In an unprecedented move, EA announced that they have turned off the in-game crystal purchasing system for the rabidly anticipated “Battlefront II.” The announcement came mere hours before the game’s release in response to an internet fervor over what has been perceived as an unfair and unreasonable pay-to-play feature.
A large community of gamers rebelled after EA’s “loot crate” system was unveiled. Players would need to “grind” for many hours to earn playable characters like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, or they could purchase crystals for a loot crate and unlock the character immediately. This system was under fire for several reasons, but most seemed upset that they were paying at minimum $60USD for a game, and then had to spend more money to unlock features they felt should be included. If these players were in a position where they could not purchase loot crates, then they were immediately behind the curve and “whales” could dominate the multiplayer system.
Calculations for grind times to unlock Luke and Vader estimated about 40 hours for each character. One estimate put the grind time to unlock all features at over 4500 hours, or a monetary cost of over $2100. On Monday, EA announced that they were cutting the requirements by about 75%, but it still didn’t stop a reply on a reddit AMA from becoming the single most downvoted comment in the history of the site. Last I checked it was about -700k.
But Good Guy EA listened. Maybe it was the vocal and written protests, largely spearheaded by reddit’s gaming community. Perhaps it was news of international governments looking into the system as a form of gambling. I’d guess it was the ominous number of pre-order cancellations that made them take notice. Whatever the cause, the community is impressed (at the time of this writing) with EA’s ability to step up to the plate and acknowledge that they are hearing concerns. However – it is absolutely worth noting that EA’s announcement says the purchasing system is disabled “for now.” I’m very interested to see how this develops.
Do I mind a grind to unlock a character? Nah. Sure, it can be a pain but when you finally see that little unlocked padlock icon, there truly is a sense of accomplishment. But if I keep getting my ass whomped by a 13 year old because his mom purchased Darth Vader I get a little salty. That’s certainly something I could deal with, but my problem with the microtransaction system is that I fear it will set a standard. By utilizing the system on a beautiful game based on a universally beloved franchise, any executive can say “well the transactions worked on ‘Battlefront!’ Let’s try it out too!” If all games move to a pay to play format, my gaming days are over. It’d be naught but emulators and Kingdom Hearts for the rest of my days.
I had never planned to pre-ordered “Battlefront II.” I rarely buy games immediately because I don’t have a lot of disposable cash. And when news of the microtransaction system came to light, I decided to wait for a significant sale to purchase it. But now? Don’t bother trying to reach me on Black Friday. I’ll be busy blasting bucket-heads.