Games publisher EA has faced further criticism over its latest Star Wars game, Battlefront II. Many players were unhappy about the credits that unlock key Star Wars characters. The number required has now been reduced but so has the number that can be earned through gameplay. The alternative is to purchase them. Others have complained about the use of "loot crates" - which some say are essentially a gambling tool. The crates are virtual boxes that are purchased within the game and contain mystery bonuses. Critics say they promote gambling as the contents of the boxes are revealed only after payment is received, and some are more useful than others.
The firm is hosting an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on community news site Reddit later on Wednesday to address concerns. EA said yesterday that it was reducing the number of credits required to unlock key characters, including Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, following complaints that they could only be purchased or acquired through very long hours of gameplay, despite being an essential part of a Star Wars experience. However, there are reports that the number of credits that can be earned by completing a campaign has been reduced as well.
In a statement, the developer Dice said it wanted players to "have fun earning" the achievement of unlocking the franchise's heroes. The alternative is to buy them - but many players believe there should not be in-game micropayments in a full-price title. Star Wars Battlefront II is available for £49.99 - £69.99 in the UK, or $60 in the US. Credits earned through gameplay are not only reduced but also subject to a daily cap, players say. "The most damning show of the game basically saying, 'We want you to pay to win' is a limit being put on the number of credits a player can earn in Arcade mode," wrote Andrew Reiner in a review for Game Informer. After finishing five Arcade challenges, the player is told to come back in 14 hours to earn more."
He described the game as "big, bombastic and fun" but added that it was "diseased by an insidious microtransaction model that creates an uneven battlefield, favouring those who are willing to spend real money to gain an edge over players who are just here to enjoy the Star Wars experience". Entertainment analyst Ed Barton from Ovum told the BBC the micropayments business model had transferred from mobile gaming, which tends to be free to download. "Free-to-play mechanics are increasingly encroaching into full-price games," he said. "These are commercial organisations, of course they are going to look for ways to leverage their intellectual property. Publishers have done this before. Look at what Blizzard is doing with loot boxes in Overwatch - it has been a successful business for them. But what they put in those loot boxes are cosmetic items. They don't affect gameplay. And you can also earn all the items through gameplay. The Star Wars experience without Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader strikes me as not the experience people would look for. The controversy is, 'I've paid $60, let me have the experience.'"