      But won’t someone please think of the shareholders?

      The loot boxes wouldn't bother me so much if they weren't the foundation that the games are built around, leaving a watered down experience with almost all progression tied to the mechanic.
      Why can't they just make a good game and then tack them on as an after thought.

      EA though? They should really heed your comment because they took it too far and trying to add any kind of loot box in the near future will only reignite the anger.
      They need to go back to making games and reassess how they do shit long before the look at anything like loot boxes

    Repeat after me: loot boxes are not gambling. Gambling requires the high probability of a total loss; with a loot box, you never, ever lose. Except in spirit.

    Also repeat after me: loot boxes definitely are the devil tho.

    Not that this article did it, but regarding the loot boxes, can we please remember to stop pointing it at the core developers (of DICE), and more towards the names that sign-off the game to be published, which would be DICE's executive and EA's board/executives/CEO etc. The one's that aren't game developers but would gladly chip in their money making schemes to destroy what would have otherwise been a good game. Those should be the ones to name so we can boycott their dumb shit.

    Battlefield was looking good until that stupid idea of loot box was implanted close to the finish. What would have otherwise been a celebration for the core developers, turned them into a laughing stock because of some mishandlers/not-game-designers having their greedy input.

    There's only so much creative energy you can put into a project until you decide to go back to basics, avoid the burn-out/suicide/unpaid crunch hours/depression etc. etc. route and just focus on making fun games. (Quite a bit have left DICE)

    I find it weird for executives that get to their positions and they don't have a heavy lean on what makes a game good as their priority at all/anymore. It's a sad case from a game developer standpoint, but the executives not being names are able to move on and make more greedy decisions.


    They will just go back to the last business model that worked for them.
    I stopped playing battlefield with battlefield 3 since I had to play for dozens of hours to rank up and unlock guns, or i could have unlocked them for COLD HARD CAAAAAAAASH. (Doing everything in a browser and launching the game from a browser was absolutely atrocious.)

    Back in ye olde days of 2010 players bought full priced games played them and the paid an extra $40 for new DLC content. No microtransactions, no "pay to win".. In the ancient days of world of warcraft, you paid a subscription. It was capped at $15/month. Life was simple, no one felt exploited and you just got online and played. Blizard made billions for a good few years on that model. It worked well and players actually had fun...Micro-transactions can be for the seedy world of mobile gaming but should not pollute the console experience. But what we will probably see is a hybrid model. Early days are subscription, then as a game matures, it will change to microtransactions.

    Last edited 08/03/18 2:32 pm

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