Today, in a handful of tweets, Blizzard tore into the pay-to-win mechanics that have troubled reviews and the upcoming launch of Star Wars Battlefront 2. The tweets limit their bashing to the realm of relative subtlety – they never say Battlefront 2 by name – but it’s tough to deny that the game is their target.
The discussion surrounding Battlefront 2, set to release on November 17, has largely focused on the troubling aspects of the game’s economy. Many have pointed out the game’s pay-to-win progression system: It turns out that it would take 4,528 hours, or $2,100, to unlock all of the game’s content. EA recently reduced the cost of heroes in the game (buying heroes allows players to be characters like Rey and Darth Vader), but people remain frustrated.
Related: StarCraft II Goes Free-To-Play
The StarCraft Twitter account, in a group of tweets that explain what the newly-free-to-play StarCraft 2 doesn’t do, has taken jabs at EA’s monetization practices. The snarky tweets act innocent as they display how much StarCraft 2 gives players at no monetary cost to them:
Number of hours it takes to earn the full StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Campaign: 0— StarCraft (@StarCraft) November 14, 2017
Number of hours before you can play ANY Co-op Commander in StarCraft II: 0— StarCraft (@StarCraft) November 14, 2017
Number of pay-to-win mechanics in StarCraft II: 0— StarCraft (@StarCraft) November 14, 2017
Free to Play - Now Live! pic.twitter.com/a02OYUCYZU
The bad blood between Blizzard and EA stems, in part, from the fact that Blizzard is owned by Activision, EA’s biggest publishing rival. There’s also another layer of rivalry at play here: the tension between DICE, developers of the Battlefield games, and the various Call of Duty developers that exist under the Activision umbrella. The world of first-person shooters is a cutthroat one, and the two prominent series remain in perpetual competition.
The path that EA has taken in designing Battlefront 2‘s economy is worrisome, and deserves calling out. For a predominantly multiplayer game to not only cost $60, but also lock a significant amount of content behind time – and pay-walls – is difficult to accept. Then again, Blizzard has also played a hands-on role in the proliferation of problematic reward systems. With Overwatch, the studio refined the loot box model that has become an increasingly present – and increasingly reviled – force in modern video games. (To be fair, Overwatch‘s loot boxes give players cosmetic items rather than ones that affect gameplay.)
Advice to “vote with your wallet” tends to abound as games that feature microtransactions near release. When Battlefront 2 comes out this Friday, it will be up to videogame players to decide whether the game succeeds, or whether it fails. Ultimately, what drives the decisions of game publishers is the bottom line: if people keep buying games that rely on pay-to-win structures, EA will keep churning them out.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 hits stores on Friday, November 17.
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