Loot boxes are the bane of any Star Wars: Battlefront II player's life, although the latest in the otherwise beloved franchise is just the tip of the iceberg.
It's been a bad few weeks for Electronic Arts. November, of course, saw the release of Battlefront II, a game that on paper promised to make up for the disappointment found in its previous iteration. It’s a game based on one of the most important intellectual properties of all time, with a seemingly authentic take on the Star Wars universe and a brand new story to tell. In short, it should have been one of the best gaming experiences of the year.
The reality, of course, is something different. Star Wars: Battlefront II released with a microtransaction system that has been described as predatory, implementing loot boxes on top of a standard AAA gaming price tag, resulting in a system with such skewed odds that it would take a gamer 4528 hours or $2100 to unlock all Battlefront II content. As such, Battlefront II has received one of the biggest backlashes seen in video games, with a defense of the game from EA setting the record for the most downvoted post in Reddit history.
Changes have been made off the back of the complaints, with tweaks made prior to the game’s release making it feel more like an expensive beta than anything else. Eventually, EA and developer DICE agreed to temporarily roll back the microtransactions, but it’s fair to say that the damage has already been done. The game was unable to hit top spot in sales charts in its first week, and it’s unlikely that is going to change going forward.
The Problem With Battlefront II and Loot Boxes
That said, the title is going to have a legacy, albeit not the kind that EA would have necessarily wanted. After all, Star Wars: Battlefront II has started a conversation. For the game’s critics, it’s a conversation that should have begun a long time ago.
The issue of loot boxes in gaming has been a topic of much discussion. For some, the idea of in-game purchases of a random nature is dangerous, and the practice has been condemned as such, essentially describing loot boxes as gambling with a fresh coat of paint.
There have been defenses of the practice, with some citing the increased cost of game development as a reason why game creators have taken this step. As well as this, others have talked up the popularity of in-game purchases, and the success of loot boxes in mobile and free-to-play gaming. If players are making these purchases, then the business model is surely proving correct.
This discussion has generally been kept within the world of gaming. However, Star Wars: Battlefront II has changed all that. Whether it’s due to the game’s ties to the Star Wars franchise, the high profile of its release, or the fact the the Star Wars brand is now intrinsically linked to Disney, the criticism of Star Wars: Battlefront II has caught the attention of those outside of the video game sphere.
The results have been incredible. Instead of EA simply backing off with loot boxes temporarily, the publisher has faced questions from the State of Hawaii, with Belgium also looking into the ethics of loot boxes and gambling. A can of worms has been opened, thanks to Electronic Arts.
However, Battlefront II is far from the only game to include a loot box system, or a microtransaction system that has been perceived as destructive. EA is being fairly scrutinized for its part in the growth of loot box culture, but it is far from the only culprit. Instead, that path started several years ago.