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Easily Digestible : The EA Star Wars Battlefront II Scandal

If you travel in gaming circles, this news story has properly reached your ears by now. For those who don’t, it’s possibly still the most significant story they can hear of in the entertainment world. EA, otherwise known as Electronic Arts, is a truly massive publisher of games in the video gaming industry. They have titles such as Mass Effect, Fifa and Dragon Age under their wing. Not only this, but they are also in sole curation of the Star Wars video gaming license, working closely with Disney to portray the brand along the lines it’s currently being depicted within.



One of the most insidious and controversial new developments in the release of this game is the inclusion of the dreaded ‘lootbox.’ For those who are unaware of these, they are easily identified as ‘prize crates,’ which are locked and require payment to open. You can, in theory, gain enough ‘experience points’ to purchase these in game, but it will take much longer than directly purchasing them. This has been in the gaming world as early as the adoption in Team Fortress 2. However, they are taking on an even more controversial tone in this new Star Wars release, because like freemium mobile games, ability and an advantage is often tied to someone who pays.

This has been likened to gambling for expensive and better loot, as it’s incentivized to keep paying until you find the item you want. Unlike regulated and well-run gambling services such as plainly explaining in no uncertain terms their gambling practices, video games have not yet been subject to such stringent and effective regulating bodies. This can be a problem all of itself, especially when appealing to children such as how the Star Wars license does.

It’s simply not fair to be dominated in an online multiplayer match simply because you aren’t able to pay and someone is. Not only that, but even if you are able to pay you should never feel obliged to in order to meet someone on the competitive field. Of course, you are already paying a full price for the game, as well as any downloadable content. This has inevitably led to the gaming community beginning a massive backlash against the company.

This was always going to be, but it was sparked more ferociously by the revelation that without paying, Darth Vader (a series-essential character,) could only be unlocked by playing around forty hours of game time. This was the final straw for many people. In fact, consumers took such a stand-in refunding their digital pre-orders of the game, that EA had to remove the ‘refund’ option from their servers. After defending themselves and the decision on Reddit, they achieved the most downvoted Reddit comment of all time, which is currently sitting at minus -800,000 votes.

Since then, the company have undergone several press releases, and Reddit ‘ask me anything’  forum discussions, which were criticized for their tepid corporate responses to questions they were easily able to answer. Difficult discussions about the loot box craze were avoided. While the game is likely to sell well, as of course, the Star Wars license attracts a massive audience.

While EA have suspended all microtransactions to work on their new marketing strategy and let the controversy die down, it’s important for us all as gamers to watch the upcoming weeks, and see what happens next.

This story could potentially spell the future of the lootbox in the multiplayer and single player game.


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